Despite incurring a 30-second penalty, defending champion Subaru's Petter Solberg beat Citroën's Sebastien Loeb by 18,4-seconds in the gruelling Acropolis Rally on Sunday.

Despite incurring a 30-second penalty, defending champion Subaru's Petter Solberg beat Citroën's Sebastien Loeb by 18,4-seconds in the gruelling Acropolis Rally on Sunday.


"You know it's hard work to keep adjusting the pace to keep position, but the team kept the split times coming in and everything worked perfectly today - there were no problems at all," Solberg said. "I must say that the car is incredible, and the tyres, the mechanics, everyone in the team is working so well I can't thank them enough and it seems that for now anything is possible."


The penalty was lodged against Solberg for missing mud flaps: "The penalty didn't really affect me much, last night when I heard the decision I have to say I was a bit fed up. When I woke up this morning I just laughed, it just seemed like a joke."


Loeb spent the final day of the event battling with Peugeot driver Harri Rovanpera, eventually pulling out a gap of 9,9 seconds to the Finn, thanks to four wins in the final day's six stages.


"It was a fine and exciting race," Loeb said. "We were able to climb back up because the car was perfect - it was far from easy, after spending the first day sweeping the way."


"I didn't have a good feeling with the suspension over the bumps yesterday, and this morning was the same," Rovanpera said "The most important thing though is that the car is both reliable and fast, and we clearly have the pace to run at the front."


Solberg, on the other hand, started the day with a 30-second buffer to both Loeb and Rovanpera, and the Norwegian was able to avoid the ragged edge, instead focusing on keeping his car on the road and on course for a victory.


The Subaru driver took only a singular stage victory on the final leg of the rally, but was in the top three on each stage. Having claimed five stages on the first day, his total was still nine out of 22.


The only threat to Solberg's victory evaporated early, after Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm lost an early lead to a spin on SS4. Gronholm followed the spin with another, and was then hurt by a poor tyre choice on SS9, leaving him behind Rovanpera and Ford's Francois Duval, over a minute adrift, after the first leg. A slide into a large rock on SS12 finished Gronholm's rally, but by then Solberg was already far ahead.


Duval was no match for Solberg and also lost out to Loeb in the course of the second day. However, the young Belgian was still fast enough to claim fourth place at the finish.


For the first time in the WRC, the FIA instituted the SuperRally-style system whereby drivers who had to retire were able to continue the following day, albeit without being able to count in the official standings or score points.


Gronholm and Ford ace Markko Martin, who ran off the road and into a deep ditch on SS3, both were among the drivers back on course on the final day. Not scoring points, but gaining useful test mileage on their cars.

Original article from Car