That was hot and dusty. Throughout the route through Athens, drivers were faced with some tricky hairpins. So everyone stayed calm and took it easy at every turn. But let’s be honest, this rally racing weekend everything didn’t work out as planned for the all-service park. Here are the highlights of 2022 Acropolis rally that we marked.
The high hopes were on Sébastien Loeb’s shoulders
The challenge was given to nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb. M-Sport Ford hopes to win 2022 Rally Acropolis to gain coveted points. However, standing on the pole in Greece is what we’ve been waiting for the most. That was the plan. It’s fair to say that Loeb didn’t let the team down. He was one of the fastest on shakedown alongside rocket Ott Tanak. However, Thursday’s opening was hampered by technical difficulties.
There was a hope that all the problems would be forgotten on the following dusty Friday. There were so many dust particles that it demanded attention. The drivers kept their minds cool inside the cars because it was so hot inside. Immediately, two M-Sport Ford Purple Puma cars by Pierre-Louis Loubet and Sebastien Loeb took the lead as two-three fastests on SS2.
We crossed our fingers when Sebastien Loeb, the team’s role model, got a puncture on SS5. That helped as soon as he started SS7 he topped the standings. We took a deep breath and hoped that we already knew who would win Rally Acropolis.
But as soon as Saturday’s long-distance race began, Sébastien Loeb and his co-driver Isabelle Galmiche faced technical problems again. Their alternator failured. So, SS8 became their final stage. That was a real disaster for the team, which still needed points against Hyunday Motorsport. Following news just exacerbated the defeat. M-Sport’ second chance Pierre-Louis Loubet got the puncture which dropped him to seventh position overall.
Pierre-Louis Loubet finished 2022 Rally Acropolis fourth, which is a small win for Purple Pumas’ team. But Sébastien Loeb’s retirement after holding a 19.0sec lead over Thierry Neuville is a blow of fate. Althoguht, the FIA World Rally Championship is always about unpredicted happenings.
Toyota is out the winning in 2022 Rally Acropolis
It was something that wasn’t on the plan. There was almost no way that a driver with such dominance could be without condition. You may wonder, but only Takamoto Katsuta took the top ten with his sixth place overall.
First, Toyota’s driver and championship leader Kalle Rovanperä had problems on SS9. He became the third victim of 2022 Acropolis Rally after Pierre-Louis Loubet. The 21-year-old Finn hit a tree on Saturday and literally dragged his Rally1 to the finish line, losing time. Despite dropping out of the top ten, he salvaged four points from the Wolf Power Stage.
Esapekka Lappi came to replace the faster Finn. It was a good start to the weekend in Greece; Lappi took the second after Kalle’s bad luck on SS9. On S13, he also lost all of his chances. This GR Yaris Rally1 had problems with the fuel system.
Sunday was the day to call the true leaders together, but it wasn’t Elfyn Evans among them. It’s ironic and sad that being fourth on Saturday Evans stopped on the road section in front of the SS14. It was just a couple of kilometers before the start! After a few minutes, Evans continued driving, but soon stopped again – this time for good. This GR Yaris Rally1 got a malfunction with the turbine.
Hyundai Motorsport overtook the odds.
It was clear that Hyundai Motorsport drivers were in with a chance in Greece and this is one of the 2022 Acropolis Rally highlights. For the battle in Greece, they chose the best. Dani Sordo, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak prepared for the start. Tanak was particularly affected, as he is saving his chance to fight for the WRC title against Kalle Rovanpera this year. Even in theory his chances are good enough. As soon as Toyota’s drivers retired and the previous fastest purple Puma cars by Ford M-Sport faced problems, Hyunday drivers immediately took the lead. On Sunday, there was a dilemma.
2022 Acropolis Rally highlights: Ott or Thierry?
Thierry Neuville is five time vice WRC champion and his chances of winning the title this WRC 2022 season against so charged Gr Yaris by Rovanperaa are very low. Ott Tanak is demonstrating impressive rally driving. Estonian rally star already has the title in his pocket. In 2019 he became the WRC champion as a Toyota driver. As of this year, he has already won the Rally Sardegna, Rovanpera’s home rally Finalnd, and Thiery Neuville’s home round in Belgium.
The logical question became, would Thierry Neuville be so kind as to pass Tanak ahead? But the team made an instant decision and both drivers had to keep their positions as they were. Even being third Dani Sordo also took the rest a bit and didn’t push too hard.
On the final Power Stage rally fans were waiting for the results of the previous two. Despite the team’s order, Ott Tanak was very fast. That wouldn’t be Ott if he followed the rules. However, it wasn’t enough to overtake the leader. His teammate Thierry Neuville won the Acropolis Rally.
The Belgian driver seized the top spot early on Saturday and hasn’t looked back since that moment. Neuville carried an advantage of almost half a minute over team-mate Ott Tänak into Sunday’s three-stage finale. Dani Sordo completed the podium lockout in third.
Who could imagine that Hyundai Motorsport would return with already three drivers at the podium! Amazing 1-2-3 finish from the team. Thierry Neuville celebrates the first victory in the WRC 2022 calendar. Ott Tanak was very close, but still not enough. To complete the podium was a real pleasure for Dani Sordo.
Sebastien Loeb retired from the 2022 Rally Acropolis due to technical problems, despite the hopes of M-Sport Ford. Pierre-Louis Loubet is only fourth, so that’s a win for the team. Fifth is their third Puma by Craig Breen.
Technical problems became the most popular issue in Greece. Three out of four Toyota drivers struggled with it and lost. Takamoto Katsuta finished sixth.
Unpredictable, iconic rally in Greece didn’t impress us with the route as the drivers had been passing all the roads with high attention. Instead, it was a real test for the rally cars, and that is how Rally Acropolis highlighted. So Greek roads became the endurance for the hybrid Rally1 cars rather than theivers.