Title combat intensifies as WRC returns from summer time break.
The stress is steadily mounting on FIA World Rally Championship chief Kalle Rovanperä because the Toyota Gazoo Racing star goals to maintain his team-mate Elfyn Evans at bay throughout this week’s EKO Acropolis Rally Greece (7 – 10 September).
Rovanperä, who made historical past in 2022 because the youngest-ever WRC champion, had his factors benefit considerably diminished after a dramatic exit from his house occasion, Secto Rally Finland, final month. His Welsh colleague Evans, in the meantime, received the rally and slashed his lead by greater than half.
With solely 25 factors splitting the pair going into this tenth occasion of the 13-round season, any additional mishaps might spell bother for Rovanperä and doubtlessly price him the championship lead. Finishing a four-strong GR Yaris entry are Japan’s Takamoto Katsuta and eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier, who makes his first begin since profitable Safari Rally Kenya in June.
“The Acropolis is a basic occasion and now we have had some actual highs and lows there prior to now two years,” Rovanperä mentioned. “It received’t be straightforward this time both as we might be opening the highway once more on Friday. However along with the crew now we have been working to enhance for these situations and we will certainly strive our greatest to attain some good factors.”
Famend for its punishing rocky tracks nestled within the mountains north of Athens and its historically scorching mid-summer situations, the ‘Rally of Gods’ has held its esteemed standing as a WRC basic since its inception in 1973.
Nevertheless, unprecedented rainfall all through this week has coated the phases with a thick layer of mud, presenting a rare problem for all concerned. Nonetheless, each conceivable effort is being made to make sure the occasion proceeds as deliberate and in full.
Thierry Neuville headed a 1-2-3 end for Hyundai Motorsport right here 12 months in the past. The Belgian, third within the standings, trails Evans by 11 factors and might be hoping that historical past repeats itself on Greek soil. Supporting his cost are fellow i20 N drivers Esapekka Lappi and Dani Sordo.
M-Sport Ford fields a trio of Puma vehicles for Ott Tänak, Pierre-Louis Loubet and Greek privateer Jourdan Serderidis. Loubet, particularly, has fond reminiscences of Greece, having clinched his maiden WRC stage win right here in 2022.
After Thursday afternoon’s begin in Athens, a crowd-pleasing tremendous particular stage on the capital’s gorgeous seafront opens the motion. Three extra days of competitors round Loutraki and Lamia observe, together with a brutal Friday when crews face 5 velocity exams with no alternative for service.