Ford's Fiesta JWRC - Rally Acropolis
Ford TeamRS' new Fiesta Junior World Rally Car made an encouraging start to its competition debut on this weekend's Acropolis Rally in Greece.
Based in Lamia, the rally is one of the toughest events in the FIA World Rally Championship and round two for the Junior WRC teams this season. Young Finnish rising stars, Jari-Matti Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila, run by Italian team Astra Racing, were faced with rough conditions on the twisty mountain roads.
The Acropolis Rally was the first event to trial the new 'SupeRally' system. Allowing retired cars to re-start on the following legs, it is predicted that the system will be introduced for 2005 in full, with points awarded on each leg.
The pair began their rally on Thursday evening at the crowd pleasing Super Special Stage at Lilea before the early start on Friday morning. With three days of competition, 377.13kms of rock strewn roads and high in-car temperatures ahead of them, they started the day well, setting two top ten stage times and climbing into sixth in the JWRC category. Having suffered with alternator and clutch problems throughout Leg 1, they were pleased to reach the service park at Lamia.
"I was relieved that they cancelled SS3! I had a broken rear suspension at the end of SS2, so I was happy to be able to come back to the service park. We felt a vibration in the car which appeared to have affected the alternator and that caused us some problems all day," commented Latvala. "On the whole it went well and we learned a lot. The handling of the car was fantastic, it's very easy to drive and the suspension is strong and held up well, especially on the really rough sections and over the jumps. We were excited about the gearshift before the event and it worked very well," he added.
"Unfortunately, the team were unable to fix a clutch problem which had been troubling us so we had to start leg 2 with the same problems. On our way to SS12 the clutch broke and the team chose to withdraw the car so they could make extensive repairs and re-start the final day," he added.
Under the new 'SupeRally' regulations, the team re-started Leg 3 for testing purposes. Unfortunately, Sunday morning saw the pair suffer from a broken alternator wheel after 10 kms on SS17, which subsequently broke the power steering belt. They changed the belt after the stage but by the end of SS18 they had very little battery remaining and had to stop on the road section after the stage.
Jost Capito, Director of Ford TeamRS commented: "The strategy for the weekend was to get the car right and to cover the maximum competitive mileage. We're pleased with the performance of the Fiesta on its first outing on such rough gravel roads. It's the toughest event for the car to have its debut but Jari has driven very well on a difficult event and settled into driving the car to set some encouraging stage times. I believe we've seen its true potential and the team at Ford and Astra Racing are looking forward to round three in Turkey in two weeks."