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Subaru World Rally Team driver, Australian Chris Atkinson, starts his 2006 Acropolis Rally of Greece campaign this evening (Thursday night), well aware that it will be one of his biggest tests for the season.

For the first time the event is being based out of the 2004 Athens Olympic main stadium and features all new stages.



Not only are the roads largely new, their surface and character is very different to what competitors normally expect in this classic World Rally Championship round.

The route takes crews to the hills north and west of Athens, with no test further than 80 kilometres from the service park. With average speeds higher than those in Sardinia and temperatures approaching 40ºC, Greece is one of the most gruelling events of the year.

“This is going to be a tough event, because of the weather here and the roads,” Atkinson said.

“It has already been very hot. Recce was hard work and there is a lot more of that to come.”

“This year sees a very different character of roads than what has been traditionally used here in Greece. They are hard to follow and very technical. It is difficult to pick the breaking points, but it is a brand new event so it will be the same for everyone.”

“There are some serious uphill climbs and tricky downhill sections that follow.”

“Tyres will be pivotal. The roads are a lot different to past years with a lot of loose surface.”

“It is certainly going to be an interesting and challenging weekend but I’m quite positive about Greece.”

“I was happy with the improvements we found in the test we did in Greece last month. We found a good set-up that worked well in Sardinia and we will use more or less the same again in Greece.”

“We showed in Italy that we had the speed to get a good finish and score some points, in Greece we’ve got to follow this through. I’m aiming for a top six.”

Atkinson crashed his car just four kilometres before the end of the Sardinia rally a fortnight ago, but the car has been repaired, although a new shell has been used.

The 2006 route includes 18 special stages and 355.62 competitive kilometres. Legs one and two will feature two loops of three stages separated by a midday service halt, with two loops of two tests on Leg three.

There will be two passes through the Superspecial in the Olympic stadium, built for the 2004 games, on Thursday and Sunday, with an expected crowd of more than 60,000 fans. The podium finish is scheduled for 1530hrs in the stadium on Sunday.

Subaru has won the Acropolis Rally four times in the last 10 years. Colin McRae drove to victory in 1996 and 1998, with Richard Burns sealing a third Greek win for the team in 1999. Petter Solberg scored the seventh win of his career at the event in 2004.

The Acropolis Rally will be Solberg’s 100th WRC start. The 31-year-old will become the youngest driver to reach this total. Solberg made his world-level debut at the 1998 Swedish Rally and has since secured 13 wins, 17 podiums and the 2003 drivers’ world title. It is Atkinson’s second Acropolis Rally.

The Greek round is the last rally before the mid-season nine week break.
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