Regarding Sebastien Loeb, who in style the 1st Leg, standing at the top of the classification, he did just what he knows best: he drove to the limit, balanced in his mind a failure that temporarily knocked him off the top, and came back at the end of the Leg, taking advantage of his experience of the S.S. "Bauxites".
A few hours after the EKO Super Special Stage Acropolis Rally certified why it is concerned as among the toughest events of the calendar. The crews covered a total of 441 kilometres, of which 108.31 were special stages, visiting the service park not earlier than at the end of the day. The right handling and choice of tyres, along with the protection of the car and of course the starting list, were the elements that formed the classification at the end of the day.
In front of thousands of spectators who packed the special stages for yet another year, Sebastien Loeb in his Ford Puma Rally1 performed as usual. The 9-time World Champion took advantage of his good road position and leading up to the 4th SS, temporarily lost his position due to his own mistake, but in the end, it was his experience and the right choice of tyres that made the difference. The great French driver overcame today's big surprise of the Rally, which was none other than his compatriot and teammate Pierre-Louis Loubet, in the final stage. Like that, Malcolm Wilson's team found themselves in the evening service, scoring a "1-2" on the leg.
The 25-year-old Loubet, made the most of the starting list, which helped him move at a very fast pace. It is no coincidence that for the first time in his career he set the fastest time on a special stage, and also for the first time he temporarily took the lead in a WRC Rally. Just 7 seconds behind Loubet and 8.7 seconds off the lead is Esapekka Lappi, who continues his run of good performances for Toyota Gazoo Racing. Within striking distance is Thierry Neuville in the Hyundai i20 N Rally1, who has been at a disadvantage to all the above-mentioned drivers, due to the starting list, and surely today's result should be satisfying for him. Which is not the case with Dani Sordo. The Spaniard lacked confidence behind the wheel of his i20 N Rally1, but with minor changes to the suspension set-up towards the end of the day, he managed to improve his performance and to keep ahead of Ott Tanak, who in the end fought to gain as many positions as he could. The Estonian Hyundai driver and points leader Kalle Rovanpera had the biggest disadvantage compared to the others, opening and "clearing" the road. Elfyn Evans in the Toyota Yaris Rally1 had a similar situation, while a punctured tyre ruined Craig Breen's race in the Ford Puma Rally1.
In the WRC 2 category, Emil Lindholm is leading in the Skoda Fabia Rally2 evo. The 26-year-old Finn won a special stage in the class and set consecutive times in the top three, managing to move to the top by a considerable difference over his pursuers. For second place, the battle raged between Nikolay Grayzin and Teemu Sunninen, in Skoda Fabia Rally2 and Hyundai i20 N Rally2 respectively, with the young Russian leading by just 5.6 sec. Andreas Mikkelsen also set excellent times but, having used superally -due to his exit and temporary retirement yesterday at OAKA- he is well behind in the standings.
As for the Greek crews, Lambros Athanassoulas and Nikolaos Zakchaios, started the rally with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 running at a fast pace, but then tried not to get carried away, finishing the day 8th in the class.
The battle for the JWRC, which will be decided at the EKO Acropolis Rally, took an exciting turn from the first day of action. Sami Pajari, who came to Greece leading in the standings, retired due to punctures. Thus, the Estonian Robert Virves is now leading the rally with a significant gap to the British Jon Armstrong! Lauri Joona had a similar fate to Pajari, in his case due to mechanical issues and as a result, the Irish William Creighton was promoted to third.
Tomorrow’s leg may feature just three, repeated special stages but with a total of 148 kilometres. Thus, it is the longest of the rally. Given that only 30 seconds separate the first from the sixth in the classification, one can easily understand that everything can change within only a few meters of competition.
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