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2012-05-26 09:32

DUST THE DEVIL: Norway's Petter Solberg and British co-driver Chris Patterson drive up a dust storm with their Ford Fiesta RS WRC during the 2012 Acropolis rally in Itea on May 25. Image: AFP

Graham Wood

ATHENS, Greece - Sebastien Loeb took the lead in the Acropolis Rally of Greece on Friday, opening up a 6.5sec lead over Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala after a demanding second day in tricky conditions.

French World champion Loeb, who has not won in Greece for four years, trailed Latvala by 2.8sec after Thursday's first stage but showed his class on the rock-strewn terrain in and around the Gulf of Corinth.


Friday's itinerary consisted of eight stages over a gruelling 12-hour period with service during the day restricted to two 15-minute remote stops in the town of Itea.

Loeb took the lead on stage four, Elikonas, and held it until the final stage of the day, SS9.

"We’re leading so that's the most important thing,” he said. “There was a lot of dust in this stage and I made two mistakes near the end, but generally it was a good day.”

Latvala, who has made an impressive return from a broken collarbone which forced him to miss the previous round in Argentina, reduced Loeb's lead to just 6.5sec.

The factory Ford driver was injured during a cross-country skiing training run in Lapland.


Back behind the wheel, the Ford driver's stage win on the second run through Thiva saw him beat Loeb by 3.7sec as the Citroen man battled with visibility due to numerous delayed cars ahead kicking up dust.

Latvala commented: "It has been a reasonably good day. I started gaining back my driving in the afternoon. I’ll try to catch him tomorrow but it's like in Finland, where the differences are in seconds!"

Latvala's team mate Petter Solberg also shaved time off Loeb's lead on Thiva and headed into the overnight break 17.7sec off the lead and third.

Mikko Hirvonen, fourth-placed, lost time with a puncture in the second Citroen which he believed was due to some slight deviations off the beaten track while unsighted by dust.

Saturday's eight-stage route will take competitors closer to base in the Peloponnese region and includes the new 21km Ziria stage.

Loeb leads the championship standings after five rounds with 91 points, ahead of Norway's Petter Solberg (73), Hirvonen (70) and Ostberg (68).

Results from the 2012 Rally of Greece on Friday
1 Sebastien Loeb (France) Citroen 2hr14min01.3
2 Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Ford +00min06.5
3 Petter Solberg (Norway) Ford +00min17.7
4 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) Citroen +00min49.6
5 Evgeny Novikov (Russia) Ford +03min54.9
6 Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) Ford +04min46.7
7 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Citroen +04min56.9
8 Mads Ostberg (Norway) Ford +05min14.6
9 Sebastien Ogier (France) Skoda +05min27.2
10 Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) Skoda +06min31.0

The Rally of the Gods offers the biggest challenge to the drivers of the WRC. Follow the Ford World Rally Team as they tackle the rough gravel stages of Round 6 of the 2012 World Rally championship.


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