WRC teams closing on group test on Acropolis stages

Group test proposal first discussed last year beginning to take shape ahead of anticipated 2020 season restart

Jari Matti Latvala – Action

Plans for an innovative approach to World Rally Championship testing have been formalized and could mean the world’s fastest rally cars being back on some of the Acropolis Rally’s most famous roads in September.

The idea of bringing the teams together to test for certain events was first discussed last year but is now gathering momentum ahead of a potential series restart in August or September. The WRC Promoter has tabled a proposal to run three days of testing out of former Acropolis Rally host town Loutraki.

The idea is two-fold: to reduce testing costs for the teams and offer a tangible promotional return. The drivers would be split into three groups of three, with each group arriving into Athens the day before their test and taking part in a promotional activity that afternoon. At the end of each day of running, WRC Promoter will screen a 30-minute live chatshow with the drivers to reflect on their day in the car.

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team principal Richard Millener was one of the original architects of this idea 12 months ago. He can still see the benefits now.

Millener M-Sport Sweden

Photo: André Lavadinho

“We go and do our testing, we do our own thing and we go home and nobody really knows we’ve even been there,” he said. “We saw this last week. If it wasn’t for DirtFish, nobody would have known testing was happening in Finland.

“As you found out last week, there’s a value in producing content from tests and that’s what we want to do on a bigger scale.

“I think the promoter should be applauded for the package they’ve put together. They’re working directly with the Greek government to facilitate this as a great opportunity to showcase their country and to further spread the modern word of the WRC. The potential to do that in a location and on roads which have real historic relevance is great.

“They’re making an event out of something we’ve kept secret for a long time. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll all keep our cars very private and you won’t be able to get close to the cars – but what’s the point in having these guys on the road for three days and getting no promotion out of it?”

The bid to bring WRC testing to Greece comes with the blessing of the country’s Minister for Sport Lefteris Avgenakis.

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Avgenakis told DirtFish: “Recently, the State established a special body with emblematic motorsport personalities and representatives of all fields involved in Greek motorsport, as well as the automotive industry. The purpose of this special body is to claim and organize international motorsport events. Greece is ready to host all kinds of major sporting events as it has done successfully in the past. Moreover, the so-far effective management of the coronavirus pandemic makes it a safe country on the world map. At the same time, Greece remains a familiar and favorite destination for drivers and teams.”

Greece’s ability to deal with coronavirus swiftly makes the country an attractive and workable option for the teams to test. At the time of writing, Greece had reported just 3302 COVID-19 cases with only 190 deaths. That translates to 308 cases per million people, which compares well with, for example, the UK which has 4,609 per million. The Athens government has been widely praised for a swift lockdown, strong messaging to encourage co-operation and the bolstering of the country’s health service to look after and ageing population of just over 10 million.