World Rally Championship title rivals Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb are gearing up for a fierce scrap on this weekend's Acropolis Rally, in what could be the most crucial round of the title fight so far. The Norwegian is keen to end Loeb's streak of four wins on the trot and close the Frenchman's 13-point lead in the standings.
Solberg topped the times in this morning's final shakedown test in his Subaru, with Loeb fourth in the lead Citroen, but the 2003 title winner will be running second on the road behind the reigning champion on tomorrow's opening leg which means that he won't stand to gain any advantage as Loeb sweeps the loose gravel roads clean and loses time as a result.
He will also be banking on a new XR tyre from Italian firm Pirelli, which is aimed at giving better endurance on the afternoon repeat runs through stages following recent strong results in hot conditions for French rival Michelin "I want to take the fight to Sebastien here," said Solberg. "We have to be fighting him from the first stage. The Subaru team has been very strong here in Greece in the past, and the XR tyre has always worked well here. I've got a lot of confidence, but then so has Sebastien."
Loeb acknowledged that he didn't expect to lose much ground to his chief title rival in the early stages, thanks to their proximity in the running order. "Running first on the road will always be difficult, but Petter is my biggest rival and he's only one car behind, so hopefully the gap won't be too big [after Friday]."
copyright wrc - ISC Limited, London
Photo: Luc Depiesse automobilsport.com copyright ISC Ltd London (Loeb in interview with Paul Fraikin from CHAMPION'S )