Hirvonen ceded Acropolis Rally lead
Mikko Hirvonen became the reluctant leader of the Acropolis Rally at the end of day one after his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala went off the road and Citroen slowed down for tactical reasons.
With running first on the road a particularly big handicap on the rough and dusty Greek stages, it was expected that some of the main contenders would take a tactical approach.
Ford driver Latvala led by 10.3 seconds over Citroen's Dani Sordo going into SS6, and decided to push to build a gap over the field rather than slowing to give someone else the burden of running first on the road. But while charging to try and pull away, Latvala run wide and became stuck off the road for over three minutes.
"You have to try if you want to win," he said at the end of the stage. "You can't do anything if you just cruise around."
Hirvonen – who started the stage third – had also continued at full pace in the expectation that Latvala would finish the day in front. But the blow of his team-mate's incident was compounded when Sordo slowed to ensure he dropped behind Hirvonen, putting the Ford driver into the lead and ensuring that he will be sweeping the stages clear for those behind tomorrow morning.
"We thought this time there would be no tactics," said Hirvonen before the drama behind him unfolded. "This is the right thing to do this time. Anything can happen."
Sordo's tactical drive put him 3s behind Hirvonen at the end of the leg, with Sebastien Loeb a further 18s adrift in third place, having shown how tough running first on the road was today.
The Solberg brothers have come through to fourth and fifth as tire damage delayed Mads Ostberg's Adapta Subaru and all three Citroen Juniors.
Petter Solberg's progress after his morning steering problem was not just thanks to attrition, though, as he also two top three stage times.
"It's going much better than I expected, to be honest," he said. "The car is not perfect with the steering, but in general with the temperature it's better than expected."
Sebastien Ogier sustained a puncture on SS4 and then recovered by going fastest through the next test. That puts him sixth at the end of the leg, just 0.1s behind Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg.
Federico Villagra (Munchi's Ford), Khalid Al Qassimi (Ford) and Conrad Rautenbach (Citroen Junior) are now seventh, eighth and ninth ahead of the delayed Ostberg, who has developed engine problems during the afternoon, and Latvala. Novikov's tire damage dropped him outside the top ten, and came just after he had set his first fastest stage time on SS4.