WRC Preview: Acropolis Rally Greece
Written by Apostolos Papageorgiou, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
After an absence of nearly three weeks, the World Rally Championship is back, and this time at a classic venue. Part of the first ever WRC calendar, before going on to become a permanent fixture until the early 2010’s and subsequently returning in 2021, the famous Rally Acropolis in Greece is known to be one of the toughest tests for both man and machine in the championship. The event’s original stint earned the reputation of being a “Car breaker”, thanks to its rough and rocky mountain roads, made even more challenging by the scorching temperatures in which the rally took place.
With its reintroduction, the special stages were a lot smoother than before, with much less rocks in the stages themselves, while also taking place at the end of the summer, which somewhat eases heat problems faced by crews and fans for so long. This year, the super special stage inside the Olympic stadium at Athens has also been brought back, and it promises to be a thrilling spectacle for the fans.
Toyota and Kalle Rovanperä are the overwhelming favourites heading into the event, the Finn keen to move on from his crash in Belgium and replicate his victory here last year. Ott Tänak has emerged as Rovanperä’s closest challenger as of late, and will definitely be looking to make it three wins in a row, closing the gap to Kalle in the process. Elfyn Evans will start third on the road on Friday, meaning he also has every chance of winning a rally for the first time this season. Thierry Neuville could also be in the mix. Having retired from his home rally while leading last time out, the Belgian has, on paper at least, the advantage over the other three, starting in a much more favourable fourth place.
As for the podium outsiders, Esapekka Lappi is the clear favourite, having taken two consecutive third-place finishes in Finland and Belgium. The Finn will almost certainly be pressured by the returning Dani Sordo, the Hyundai veteran who finished third on his last rally back in Italy this year. The last of the Toyota drivers, Takamoto Katsuta, has a good record on rougher rallies, scoring his two podiums at the Safari Rally in 2021 and 2022. With quite a few contestants likely to drop out, he’s definitely going to be a one to watch.
Let us now talk about M-Sport. The oldest team in the WRC hasn’t had an easy season so far, having failed to finish in the top five in the last four rallies. That being said, the team has a good track record at Acropolis, with eight wins and 13 podiums, making them the most successful competing team. This comes as good news for Craig Breen, Gus Greensmith and Pierre-Louis Loubet, the trio looking for a clean rally following a string of disappointing results. More great news comes in the form of Sébastien Loeb’s return, for the fourth and final time this season. The nine-time champion is a previous winner in Greece, and it will be exciting to see what he can do with the Rally1 Puma. Sadly, Adrien Fourmax won’t be taking part in the event, as the team was unable to fix his car in time for the event.
Lastly, alongside the manufacturer teams, Jourdan Serderidis will be competing in his privately entered Puma. The half-Greek, half-Belgian driver finished an impressive seventh in Kenya, so you can expect to see him in the top 10 come Sunday afternoon.