Acropolis Rally Greece: Day 1 Athens start for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing’s Acropolis adventure
The Acropolis Rally has got underway in Athens with a stage win for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team ahead of what looks set to be a challenging event amid difficult conditions in Greece.
In the days leading up to the rally, torrential rain has affected the area around Lamia where the service park is located. This meant that in the interest of safety, the usual Thursday morning pre-event shakedown did not take place. Conditions eased during the day, with a largely dry forecast for the weekend ahead, while the evening’s ceremonial start and opening stage in Athens – around 200 kilometres south – was not impacted and could proceed as planned.
As is traditional, the rally officially began underneath the ancient Acropolis monuments with which the event shares its name. TGR-WRT’s reigning champion and points leader Kalle Rovanperä was the first driver over the start ramp and heading towards the opening super special stage: a new test for this year laid out around Water Square on the city seafront.
Rovanperä posted the quickest time to take the early lead, 0.3 seconds ahead of Esapekka Lappi (Hyundai). Sébastien Ogier was sixth, with Takamoto Katsuta setting the same time in his TGR WRC Challenge Program-supported entry. Elfyn Evans is 11th, and still within 2.8s of the lead.
Kaj Lindström (Sporting Director)
“It was good to be in Athens this evening for the start of the rally: it was a nicely organised stage with a good atmosphere, and it’s always positive to start with a stage win. Now we just have to get ready for the rally to start for real tomorrow. The conditions have been very different this week compared to when the teams were in Greece to test in the previous weeks. It’s challenging but the organiser has handled things well and it looks like the weather is improving, which is reassuring. The drivers will have to adapt to the conditions even more than usually, and be able to trust the pacenotes they made during the recce but at the same time keep their eyes open to see how the stages are for themselves.”
Kalle Rovanperä (Driver car 69)
“It’s nice to start the rally by driving in front of the fans in Athens. The stage was tricky but we tried to enjoy it and the time was good. Normally if it was dry this might not be the best style of rally for me, but now with conditions as they are it could be a bit better. Still, I hope the stages are drying up a bit at least from how it’s been during recce. It was quite a challenge with a lot of rain over the last few days. Making the pacenotes has not been so easy when it’s this muddy and you can’t see the corners so well.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“Super specials like this one are always tight and twisty so you need to be fully focused, but it’s good to get the rally started. It’s been a tough recce with almost constant rain, so the stages are petty muddy at the moment. We’ve seen here in previous years that it can dry out pretty quickly, so it’s about trying to judge what infomation to put in the pacenotes and depends on how the conditions will develop. It’s going to be difficult but it’s pretty much the same for everyone and we will just have to try and manage as best as we can.”
Sébastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“I’m happy to be back here in Greece and it’s good to jump in the car for this first stage and give our fans some action in the capital city. The start of the week has been more than challenging with incredible weather, and hopefully the rally can happen in the right conditions. It’s been hard to make proper pacenotes and although we know many sections from the past, I think we’ll face a lot of surprises because the weather can affect the road conditions a lot. As rally drivers we always have to adapt and face new situations, but this time it’s hard to predict what will happen.”
End of day one (Thursday):
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m32.9s
2 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +0.3s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +0.4s
4 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +0.5s
5 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +0.7s
6 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1.3s
= Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1.3s
8 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +1.7s
9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +2.1s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +2.5s
11 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2.8s
(Results as of 20:30 on Thursday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
From Athens, crews drive west tonight to Loutraki where the first competitive gravel action begins on Friday morning. Two passes of the Loutraki stage sandwich the nearby Pissia test and a tyre-fitting zone, with two further stages – Livadia and Elatia – tackled during the afternoon journey north to the service park in Lamia.
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