1. Rovanpera’s brilliance, resilience and fortunate “buckaroo” second
Kalle Rovanpera could have inherited the rally lead after Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier suffered suspension failures, however the reigning world champion completely deserved his third win of 2023.
The stats once more define what a particular drive this was from the 22-year-old Toyota driver. Regardless of going through the drawback of beginning first on the highway, Rovanpera gained eight of the 15 levels, however extra importantly averted any punctures or mechanical points triggered by Greece’s unforgiving tough gravel roads.
However Rovanpera did trip his luck on Friday when a compression, brought on by the deluge of water that ran by means of stage three earlier within the week, nearly toppled his GR Yaris.
First to come across the bump Rovanpera needed to be alert to wrestle the automotive again after it was nearly pitched into an end-over-end roll. As ever, the cool and calm Finn dismissed the second and went on to win the stage. Group-mate Takamoto Katsuta and Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi had been nearly caught out by the identical compression.
“You by no means actually know what will occur in these moments,” mentioned Rovanpera. “Every thing occurs fairly rapidly and I used to be simply hoping that the automotive wouldn’t go over.”
2. Championship combat a two horse race as luck deserts Neuville
Neuville was 36 factors adrift of Rovanpera heading into the weekend, however is now 66 factors behind
Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images
The battle for the 2023 World Rally Championship is right down to a two horse race, with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville ruling himself out of the combat.
Neuville appeared heading in the right direction to spice up his slim title hopes after main the Acropolis Rally heading into Sunday afternoon, earlier than hanging a gap that led to terminal suspension failure.
Neuville was 36 factors adrift of Rovanpera heading into the weekend, however this newest misfortune, coupled with the latter claiming a most 30 factors has left the Belgian 66 factors adrift with 90 left on the desk.
“Yeah, for positive,” Neuville advised Autosport, when requested if his title hopes are over.
“The probabilities weren’t that large however nonetheless with the consequence we had been doing right here, and if we completed like this, we’d have elevated our probabilities a bit extra. However it’s what’s.
It seems the title is about to be a duel between Rovanpera and Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans.
Grateful to get better to second after a leaking radiator that might have ended his rally, the Welshman believes his 33-point deficit will possible require a Rovanpera mistake to carry his title prospects.
“After all Kalle has taken away 30 factors once more which is clearly not perfect when it comes to the massive image, but when we rewind the clocks to Saturday I believed I used to be packing up and going dwelling,” Evans advised Autosport.
“I feel all issues thought of we have now to be proud of second.
“It’s large [points] hole and it wants to come back down if we wish to have likelihood to do it on the finish of the 12 months.
“It isn’t unattainable however we begin to enter the territory the place he’ll want [Rovanpera} to make a little error here or there. We are going to have to win some rallies.”
3. Organisers going above and beyond
Storm Daniel left many wondering if the rally would happen at all
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
The fact the Acropolis Rally went ahead last week was simply down to an incredible effort from rally organisers to overcome extremely difficult circumstances.
Storm Daniel left many wondering if the rally would happen at all after torrential rain caused flash floods in the build-up.
Rally organisers ensured safety was paramount for not only competitors but the local communities dealing with the aftermath of the storm. Two stages were shortened while Thursday’s shakedown was rightfully cancelled due to the conditions.
Torrential rain had disrupted the recce schedule, while the extreme conditions made making accurate pacenotes impossible. The weather drastically improved since the drivers completed their original recce, which left roads in vastly different shape from earlier this week.
Following a request from drivers, rally organisers, in conjunction with the FIA, conducted special recce runs of the stages, using the WRC teams’ recce vehicles, to provide up to date videos and information regarding the road conditions.
These videos were issued to the teams the day before each leg of the rally begins to allow drivers and co-drivers to analyse the roads and anticipate the conditions they will face, and ensure safety wasn’t compromised.
4. Mikkelsen’s ultimate comeback
Andreas Mikkelsen’s surge to WRC2 glory further boosting his title hopes was the comeback of the rally
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
When it comes to recovery drives, Andreas Mikkelsen’s surge to WRC2 glory further boosting his title hopes was the comeback of the rally.
The Toksport Skoda driver was leading the WRC2 class and sitting ninth overall following Thursday night’s Athens super special stage, before it all went wrong on Friday.
Mikkelsen’s left rear tyre delaminated on stage two dropping him to 16th in class. A second left rear let go on the following stage, before his nightmare came to an end when amazingly a third left rear punctured on stage five.
The Norwegian began Saturday 12th in class more than two minutes adrift of then class leader Nikolay Gryazin.
What followed was one of the three-time WRC rally winner’s best displays in a rally car. Throwing caution to the wind he rocketed up the leaderboard to incredibly lead the class at the end of Saturday by 0.4s.
But there was adversity to come. Mikkelsen was awarded a notional time after stage 10 was red-flagged. This was later amended, pushing him back to 12.0s behind Gus Greensmith heading the final day.
Mikkelsen was not to be denied, overtaking Greensmith, who was battling mechanical issues with his Toksport Skoda, on the penultimate stage, to take a famous win by 10.3s.
“This is a special one, this is really a special one,” said Mikkelsen.
“After Friday everything looked so dark and we decided we had nothing to lose, we just said f*** it we go.
“We drove the fastest we could every corner the whole rally. We changed the rear diff in the last service, it was really on the limit but the guys [in the team] are unimaginable.”
5. Eire’s new rally champion
William Creighton turned the primary Irishman to say the FIA Junior WRC title since Craig Breen in 2011
Photograph by: McKlein / Motorsport Images
It has been a desperately tough 12 months for rallying, and significantly Irish rallying, following the tragic lack of Craig Breen this 12 months, however in Greece, there was some a lot wanted pleasure.
William Creighton’s laborious fought fifth place completed earned him the FIA Junior WRC title, turning into the primary Irishman to win the championship since Breen’s triumph in 2011.
Beating the percentages after retiring on Friday morning with radiator harm, Creighton and Liam Regan rejoined the motion on Saturday and climbed the one-make Ford Fiesta Rally3 class leaderboard.
His mission was helped barely when fellow championship challenger Laurent Pellier was sidelined by gearbox woes on the penultimate day. Creighton ended the season eight factors away from Diego Dominguez, winner of this ultimate spherical, whereas the upset Pellier completed third within the collection
“It is unbelievable, actually,” mentioned Creighton. “After what occurred on Friday, prefer it says on the automotive: ‘by no means hand over’. We did not, however after all we knew there was going to be a slim likelihood and it was going to be tough.
“We dug deep and tried and naturally issues went our manner, however we additionally needed to present good tempo and stage wins. It is loopy when you concentrate on all of the stage wins all year long, our win in Sweden and the way tight that was. And now it is come right down to this, it is simply unbelievable.”
Regardless of going through the drawback of beginning first on the highway, Rovanpera gained eight of the 15 levels
Photograph by: Toyota Racing