The Acropolis Rally in Greece will be a counting round of the World Rally Championship for the first time in eight years as it replaces Rally Chile on the 2021 WRC calendar.
The Acropolis was one of the original WRC events when the series for manufacturers was born in 1973 and, in the 40-year period between then and 2013 when it last was included in the WRC, it was only omitted from the WRC schedule twice in 1995 and 2010 when the series had a rotation system of events.
The Greek government has been working hard on sealing a return to the WRC, with an initial target of 2022.
There were also plans between the WRC teams to hold a group test on Acropolis Rally stages in September last year as the championship’s restart after the coronavirus lockdown edged nearer.
The 2021 event will be a like-for-like swap for Rally Chile, running on the September 9-12 weekend that was originally reserved for what would have been the WRC’s sole visit to South America in 2021.
Jona Siebel, managing director of WRC Promoter, said: “The Acropolis holds an illustrious chapter in WRC history and we appreciate the Greek government’s huge commitment in restoring it to world rallying’s top table.
“Its heritage will be recalled by all, but at the same time this is a modern-era Acropolis that sits comfortably alongside our other 11 rounds. That doesn’t mean its challenge is diminished and we can be sure the tough mountain roads will bring the sternest of contests.
“Chile proved a popular addition to the WRC in 2019. Unfortunately, the country suffered badly from the pandemic last year and the situation remains difficult. We’re extremely disappointed to lose this year’s event, but Chile very much remains a part of the WRC family.”
FIA President Jean Todt added: “Acropolis Rally Greece needs no introduction. It’s a legendary event featuring some of the world’s roughest stages.
“I have such special memories of it, having competed there as a co-driver on five occasions between 1970 and 1981, and winning it as team principal of Peugeot in 1985 and 1986.
“It’s a pleasure to see the Acropolis return at the highest level of the discipline thanks to the support of the Greek authorities, along with the strong commitment of the organisers.
“I am convinced the efforts of the Chilean Motor Sport Federation and organising team are not in vain and we will have the chance to see another great edition of Rally Chile in the future.”
The rally has fervent government support and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greece was proud to celebrate the WRC’s return.
“Seventy years ago the Acropolis was a backdrop to a very special race which became known as the Rally of Gods, an epic annual contest that tested drivers like no other. After an eight-year absence it is back and, fittingly, at a time of dramatic rejuvenation of my country,” he said.
Rally Chile has only welcomed the WRC once, in 2019, despite being included on both the 2020 and 2021 calendars.
The first iteration was won by Ott Tänak’s Toyota but was perhaps best remembered for Thierry’s Neuville’s monumental accident on the second day.
Rally Chile was canceled for 2020 in November 2019 due to political and social unrest near the Conception region where the rally was based.
It has been shelved for 2021 due to continuing challenges surrounding COVID-19. With Rally México and Argentina also both not on the WRC schedule, it means the main WRC won’t visit the Americas for the first time since 1995.