Petter Solberg has admitted his chances of challenging for a podium on the Acropolis Rally of Greece have all but disappeared in the searing temperatures north of Athens.
Despite further work to improve the hot weather running of his Citroen Xsara WRC, the 2003 world champion struggled at this morning's pre-event shakedown close to the service park in Loutraki – where temperatures were already closing on 40 degrees.
Solberg's best time for the 6.05-km test was 2.5 seconds slower than fastest man, Citroen Junior Team driver Evgeny Novikov – with the 18-year-old Russian setting the quickest time at shakedown for the first time in his career.
A downcast Solberg said: "We have changed the car a little bit – there are bigger fans on the car and an extra radiator. We are trying everything we can, but it's going to be really tough.
"I have to be honest, after shakedown this morning, I just can't keep up. It was hot in Sardinia, but we've gone up another level here. I just have to do my best and try to push."
Solberg admitted the opening day's stages were a big concern for him. He added: "The uphill sections in the stages tomorrow are so steep and I know how much we're going to struggle. When I go into fourth gear up there, the engine will go: 'Burrr' and then go slowly. Even on the downhill you need the acceleration from the car to fire it downhill and we're not having that. It's the heat which is making it so tough, but we've done all we can."
Solberg confirmed that he will take the Xsara to the next event in Poland, saying: "There's just no time to do anything different between these two rallies, but in Poland, we don't know so much about what's coming. All I know about Poland is what I've seen on Youtube from Sebastien's [Loeb] test. We'll see what happens."
Given that Loeb was not supposed to be competing in Greece had he stuck with a proposed Oreca Le Mans programme, the Norwegian admitted he'd been thinking about the French 24-hour race. He concluded: "When I got here in Greece and I saw the temperature going up and up, I did think, maybe it would have been nice to have been at Le Mans."