Second P-WRC victory of season for Aigner in Greece
Austrian driver Andreas Aigner and co-driver Klaus Wicha (Mitsubishi) drove a brilliant rally to score their second P-WRC victory of the season on the third round of the 2008 FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally of Greece. With 28 P-WRC starters, Greece saw the highest number of entries in the P-WRC’s history. Martin Rauam (EE) drove his Mitsubishi to second, 35 seconds adrift, followed by Aigner’s team-mate Bernardo Sousa (P, Mitsubishi) in third. Aigner’s victory sees him promoted to the top of the P-WRC standings, six points ahead of Jari Ketomaa (FIN, Subaru).

San Marino driver Mirco Baldacci (Mitsubishi) won the opening stage of the rally but the lead was soon fought over by Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT, Subaru) and Juho Hänninen (FIN, Mitsubishi). Unfortunately the conditions took their toll on both as the Qatari driver was sidelined with a broken rear suspension on SS8 and damaged power steering for the Finn resulted in a snapped power steering belt on the second run through the same long stage (SS11). A perfectly placed Aigner soon adopted the lead. While he was being chased by Mirco Baldacci, the Austrian pulled out a lead of 2mins10.3secs by the start of the final day, a lead which proved useful as a damaged differential during the first group of stages reduced his lead to 29.8secs by midday service. But a solid home run saw him confidently hold onto his lead to the end.

Sadly for Baldacci, an overheating engine early on the final day saw his rally come to an end and Rauam soon adopted second, despite complaining of an underperforming engine throughout the whole event. By the final day, the Estonian’s car seemed to have found a better equilibrium to give him the juice it needed to hold onto his second place. On only his third WRC event, Bernardo Sousa (P, Mitsubishi) drove a great rally. He stayed out of trouble on the first day, his main problem that he was still feeling a bit under the weather after having food poisoning the week before the rally. Day two was one of survival, which he achieved, despite hitting a rock on SS10 from which he managed to escape damage. A final day push saw him hold on to his podium position, despite rear suspension damage on the last stage proper.

Armindo Araujo (P, Mitsubishi) had a spin on SS3 and then slowed as his engine temperature rose but a blocked air filter on the next stage saw him drop two minutes as he stopped to remove and clean it mid-stage. He drove more cautiously on day two to save the car but he had to make temporary repairs to a broken front left suspension arm to get through SS13. A problem-free Sunday afternoon saw him take five points for fourth.

Fumio Nutahara (J, Mitsubishi) was a little over cautious on the first few stages but a steady approach paid dividends as he reached fifth overall by SS9. He got stuck behind Campedelli’s suspension-damaged Mitsubishi for two kilometres on SS10 which cost 20 seconds and he ran out of fuel after SS12; thankfully the re-fuel was only three kilometres away and downhill, so he was able to coast there. The Japanese had a few damper issues on the final day but he held position to finish in fifth.

Evgeny Aksakov (RUS, Mitsubishi) wanted to finish the event on his first time in Greece so he drove carefully, experiencing no problems, to eventually reach the end in a respectable sixth place, also scoring his first P-WRC points. Evgeniy Vertunov (RUS, Subaru) made a good start but broke his front right suspension on SS6 and even though he changed the broken component mid-stage, he chose to stop for the day as it took too much time. After day two’s SS8 he fixed a broken rear left suspension and struggled with a damaged gearbox, and day three saw him change a steering rod which was causing a strong vibration. He eventually scored two points for seventh.

After Hänninen lost the lead on SS11, he restarted for the final day. He powered his way through the stages increasing his stage win total to 13 out of a possible 20, winning the sprinter standings in the process, and remarkably still stayed out of trouble, to finally take the last available point for eighth.

Loris Baldacci’s (RSM, Mitsubishi) set-up was too hard for the rough event so he softened it for day two. He managed to steer clear of problems in the morning but he lost use of the turbo on the treacherous SS11 so continued with caution. He continued to struggle with a hard set-up that was too hard and a differential problem, eventually finishing in ninth. Amjad Farrah (HKJ, Mitsubishi) struggled with a lack of power throughout the whole event so the Jordanian driver stayed out of trouble as much as possible. Differential and steering problems on the final day didn’t cost him any positions, however, and he finished 10th.

Naren Kumar (IND, Subaru), the P-WRC’s first ever Indian competitor, chose a tricky event to kick off his P-WRC campaign as he lost the use of his brakes half way through SS2 but he managed to steer clear of trouble through the first day. Day two saw his fuel pump stop working for a few minutes and SS11 saw the turbo break half way through, making the following stages even more of a challenge. Aiming to reach the finish, Kumar drove the final stages with caution and as a result, was the only driver of the all-new Subaru N14 in the P-WRC to see the finish ramp. Gianluca Linari (I, Subaru) damaged his steering on day one but he stayed out of trouble in the tricky conditions, claiming he was ‘too old for this’. He finished the event in 12th.

Entered into the rally by the event organisers, Lambros Athanassoulas (GR, Subaru) had a difficult start as a broken suspension on SS2 stopped him in his tracks on the opening day, seeing the Greek driver adopting 30 minutes in penalties for not completing the rest of the day’s stages. He had differential problems on SS8 but soon recovered to set a second fastest time on SS10 and to win SS12. On his first rally since Greece last year and only his second rally in a Group N car, the 2006 Fiesta Sporting Trophy International graduate brought his Subaru to the finish in a respectable 13th.

X-Games star Travis Pastrana (USA, Subaru) had a great start, setting fifth fastest time on SS1 but he bent the rear suspension of his Subaru only four kilometres into SS2 and he got a puncture after hitting a bank and took on board another puncture before the end of the stage. But the rear suspension broke again just three kilometres into SS3, preventing him completing the rest of the day’s stages, adopting penalties. Day two proved more successful until a broken suspension stopped him for the day on SS13 and he nursed his way through the final stages of the rally with a damaged transmission to eventually reach the finish in 14th.

Luck was not on Martin Prokop’s (CZ, Mitsubishi) side for the Greek event as he slipped off the road on SS1 only a couple of kilometres before the end and despite escaping damage, he was unable to rejoin the stage as he was stuck in a ditch. He restarted for day two but the car stopped on two occasions during SS8, costing 17 minutes in total, only to get a puncture before the end of the stage. A front right puncture on SS11 cost him 30 seconds but he managed to finish in 15th. On his second P-WRC event, Evgeny Novikov (RUS, Subaru) experienced brake problems on the opening group of stages of day one but the P-WRC’s youngest competitor arrived at the midday service 30 minutes late, exceeding the permitted amount of lateness. He restarted but a broken gearbox on SS9 truncated his day two and a final push saw him win the final stage of the event to record his first P-WRC finish in 16th.

Eyvind Brynildsen (N, Mitsubishi) started well but a couple of mistakes on SS4 cost him a minute and a half; his theory was ‘it’s going to happen; I’m a kid who’s learning!’. The Norwegian broke his brake callipers on SS10 so he dropped time with ineffective brakes and while all stages went well from there on in, an oil-leaking centre differential forced him to retire from sixth place before the final stage of the rally.

Patrik Sandell (S, Peugeot) started well, adopting a cautious approach on day one. Like many he experienced some power loss in the engine but it was hitting a rock in SS8 which saw him drop down the order as he adopted penalties for the rest of the day’s stages. He restarted day three but damaged steering forced him to retire after SS16. Championship leader Jari Ketomaa (FIN, Subaru) reached third at best on day one but on SS5 his engine overheated and he finished the stage slowly which cost over 30 minutes. He restarted for day two but hit a rock on the first run through SS8, at the same place as Sandell, and damaged his suspension beyond repair. Sadly, a broken fuel pump at the end of SS14 truncated his rally prematurely.

Indonesian driver Subhan Aksa (IDN, Mitsubishi) struggled with an overheating engine and brakes during the first day which cost him 30 seconds or so, and the engine temperature issues continued into day two. Hitting a rock knocked his steering off-line early on day two but a crash on the challenging SS11 finally saw the end of his rally. Andrej Jereb (SLO, Subaru) had a good run early on day one but the afternoon was a different story as he dropped eight minutes after beaching his Subaru on a sandbank on SS5 and he damaged a steering arm on the next stage which cost a further minute and a half. A rock on SS8 caused a puncture and knocked his steering out of line so he drove slowly through the next two stages to reach service. Unfortunately he rolled on SS13 which damaged his car beyond repair.

Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) struggled with an overheating engine throughout the first day but it was a broken rear left suspension and no brakes on SS8 that finally forced him to stop for good on the next stage.

Simone Campedelli (I, Mitsubishi) took no risks early on day one but a front right puncture on SS6 cost him 30 seconds. He lost the use of fourth gear on SS8 and extensive rear right suspension damage in SS10 cost two and a half minutes and eventually prevented him continuing. Uwe Nittel (D, Mitsubishi) ran well throughout day one until a broken suspension four kilometres before the end of SS6 stopped him for the day. A broken driveshaft at the start of SS8 meant he just drove carefully through the remainder of the trio of stages and a broken suspension eventually caused the end of his event.

Toshi Arai (J, Subaru) had a difficult rally as a broken front left damper drained of oil cost him a minute and a half over SS2 and SS3, and a few suspension issues in the afternoon made progress difficult. Unfortunately life didn’t get any easier on day two as a damaged suspension on the first run through the challenging 32.16km Aghii Theodori stage in the morning eventually resulted in a broken rear suspension arm on the next stage which stopped his rally short.

Spyros Pavlides (CY, Subaru) struggled with an overheating engine early on day one, his Subaru not managing to improve on 4500 revs and the Cypriot opted to retire after SS4 to prevent further damage. Also entered into the rally by the event organisers, Panayiotis Hatzitsopanis (GR, Subaru) had a centre differential problem on SS1, experienced high engine temperatures and damaged his steering on SS3. Electrical problems on SS6 and two punctures and gearbox woes on SS7 saw the Greek driver eventually retire.

Gabor Mayer (H, Subaru) did not start the rally as he was too sick to attend the Greek event.

Driver Quotes
1st – Andreas Aigner, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX:
“I’m really happy and we need these points as Hänninen has done one less rally than us so we needed as big a lead as possible. It was such a hard rally, really hard which makes this win even better.”

2nd – Martin Rauam, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX:
“The car felt so much better today that I even thought I might try and take some time out of Aigner but once I realised that he was going so well I decided to be happy with second. It’s still a great result and I wasn’t expecting to finish on the podium.”

3rd – Bernardo Sousa, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX:
“We damaged the rear left suspension on the last long stage so we were really lucky to get to the end but this is a really good finish for the team – first and third. At the start of the season I dreamed of scoring podiums so this is really good, and it’s three finishes in three rallies too.

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