World Rally Championship returnee Dani Sordo holds concerns over the Olympic Stadium superspecial stage that will kickstart Acropolis Rally Greece later on Thursday evening, fearing drivers won’t be incentivized to push.
The spectator-friendly, 1.2-mile stage hasn’t featured in the Acropolis itinerary since 2006, and is expected to welcome up to 60,000 spectators inside the stadium.
But drivers will have to use the same tires on the concrete showpiece stage on the first gravel stages on Friday, which has led Hyundai driver Sordo to fear the fans may not be treated to the show they deserve.
“Yeah it’s good but you need to be a little bit careful also because you need to use the same tires for the rest of the day after and it’s a long day,” Sordo told DirtFish when asked for his thoughts on the rally’s return to the Olympic Stadium.
“I think when you do these kind of things you need to do them separate [with a service or tire fitting zone afterwards], because you can push more [that way and] if you have some problem you can go to service.
“It’s good for the spectators [that way], it’s good for the drivers because you can push more and I don’t know, to have another set of tires for this just to push [would be nice] because I think a lot of people they will not take many, many risks because if you break your tires there it’s difficult, because there’s not many kilometers and then it’s a long day the day after.
“It’s just sad to make this big circuit only to just drive.”
Friday’s leg of the Acropolis Rally is a punishing one with six stages (five with just one repeated) interrupted by just one tire fitting zone after SS5 Dafni, and no service break.
Explaining the decision not to include a tire fitting zone or service on either Thursday evening or Friday morning after the superspecial stage, clerk of the course Anita Passalis said that cost and wanting to provide the drivers with a tactical challenge were among the reasons.
“Acropolis was always a big challenge for teams and being below the limit for the total of kilometers before rally cars should visit a TFZ or a service park is once again giving the chance to all drivers to consider how they will choose to combine performance and tactics,” she told DirtFish.
“Cost is a factor that we cannot underestimate. I have to say that the EKO SSS at the Olympic Stadium is an idea of the organizer to bring a rally in front of a very large number of spectators who would most probably never visit a gravel special stage.”
Sordo’s colleagues can see his point-of-view, but are less worried.
Team-mate Ott Tänak called it “something actually very special” to drive in such a large and historic stadium, Craig Breen predicted “it will be good fun” – looking forward to driving a stage he has memories of watching on TV 16 years ago – and Esapekka Lappi feels the drivers will still want to push anyway, despite the need to preserve rubber.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Lappi said when Sordo’s concerns about no tire fitting zone were put to him.
“[But] I don’t believe anyone will save the tires. Well for sure you don’t go fully sideways to save them, but still they are pushing.”