How heavy storms are affecting Acropolis Rally Greece

DirtFish spoke to leading drivers on the recce to get an idea of what the stages are looking like


Things have gone from one extreme to the other.

From World Rally Championship tests being interrupted by local authorities closing off roads due to the threat of fires, now the crews have arrived for rally week and have faced an absolute deluge of thunderstorms on the Acropolis Rally recce.

As Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville observed, it’s “close to a catastrophic scenario for the Greek people”.

“Obviously we came here like twice last week to get the opportunity to test, with the bush fires,” he told DirtFish, “and today we are here and we have completely the opposite weather.”

By now, we’ve all seen the images. Torrential rain has turned some stages into swamps, with plenty of crews struggling to even make it through without getting stuck in their recce vehicles.

“I expected to have a bit more of a summer feeling coming here, but yeah obviously these storms surprised everybody,” admitted eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier.

“It’s most important that everybody stays safe. At the moment for sure the recce is very complicated so let’s hope the rally can happen in a decent condition.”

The positive is that the weather forecast appears to be improving. Rain is still scheduled to fall on Thursday and Friday (the first proper day of the event), but by the weekend the sun is predicted to appear.

The severity of the current thunderstorms can’t be downplayed, though. Weather warnings are continually flashing up on cell phones, and the rally organizer has been prompted to make changes to the running of the event.

The recce timetable has already been adjusted, the powerstage has been shortened from 19km to just nine kilometers and Thursday morning’s shakedown stage has been canceled.

More revisions could yet be made to the itinerary depending on the weather and the conditions of the stages.

WhatsApp Image 2023-09-06 at 10.35.14

“Maybe we lose more stages, but for sure the conditions are not great,” said WRC2 competitor Gus Greensmith.

“To be fair, in the past few years the one that had the really bad mud has dried up quite quickly but I think the only question mark is the one we haven’t been able to recce [SS7/10], so we’ll see how that goes tomorrow.”

M-Sport’s Pierre-Louis Loubet laid bare the challenges of recceing in such torrid conditions.

“The luck of yesterday was it was stages we did in the past, so we had the pacenotes,” he said. “But on the new stages with the fog it will be difficult because you have no visibility. So it’s not as precise as usual.

“We just expect that the rain will not destroy too much the road because this will be very bad, but it’s the same for everybody and it’s very tricky this year for sure.”

2023FINLAND _FD_ 119
There were so many cars stopped because they were stuck and with the rally car you cannot control anything on that surface Esapekka Lappi

WRC2 points leader Andreas Mikkelsen concurred.

“I’m just very glad we have the pacenotes from the year. Obviously the powerstage is the new one but to write pacenotes when it’s so muddy and tricky it’s hard for the angles and everything, so it’s a big challenge.”

This isn’t the first time this generation of WRC drivers will face a wet Acropolis, as the event’s return to the WRC calendar in 2021 was also met with wet weather.

But M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux feels this year it will be much more difficult.

“In ’21 we had a special event, but this year I think is even worse,” he said. “The conditions we see during the recce and during the rally could be much different, so I think it will be a quite big challenge.


“We had two stages where it was really muddy, SS9 [Eleftherochori] and Tarzan, this was really muddy honestly.

“It was just going through, honestly, it was really difficult on the recce so imagine on the rally we’ll be OK but it will be really tricky for sure.”

Esapekka Lappi proved a practical read on just how the rain affects the stages.

“When it’s raining a lot, then it’s actually fairly OK, it’s just muddy everywhere,” said the Hyundai driver.

“The rain is cleaning the mud so it’s not so slippy, but one stage it didn’t rain anymore and then the mud was so sticky, and then you are in trouble. I mean you hardly get through.

“There were so many cars stopped because they were stuck and with the rally car you cannot control anything on that surface. But if it’s raining then it’s easier.”

As it stands, there is no indication that the rally will not go ahead – and competitors appear to be onboard with that plan. But if conditions continue to worsen, things will have to be assessed.

“It looks like the weather is going to improve during the weekend but of course we have to assess the damage that have happened in the stages,” Ogier said.

“And also for us, the recce we have done is not as good as normal so for sure a lot of surprises can come then ahead during the weekend.”