Citroën looking good in Greece
The opening day of the 2009 Acropolis Rally took competitors to the challenging stages along the flanks of the towering Mount Parnassus. Dani Sordo and Sébastien Loeb completed the leg in second and third places overall and are in a strong position for the rest of the event.

Leg 1 of the Acropolis Rally of Greece took crews some distance from the Loutraki-based service area and, although SS3 (Evangeslitria) was cancelled, the day’s programme featured five stages of more than 20km in length. After the first two tests, the drivers were able to profit from a short breather at the remote service zone in Itea before action resumed with three further stages in the afternoon

As provisional leaders of the FIA World Rally Championship, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena were faced with the task of sweeping a clear line through the stages’ loose top-coating, and the crew of the N°1 C4 WRC reached Itea in fifth position, 27s behind the leader: "We didn’t have any problems in particular. To tell the truth, I think we actually dropped less time than we had initially feared! The stages are very slippery but the conditions aren’t too rough for the moment. I think tomorrow’s run is likely to be harder on the mechanicals."

A fastest time on SS2 saw Dani Sordo and Marc Marti reach the lunchtime halt in second place. "The fact that one of this morning’s stages was cancelled meant that we didn’t have to worry about tyre wear, so I decided to push as hard as I could from the start. I enjoyed the second stage, and I have always tended to go well on that one since 2007. I have to say that I feel really comfortable on this event," explained the Spaniard in Itea.

Although the afternoon’s first two stages – Bauxites (SS4) and Drossohori (SS5) – had little effect at the top of the order, they did enable the Citroën Junior Team drivers to make a name for themselves, with Novikov and Ogier posting their first fastest times of the season. Dani Sordo kept the pressure on the provisional leader, Latvala, but Sébastien Loeb lost a little more ground through the fact that we was running first on the road.

As is customary on loose surface rounds of the WRC, the classification at the end of the first day was significantly influenced by the result of the final test. Latvala fell back several minutes, while Hirvonen posted the fastest time to take his team-mate’s place at the top of the leaderboard. Dani Sordo chose to base his pace on that of the Finn and succeeded in holding on to second spot: "I was more than happy to finish the day three seconds adrift of Mikko. He will be in the most difficult position tomorrow. We concentrated on looking after our tyres to make sure we didn’t collect any punctures. We are in a strong position this evening, but there is still a very long way to go…"

Sébastien Loeb checked into this evening’s service halt 21 seconds off the lead, but was equally pleased with his day’s work: "We saw today our difficult it is to be first on the road. If Latvala hadn’t hit trouble, I would perhaps have been almost a minute down tonight. As it is, though, our current deficit of 20 or so seconds really isn’t that big a handicap. I think we should be able to join the battle for the lead tomorrow…"

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