The pressure is steadily mounting on FIA World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä as the Toyota Gazoo Racing star aims to keep his team-mate Elfyn Evans at bay during this week’s EKO Acropolis Rally Greece (7 – 10 September).
Rovanperä, who made history in 2022 as the youngest-ever WRC champion, had his points advantage significantly reduced after a dramatic exit from his home event, Secto Rally Finland, last month. His Welsh colleague Evans, meanwhile, won the rally and slashed his lead by more than half.
With only 25 points splitting the pair going into this tenth event of the 13-round season, any further mishaps could spell trouble for Rovanperä and potentially cost him the championship lead. Completing a four-strong GR Yaris entry are Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta and eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, who makes his first start since winning Safari Rally Kenya in June.
“The Acropolis is a classic event and we have had some real highs and lows there in the past two years,” Rovanperä said. “It won’t be easy this time either as we will be opening the road again on Friday. But together with the team we have been working to improve for these conditions and we will definitely try our best to score some good points.”
Renowned for its punishing rocky tracks nestled in the mountains north of Athens and its traditionally scorching mid-summer conditions, the ‘Rally of Gods’ has held its esteemed status as a WRC classic since its inception in 1973.
However, unprecedented rainfall throughout this week has coated the stages with a thick layer of mud, presenting an extraordinary challenge for all involved. Nevertheless, every conceivable effort is being made to ensure the event proceeds as planned and in full.
Thierry Neuville headed a 1-2-3 finish for Hyundai Motorsport here 12 months ago. The Belgian, third in the standings, trails Evans by 11 points and will be hoping that history repeats itself on Greek soil. Supporting his charge are fellow i20 N drivers Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo.
M-Sport Ford fields a trio of Puma cars for Ott Tänak, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Greek privateer Jourdan Serderidis. Loubet, in particular, has fond memories of Greece, having clinched his maiden WRC stage win here in 2022.
After Thursday afternoon’s start in Athens, a crowd-pleasing super special stage on the capital’s stunning seafront opens the action. Three more days of competition around Loutraki and Lamia follow, including a brutal Friday when crews face five speed tests with no opportunity for service.