In warm sunshine, Makinen, co-driven by Seppo Harjanne, drove his Mitsubishi to the limit over the eight pot-holed Greek stages totalling 149km, as he became embroiled in a heated battle with Subaru's Colin McRae. Using the latest Michelin Z tyres and revised suspension settings, the talented young Finn set fastest time on the fifth and sixth stages to finish the leg in second place, 54 seconds behind McRae, despite suffering wheel damege on the first, second and fifth stages where his Michelin ATS run-flat tyres saved him from dalays with punctures on the rough, rocky tracks.
Said Makinen : "It was quite hard today,and although the wather was good, some of the stages were still quite slippery. But at least we had no problems with tyre wear which can happen if the roads are very dry. Some of the stages were very rough, but overall, not too bad so perhaps we will try harder suspension tommorow to go a bit faster. I am very happy with my position and the Lancer is going very well with no problems at all. This is a tough rally and there is a long way to go."
In Group N, the class for standard production vehicles, Gustavo Trelles took the lead on the fifth stage in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III. finishing the leg 59 seconds ahead of second-placed Jorge Recarde, also in a Lancer, with the similar Mitsubishi of Belgian driver Pascal Smets in a superb third place, despite this being his first gravel event. Smets, one of three drivers nominated by Team Mitsubishi Ralliart to score points in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers, reported no problems with his Lancer Evolution III, and said that he was accguainthing himself with the unfamilar conditions and hoped to increase his speed as the event progresses.
The third Team Mitsubishi Ralliart nominated driver, Germany's Uwe Nittel, led the category from the start, but suffered punctures on the fifth and sixth stages which, combined with a suspected fuel pump problem, dropped him to fifth in the category at the end of the leg. Nittel said that he planned to change the fuel pump on the Ralliart Germany Lancer Evolution III at the final service in Kamena Vourla, and hoped to attack the lead again over the next two legs.
Team Mitsubishi Ralliart Manager Phil Short concluded: "It's been a satisfactory day and we are very happy with everyone's performance. Tommi's car required only routine suspention and transmission changes at the final service and he is very relaxed and happy with his position. Tommi is not pushing very hard at the moment because there is a long way to go and his first goal is to finish and think of the championship points."
The first leg survivors from the 93 cars that started the event from the Acropolis in Athens this morning will face a futher seven special stages tomorrow totaling 152km in an overall route of 364km with the second leg starting from Kamena Vourla at 08:30, and finishing back at the seaside resort at around 18:20.
|1.C. McRae / D. Ringer||GB/GB||Subaru Impreza 555||01.48.06|
|FIN/FIN||Mitsubishi Lancer Evol. III||+0.59|
|3.K. Eriksson-S. Parmander||S/S||Subaru Impreza 555||+1.45|
|4.C. Sainz-L. Moya||E/E||>Ford Escort RS Cosworth||+1.49|
|5.P. Liatti-F. Ponz||I/I||Subaru Impreza 555||+3.12|
|6.F. Loix-S. Smeets||B/B||Toyota Celica GT Four||+3.31|
|7.B. Thiry-S. Prevot||GB/GB||Ford Escort RS Cosworth||+3.56|
|8.G. Pianezzola-L. Roggia||I/I||Toyota Celica GT Four||+3.58|
|ROU/ROU||Mitsubishi Lancer Evol. III||1 Gr N +15.19|
|RA/RA||Mitsubishi Lancer Evol. III||2 Gr N +16.18|
|B/B||Mitsubishi Lancer Evol. III||3 Gr N +17.38|
|D/S||Mitsubishi Lancer Evol. III||5 Gr N +19.32|
08:30 Start from Acropolis, Athens
15:10/15:25 Regrouping at Kouros
18:30 Arrival in Kamena Vourla