Solberg rides his luck in Greece

The world champion Petter Solberg admitted he was lucky to maintain his lead in the Acropolis Rally after surviving brake failure yesterday.

The world champion Petter Solberg admitted he was lucky to maintain his lead in the Acropolis Rally after surviving brake failure yesterday.

The Norwegian said he enjoyed some good fortune on the 13th stage when he lost 24.5seconds but still managed to keep his Subaru on the road.

The problem occurred on the 32.55kilometre [20.34 miles] Elatia-Zeli stage, the longest competitive run on the event and one which claimed three victims, including Ford's Markko Martin, the first time it was run on Friday morning.

"The brakes broke 8km from the start, and I had to drive about 23km with just the handbrake," Solberg said. "I'm not sure what it was that caused the problem, but it's good to be back at service. It was pretty exciting stuff, and I'm very, very lucky, let me tell you. I just tried to stay focused and it seems to have worked out OK."

Solberg's consistency elsewhere yesterday - including three stage wins - meant he was able to absorb the loss and take a 58.5-second over Peugeot's Harri Rovanpera into the final leg of six stages today.

"It's lucky that I'd built up some time," he said, "and I've still got a good cushion."

Two of Solberg's successes came in the final two stages. The last stage also saw Martin just miss out on becoming the first driver to rejoin a rally under the new SuperRally re-start system and then win a stage. The Estonian Ford driver was a mere 0.2sec slower than Solberg.

But it was a frustrating end to the day as Citroen's Sebastien Loeb and Peugeot's Rovanpera, who are in third and second places overall respectively, were seventh and eighth on the stage.

Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm was not as lucky as Solberg as he was forced out after damaging his car on today's first stage. He said: "I just slid a little bit wide, and hit the left rear wheel on a rock. The suspension triangle was broken and I knew then that it would be really difficult to continue."

The retirement came after his disqualification in last month's Cyprus Rally for using an illegal water pump. That disqualification stripped Gronholm of 12 points and dropped him from first to fourth place in the World Championship standings. At the start of the Acropolis Rally, Loeb led the standings with 35 points, followed by Martin with 34 points and Solberg with 28.

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