The EKO Acropolis Rally celebrated its 70th anniversary with a thrilling event that had everything: twists and turns, suspense, spectacle, and intense emotions. In a time of difficulty for Greece, which is still recovering from extreme weather events and grieving for victims, this year's rally brings a ray of sunshine and optimism.
This was confirmed by the strong presence of the spectators, but also by the winner himself, Kalle Rovapera: “It was a disastrous week for the Greek people, and we tried to continue the rally as normal to give some joy to the people. It was amazing that there were so many spectators on the special stages to support us even in these conditions and we wish them all the best.”
The “Rally of Gods” celebrated its 70th anniversary with 69 crews battling out on muddy roads and extremely difficult conditions. From the EKO Super Special Stage at Water Square to the Wolf Power Stage on the final day, the event was filled with epic battles that honoured its name.
The iconic Greek WRC round this year was even more unpredictable, demanding, and dramatic. The toughest in recent years! So much so, that almost all the drivers did not fail to congratulate and thank the organisation, which, according to WRC2 class winner Andreas Mikkelsen, “did an incredible job to keep the rally going uninterrupted”.
The second win for Rovanpera in the EKO Acropolis Rally wasn’t an easy task. The young Finn had an amazing battle with Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier, until the moment that both his opponents, faced the extremely tough nature of the rally, and retired. From that point on, he had no problem managing his lead from the rest and secured his third win of the season. A win that brings him closer to his second consecutive world title.
Toyota Gazoo Racing made an important step towards securing back-to-back the Manufacturers’ title, with Elfyn Evans completing the emphatic “1-2” on Greek soil for the Japanese team. The Welsh encountered multiple issues that resulted in significant delays, but he managed to overcome Dani Sordo's challenge and secure second place on the podium.
The Spanish driver drove the Hyundai Shell Mobis' i20 N Rally1 to a third-place finish, proudly waving the team's flag. Ott Tanak from M-Sport's Ford Puma Rally1 finished behind him. Tanak's hopes for victory were dashed early on the second day of the rally due to a water pump problem that resulted in a time penalty. Nevertheless, he kept on fighting and was rewarded with a fourth place, his best result in months! Esapekka Lappi in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 and Takamoto Katsuta in the Toyota GR Yaris Rally, completed the Top-6, having also faced several problems at the typical Acropolis stages.
The hard Greek surfaces also challenged the WRC2 crews, with Andreas Mikkelsen securing an emphatic win! The Norwegian driver had three punctures on Friday, but then, he “took off” with the Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 and took his third win of the year. He was followed by Gus Greensmith and Yohan Rossel, with a Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 and a Citroen C3 Rally2, respectively. The Brit could have challenged Mikkelsen for the win, but a problem with the differential prevented him from fighting as hard as he would have liked.
As for Junior WRC, the 2023 title was decided at the EKO Acropolis Rally, at a non-stop thriller. The big favourite, the Irish William Creighton, retired on the first day due to broker radiator, which put Laurent Pellier in a strong position. But luck was not on the Frenchman’s side, who, in turn, retired during day three, due to a mechanical problem, leaving Diego Dominguez in first place. Suddenly, the Paraguayan driver had the first say in the title battle, but Creighton’s return with SuperRally status, allowed him to stay in the game. Thus, finishing sixth in the category and taking advantage of the points secured due to the double-scoring status of the EKO Acropolis Rally, allowed him to finally celebrate the title of the Junior WRC!
Among the Greek drivers, the tough special stages led several crews that sought success, to retirement. First among the Greek crews was Jourdan Serderidis with M-Sport’s Ford Puma Rally1. He maintained a steady pace during the event, avoiding mistakes and setbacks, which ultimately paid off. In the informal Greek classification, Chrysostomos Karellis secured the second place with a Citroen C3 Rally2, followed by Themis Chalkias with a Renault Clio Rally3. Savas Lefkaditis emerged as the winner of the RC4 class, driving a Peugeot 2008 Rally4.