Rovanpera wins Acropolis Rally Greece super special stage

Rovanpera wins Acropolis Rally Greece super special stage

World Rally Championship leader Kalle Rovanpera has secured an early lead in the Acropolis Rally Greece after winning Thursday night’s Athens super special stage.

Thursday night’s superspecial stage was won by Kalle Rovanperä in his Toyota GR Yaris, giving him an early lead in the Acropolis Rally. After the brief city stage, he leads Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi.

Rovanperä, who had crashed out of his home event, was 0.3 seconds ahead of Lappi on the asphalt-surfaced stage, which was just over a mile long.

Following the cancellation of the shakedown stage in the host city of Lamia due to Storm Daniel’s effects, the super special stage was the WRC crews’ first competitive running.

Although flash flooding has been triggered by torrential rain and thunderstorms across Greece, organizers are still hopeful that the rally can go ahead without interruption.

Normally, Rovanperä would have preferred wet weather as he opens the road on Friday’s gravel stages. However, the most effective position on the road for a win is less certain given the tremendous amount of rain that Greece has received recently.

The majority of drivers chose to run a combination of hard and soft rubber as they had no time to switch tyres before Friday morning’s opening stages, with the exception of Rovanperä, who ran one hard tyre.

“It’s not little bit of rain anymore,” said Rovanperä. “For sure, I have to hope that the conditions is better for me than normally on the dry – it’s really difficult rally.

“Opening the road now will be interesting but after the disappointment in Finland, I want to do a good race and we have to fight for it, for sure.”

Hyundai drivers Esapekka Lappi, Thierry Neuville, and Dani Sordo trailed Rovanpera, finishing within 0.1 seconds of each other. Despite being tenths slower than his teammate and finishing third, Thierry Neuville feels optimistic about his chances of winning.

“I haven’t felt this good for a long time in the car, so I am looking forward,” said Neuville. “We had great speed in the last two events, that’s for sure and there is more to come.”

Ott Tänak, on the other hand, travels to Greece following two really difficult events.

However, the M-Sport-Ford spearheaded the team’s assault in fifth place, finishing 0.6 seconds ahead of eight-time world champion Sebastian Ogier, who is making his first WRC appearance since winning the Safari Rally Kenya in June.

Ogier’s teammate at Toyota, Takamoto Katsuta posted the same time to tie for sixth place.

M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet finished eighth while Elfyn Evans, who is the main challenger to Rovanpera for the title, could only manage the 12th-fastest time, 2.8 seconds behind the lead.

“We have to see what is possible – I don’t think anyone knows what is in front of them, so we just have to deal with it as we see it,” said Evans looking ahead to Friday’s stages.

Evans finished the stage behind WRC2 contenders Andreas Mikkelsen, Marco Bulacia and Nikolay Gryazin.

Mikkelsen’s drive was derailed on the Olympic Stadium superspecial stage last year when he damaged a wheel, ruining his chances of winning. This year, he is off to a far better start. This time, the Skoda Fabia RS championship leader went fastest by driving a very clean, precise stage.

The race will travel 200 km to the northwest on Friday as crews prepare to get through five 102km-long gravel stages.

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