The final phase of the 2023 World Rally Championship season is upon us, beginning with this week’s Acropolis Rally Greece.
With the championship still in the balance, the European classic could prove pivotal in this year’s title battle.
But who is heading to round 10 in fine form, and who’s gone well here in the past?
Welcome to DirtFish’s form guide for the 2023 Acropolis Rally Greece.
#69 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: DNF-1st-2nd
Best Acropolis result: 1st (2021)
Up until his crash from the lead on last month’s Rally Finland, Kalle Rovanperä’s form was looking very ominous indeed. Ever since that first victory of the season in Portugal, Rovanperä’s been on a march towards world title number two.
The Finland crash was probably just a hiccup, but it has allowed team-mate Elfyn Evans to close in to within a rally win’s worth of points.
Winning this weekend could be a challenge for Rovanperä given he’s first on the road, but with the stormy weather approaching like it is, the Finn could be spared. And the last time the Acropolis was a sodden affair, the world champion won.
#33 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 1st-4th-3rd
Best Acropolis result: 6th (2021)
Elfyn Evans’ maximum points haul in Finland was as well-timed as it was impressive. It means he heads into the Acropolis as the WRC’s in-form driver, even if that win was over a month ago now.
Evans is in full control of his championship destiny as a win and powerstage victory on every rally would be enough to send the trophy to Wales, regardless of what Rovanperä does.
But it certainly won’t be easy. Starting just behind his team-mate on the road means there’s little to separate them in terms of conditions, and the Acropolis hasn’t been kind to Evans of late who was only sixth in 2021 and retired last year with turbo problems.
#11 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 2nd-2nd-DSQ
Best Acropolis result: 1st (2022)
Oh what Thierry Neuville would give for a repeat of last year’s result – a victory, and neither of the two leading Toyotas featuring in the top 10. That certainly wouldn’t harm his championship chances!
Neuville can’t control what goes on around him of course, but he should be considered a real contender for another win this time around.
Evans may be the in-form driver, but Neuville is in a purple patch too with two surprise second place finishes in Estonia and Finland. Greece is a very different kind of rally, but Hyundai’s i20 N Rally1 has always tended to go well on Europe’s rougher rallies.
#8 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: DNF-8th-6th
Best Acropolis result: 2nd (2021 & 2022)
If Evans and Neuville are both in fine form, the same can’t be said for Ott Tänak who’s endured a torrid time of late.
Two engine-related retirements – one more self-induced than the other – on two events he was expected to fly on (Estonia and Finland) have left the M-Sport Ford driver’s championship chances looking remote at best.
Instead, Tänak’s focus will be on trying to end the season on a high. Can he do so on the Acropolis? Why not? His start position is better than plenty of others’ and he’s finished second here in each of the past two seasons, albeit in Hyundai machinery.
#17 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 1st-14th-5th
Best WRC result: 1st (2011)
Sébastien Ogier’s Safari Rally Kenya victory feels like a long time ago now, but after over two months out of WRC action the eight-time champion is back for the Acropolis.
One of just two Rally1 drivers to have taken on this event in the WRC before it returned in 2021, Ogier is a former winner in Greece but strangely it was one of the few events he didn’t win in his first championship-winning season with Volkswagen (2013).
The Frenchman is an obvious contender for victory this weekend given his form this year and theoretically superior starting position to others. It’ll be interesting to see if he subliminally plays any role in the title battle this weekend by getting in between any of his team-mates in the classification.
#4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: DNF-3rd-12th
Best Acropolis result: 4th (2014, ERC)
Esapekka Lappi has set himself a clear target for Acropolis Rally Greece: a return to the WRC podium.
And provided Hyundai has got on top of the propshaft problem (after Lappi’s i20 lunched four of them on the Safari) there’s nothing to suggest Lappi can’t achieve it.
The Finn has been incredibly strong on gravel this year and was running as high as second for Toyota last year in Greece before fuel supply issues halted his run. At the very least a better return than his super disappointing Rally Finland will be expected. Write Lappi off at your peril.
#18 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 3rd-7th-4th
Best Acropolis result: 6th (2022)
From the despair of Estonia to the delight of Finland, Takamoto Katsuta produced a remarkable turnaround in form to record his fourth WRC podium last time out. What can he do on the Acropolis?
Form perhaps isn’t on the Toyota driver’s side. He’s only ever done the Acropolis once as he was forced to pull his entry in 2021 with then co-driver Keaton Williams having to rush home for personal reasons, and was a distant sixth last year on an event Toyota struggled on across the board.
In such circumstances, Katsuta tends to go for the solid rather than spectacular approach, so a decent points finish seems a likely result.
#6 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 5th-DNF-2nd
Best Acropolis result: 2nd (2013)
The other driver to have experience of the Acropolis in the WRC before it returned two years ago is Dani Sordo.
And like Ogier, Sordo hasn’t been in action since Safari Rally Kenya. That’s unlikely to stop him from performing well though.
Few, if any, drivers are more dependable than Sordo, and he’s shown himself more than capable of scoring a podium on the Acropolis – not least last year where he was the rear-gunner in Hyundai’s historic 1-2-3.
#7 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: 45th-6th-7th
Best Acropolis result: 4th (2022)
Pierre-Louis Loubet’s quest for a maiden world championship podium goes on, but Acropolis could well be the event where his patience is finally rewarded.
Remember last year, when Loubet starred to win his first ever WRC stage and move into the lead of the rally? Were it not for a puncture on the second day, he could well have been a podium finisher 12 months ago.
That was in the dry, though. The weather looks set to throw up a completely different challenge this weekend, so Loubet may not be at the advantage he may have hoped he would be running further back in the day one running order.
#9 Jourdan Serderidis/Frédéric Miclotte (Ford Puma Rally1)
Last 3 WRC results: DNF-25th-24th
Best Acropolis result: 7th (2017, ERC)
A result isn’t what Greek driver Jourdan Serderidis is chasing this weekend. Instead, the mission will simply be to enjoy what he’s said will be his last WRC rally in a Rally1 car – and to finish as the top local driver.
“Obviously I can’t wait to be in the Puma’s seat for my home WRC event with so many Greek fans!” Serderidis said.
“I will try to be at the level the event demands, I believe we have prepared this event even better than the other ones. So, I am reasonably confident to get a nice result and fight for the Greek cup, even though there are some very good Greek drivers in Rally2!”