Patience pays off for Al Qassimi in Greece
2004 Acropolis Rally
FIA World Rally Championship, round 6 of 16
For immediate release
Saturday, June 5th, 2004
UAE'S SHEIKH KHALID AL-QASSIMI
UP TO 25TH IN ACROPOLIS RALLY
Patience pays off for Power Horse team; Overall lead for Subaru's Solberg
LAMIA (Greece): The UAE's Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi continued to drive in a patient and restrained manner on the second leg of the Acropolis Rally, round six of this year's FIA World Rally Championship, and the first ever WRC event for the former Middle East Group N champion.
At the wheel of the Power Horse World Rally Team Subaru Impreza WRX STi, Sheikh Khalid and Ulster co-driver Michael Orr built upon the stage times they achieved on Friday, when the second leg ventured further south towards the former rally base of Itea. The leg again ended with a repeat visit to the Lilea 'super special'. They were classified 25th overall and sixth in Group N after 13 special stages.
~This event has been everything I expected,~ said Sheikh Khalid. ~Everyone has been very friendly and it has been a great opportunity for me to see how the WRC system works and how the events differ from those in the Middle East.
~You cannot help but be impressed by the infrastructure of the rally and the number of people working in the organisation and the logistics. The stages are tough and fast, but I am used to this type of terrain in the Middle East on events like Qatar and Jordan, so this was not a problem for me.~
~This is a hard rally, especially on tyres,~ said Team Manager Ron Cremen. ~The speeds are higher than on some gravel rallies. That means the pressure in the tyres is higher, which creates more heat and more wear. Cooler temperatures would be a big help. Of the three hot, rough rallies in the WRC in Cyprus, Greece and Turkey, this is the best from a drivers' view. The roads are interesting, open in some places and twisty in others and while there are many rough sections, there are also some which are smoother.~
Following the retirement of former World Champion Marcus Gronholm from fourth position with suspension problems after an accident, Norway's Petter Solberg extended his advantage to 58 secondcs in a Subaru Impreza WRC. He was closely followed by the Peugeot of Harri Rovanpera, Citroen's Sebestien Loeb and the fourth-placed Ford Focus of Belgian driver Francois Duval.
Early June in Greece usually brings searing temperatures and massive dust clouds. However, pre-event rain ensured the early stages contained many muddy sections which made tyre choice difficult. Cool temperatures and overcast skies brought showers to ensure conditions rarely seen on the Acropolis.
Saturday's second leg offered seven speed tests south of the city of Lamia covering 133.18km before returning for the final overnight halt. Two tests were repeated and another two were repeats of stages used on Friday, the leg ending with a third and final pass through the Lilea super special.
Drivers faced more than 87 kms of rocky gravel tracks with no opportunity for traditional service. There was only a 10-minute maintenance zone, away from the service park, in which only two team personnel and the driver and co-driver were allowed to work on the cars. Only spare parts carried in the rally car could be fitted in these zones.
The Power Horse World Rally Team tackles the third, and shortest, leg of the event on Sunday. Special stages are based around the Timphristos mountains to the north-west, before the event draws to a close in the early afternoon.