Loutraki, June 14, 2009 – BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Mikko Hirvonen turned in a faultless drive on his Pirelli tires to collect his first win of the season on the Acropolis Rally of Greece, which ended in Loutraki this afternoon.
This seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship is always a true test of man, machine and the tires beneath them– and this year’s Acropolis was an absolute classic from that perspective. Moving away from its Athens base for the first time since 2005, the shift west to Loutraki allowed the organizers to bring back classic Greek stages like Bauxites and Drossohori – and these infamous roads proved to be the biggest test to date for the Pirelli Scorpion rubber. The tires, supplied to all World Rally Championship competitors, passed through the mind-blowingly rough and achingly hot stages with flying colors.
For the second event in succession, a Ford Focus RS WRC 09 was at the front of the field from the start to finish. For the majority of day one, Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN), winner of the previous round in Italy, was leading. But a mistake on the final stage of the day dropped the Finn three minutes and left his countryman and team-mate Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) leading into Saturday.
Hirvonen’s job of staying out front was made easier when the Citroen Total World Rally Team pair Sebastien Loeb (F) and Dani Sordo (ES) his trouble on Saturday morning. Loeb crashed his C4 WRC out of contention on Saturday’s opener, while Sordo departed two stages later after breaking a wheel. Citroen Junior Team driver and reigning Junior World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier (F) collected a career-best second overall behind Hirvonen, while Latvala recovered to third, ensuring Ford would close the gap on its French rival at the top of the FIA WRC Manufacturers’ Championship.
As usual, Greece provided an incredible test for all involved, with the temperatures in stages regularly topping 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and the second run of stages being among the roughest the drivers have ever seen. Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen said the event was among the toughest he’d done, but he added that the Pirelli Scorpion had been perfect for the task in hand.
Hirvonen said: “When Pirelli’s control tire was first announced and we knew the Scorpion would come in only two compounds; there were immediately worries over the hot, rough rallies for the hard tire. It was precisely this kind of event which was the big concern. Last year, I don’t think the tire was truly tested; here, on the Acropolis Rally of Greece, it absolutely was and I have to say it was absolutely perfect. I spent much of the second day looking after my tires to make sure there was plenty of tread left on them, but I didn’t need to. The tires were fantastic and I am the first to admit that I’m surprised. Pirelli’s Scorpion has exceeded my expectations – if you could see what we have driven these things over, it’s incredible.”
The Acropolis Rally of Greece was also a round of the Production Car World Rally Championship, also supplied by Pirelli. After another titanic battle for Group N honors, local driver Lambros Athanassoulas arrived back in Loutraki to spray the champagne and collect the biggest prize of his rallying career to date.
Pirelli’s rally manager Mario Isola said: “There’s no doubt that this has been a massive challenge for all involved. The Acropolis is always hard, but with temperatures being so high and the roads being so hard, this has been a particularly hard event. I’m very pleased to say that of the 1,000-plus Scorpion tires we have supplied on this event, we have had less than 10 punctures. That’s an incredible testament to the work Pirelli has done on producing the most durable high performance rally tires to work in the most extreme of conditions.”