The World Rally Championship returned to one of its most historic settings for the first time in eight years last weekend as the series landed in Greece for the Acropolis Rally.
Unseasonal weather threatened to totally transform the character of the event, but there were plenty of the familiar elements there along with new spices which made the Acropolis a welcome addition back on the calendar.
But who impressed DirtFish’s voice of rally Colin Clark the most out there on the special stages? It’s time to find out.
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Sébastien Ogier 8/10
Acropolis Rally result: 3rd
Very much a measured drive from Ogier. He never comes to an event with any other intention than winning and his drive from first on the road on Friday ably demonstrated that. But when Rovanperä found another gear on Saturday morning and pushed the pace to the max, Ogier was happy to manage the risk and accept that on a weekend when his nearest title rivals were floundering, a podium would be a good enough result.
Elfyn Evans 7/10
Acropolis Rally result: 6th
Elfyn didn’t do a lot wrong in Greece. In fact, he did an awful lot right. Friday morning’s gearbox woes were a crippling blow to Evans’ title hopes but he struggled on, knowing that in this most unpredictable of sports, you never give in until the math tells you you’re beaten.
Yes, he now seems hopelessly far behind Ogier in the title race but his perseverance on Friday showed a determination to battle this one out right until the very bitter end. And Evans knows as well as anyone that the strangest of things can happen in the last few rounds.
Kalle Rovanperä 10/10
Acropolis Rally result: 1st
This kind of result must scare the hell out of Rovanperä’s championship rivals. OK, Ogier has this year’s drivers’ title all but wrapped up but the likes of Tänak, Neuville and Evans will be looking to 2022 with a high degree of expectation. Well, they would have been before this performance from the young Finn.
Remember, Rovanperä had never competed here before. Yet, he was able to push that Toyota to deliver a level of performance that the others just weren’t able to live with. It was a quite astonishing demonstration of just what this driver is capable of. And he’s still learning, he will get more consistent, he will get faster. As I say, frightening for all the other title pretenders.
Thierry Neuville 7/10
Acropolis Rally result: 8th
Another to suffer mechanical issues on Friday morning and another who watched on as his title aspirations all but evaporated in the heat and dust of Friday’s stages. Neuville is a frustrated driver; he knows that without the long list of mechanical issues he’s had to deal with this year his season could well have been shaping up very differently.
But despite looking likely to retire on Friday, he somehow managed to nurse his Hyundai back to more or less full health and full speed by the end of the day. Drove well enough, made the right choices but ultimately had a bad weekend at the office.
Ott Tänak 8/10
Acropolis Rally result: 2nd
Three stage wins, a solitary point on the powerstage and second overall is scant reward for the effort that Tänak put into this one. He took his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC to the ragged edge time after time, and far too often for his liking, that ragged edge scared his right foot off the throttle. The Hyundai and Tänak are clearly still not working as one, yet the mercurial Tänak keeps pushing, keeps fighting and keeps giving it everything.
Dani Sordo 7/10
Acropolis Rally result: 4th
Yet another co-driver change for Sordo must have looked like a debatable decision in hindsight during what was one of the toughest recces we’ve seen in years. But by all accounts, after a slightly nervy start, Cándido Carrera coped well with the step up to rallying’s highest level. But the co-driver change wasn’t enough to allow Sordo to step up and challenge for the podium in the way that Craig Breen has been able to do of late.
Then again, should we realistically have expected anything more from Sordo? He did exactly what the team needed him to do and drove a risk-free event, securing important manufacturer points. Didn’t do a lot wrong over the week but seemed a little disappointed not to have found a bit more pace.
Pierre-Louis Loubet 4/10
Acropolis Rally result: DNF
The problem on Sunday morning charactierized Loubet’s weekend and related to his paddleshift which wasn’t working efficiently and wasn’t able to be repaired. 2C Competition’s team manager Florent Peronnet told us he could’ve continued but with his confidence not that high, Loubet’s preferred option was to retire as he was out of the running anyway following the broken steering arm on Friday.
It pretty well sums up Loubet’s season. For a driver who desperately needs a trouble-free run to rebuild his shattered confidence he really is being dealt some fairly bad hands.
Gus Greensmith 6/10
Acropolis Rally result: 5th
Came into this event with some very high expectations indeed but sadly didn’t manage to deliver. You can see why he thought this might be his rally – the M-Sport Ford has performed well on these type of roads in the past and there is no question that Greensmith is an improving driver. But maybe publicly stating that he was chasing his maiden stage win here in Greece put too much pressure on himself and he never managed to find a pace or rhythm that he was entirely comfortable with.
The positive is very much that he completed another rally without any major mistakes and that foundation to build his pace from is building.
Adrien Fourmaux 6/10
Acropolis Rally result: 7th
Another impressive drive from the improving young Fourmaux. Struggled to find a good set-up through the opening two days but when he did leave service on Sunday morning with a car that suited him, he showed exactly why so many observes rate this young prospect so highly.
It’s just a shame that the Fiesta WRC developed the engine problem that likely robbed him of fifth place.