SPORTS

McRae is Acropolis favorite

LAMIA (Reuters) – Colin McRae, who has yet to win a race this season, sets out from the Acropolis today determined to revive his world rally championship hopes in the heat and dust of Greece. The Scot has won the toughest event of the European calendar for the past three years and five times in his last seven outings. Although without a victory this season, he is still fifth in the championship, 15 points behind Britain’s overall leader Richard Burns who is looking for his first win with Peugeot since he took the title in 2001 for Subaru. McRae’s Citroen Xsara was destroyed by fire in the last Argentina round and Greece, with the in-car temperatures regularly above 55 degrees Celsius (131F), will be no breeze. But the 1995 world champion believes he can win the Acropolis, the sixth round of the season, again. «It’s an event I like and it’s fun to do,» said the Scot. «You have to gauge the ideal pace and that’s an interesting exercise. These past three years I think I’ve found the knack, but I’ve also had a little luck.» «I think it should be a good rally for us. The Xsara has shown that it is quick on all types of surface, and that it’s both strong and reliable. On paper, I believe we have a good chance of winning.» Awesome opponent Burns has also won in Greece before and will be keen as ever to beat McRae, while champion Marcus Gronholm, winner of the last two rounds, is not a big fan of the car-breaking Acropolis with its boulders and sharp-edged rocks. The Finn is still an awesome opponent. «Gronholm is proving a problem to all his rivals,» said Citroen team boss Guy Frequelin. «He is currently a shade above everybody else.» McRae’s teammate Carlos Sainz had his first career win in Greece in 1990 with two further victories since then. «The car is good, reliable and quick,» he said. «We have everything we need to put in a strong performance.» Ford hopes Estonian Markko Martin can provide its fourth Acropolis win in a row – McRae drove for the company last year – with his first triumph on the world stage. Martin led last year before a puncture dashed his hopes. «I will go out and do the best I can this year and I won’t be thinking about what happened in 2002,» he said. Ford will also be backing 18-year-old Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, who becomes the youngest driver of an official works-entered car in the world championship. «It’s a big challenge for me and I haven’t been able to prepare as fully as I would like because I’ve been busy at school,» said Latvala. The ceremonial start of the rally, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is today in front of the Acropolis in Athens. There are then two legs over the mountains near the Parnassos national park and a third around the Timphristos Mountains in central Greece.