Ralfs Sirmacis is the big winner of the SEAJETS 2016 Acropolis Rally, one of the most demanding in the recent years. The 21-year-old Latvian is the youngest driver who has ever won in Greece and second youngest to have ever won an ERC event; he did not break that record for just about three months. In his first appearance in an R5 car, Sirmacis was fast throughout the whole Rally, scoring top times in cold blood; that is why this is a clearly fair result.
Second on the podium are local heroes Lambros Athanassoulas-Elias Panayiotounis and their Skoda Fabia R5, fact that thrilled the numerous Greek spectators in the Lamia National Trade Fair area, where the Service Park was set up. The Greek driver had a podium finish in last year’s Acropolis as well, so this time he finds himself one step higher. His strategy throughout the rally was wisely planned; the car was protected by the crew at all times, while keeping a steadily fast pace close to that of the leading crews. It was only in the last stage that they found themselves in risk of losing the 2nd place, when Peter Ranga, who entered the stage before Lambros, faced problems with his Mitsubishi Lancer. The Greek driver caught up with him 15 km before the end of the stage and was forced to drive in his dust for about 8 km, spending a critical amount of time, but not enough to throw him to the 3rd place; in the end, the Greeks prevailed over Tarabus-Trunkat for just 0.1 sec! Later in the evening, the Clerk of the Course deducted 32 sec from the time of SS12 for car Athanassoulas after detailed examination of visual evidence (video) and the electronic tracking data that proved that Ranga obstructed him for a long distance and permit him to overtake.
Back to the Czech driver, he did not manage to keep a pace as fast as Athanassoulas’ through the day; what he did manage was to climb on the podium, taking advantage of Alexey Lukyanuk’s troubles, and get valuable championship points. Lukyanuk was on top of the classification by the end of Day 1, but lost a lot of time in SS7, when he had a puncture. As if this was not bad enough, he also hurt his Fiesta’s suspension in SS9, fact that officially buried his hopes for a good result. Luck did not work in favour of the Russian driver; the turbo of his engine failed some time later during the day, and that is why reaching the finish line should be considered a success.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz was also unlucky during the SEAJETS 2016 Acropolis Rally, being obliged to carry the burden of the mistake he made in SS1, when he rolled. The defending Champion was faster than everybody else during both days, as he won 8 special stages; 5 out of 6 in Day 2, fact that earned him valuable championship points.
Consequently, Raul Jeets took his chance to climb to the 4th place of the final standings in his first Rally with a Skoda Fabia R5, marking the first “1-2-3-4” for the Czech firm in ERC with this car. Polish driver Wojciech Chuchala was finally 5th in his Subaru Impreza, winning the ERC2 category for the third time in three Rallies this year. In ERC3, Murat Bostanci triumphed in a Ford Fiesta R2 and he enthusiastically stated that he would like to participate again in the Acropolis Rally next year in a R5 car, so that he can claim victory overall!
From the organising point of view, the Acropolis Rally’s return to Central Greece was without doubt a success story. Many spectators came to watch the crews in the special stages which have helped this event build its world-class reputation in the past. The attendance of the spectators was huge in the Service Park area as well, where the prize giving ceremony was held. The presence of local administration representatives, who helped a great deal hosting this event, should be noted here, as well as that of representatives of the sponsors; especially the founder of SEAJETS, Mr Marios Iliopoulos, who awarded the top 3 crews with ferryboat ticket vouchers worth in total 600,000 euro.
This concludes the SEAJETS 2016 Acropolis Rally. Was it the best in the recent years? Maybe, until the next!
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