Loubet takes third, Loeb strengthens Acropolis lead

M-Sport duo are fighting Thierry Neuville at the top of the Acropolis Rally leaderboard


Sébastien Loeb has won his second stage in a row to increase his Acropolis Rally Greece lead, while his M-Sport team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet kept up his strong start to move into the podium places behind Thierry Neuville.

Kalle Rovanperä had started strongly despite being first on the road and sweeping loose gravel away, running fifth and only 2.8 seconds off the lead. But his slide down the leaderboard has begun with the dust problems from the previous stage eradicated.

After shared frustration among the drivers on Friday’s opening stage, gaps between the cars were increased from three to four minutes to combat visibility issues created by lingering dust.


A more predictable pattern of stage times began to emerge on SS3, with road sweeper Rovanperä dropping time and each of the next few Rally1 cars on the stage after him going progressively quicker.

Ott Tänak was some six seconds faster than Rovanperä on Harvati: “Some places still tricky but yeah for sure it is something possible to see,” he said.

But Elfyn Evans was another 1.3s up on Tänak while in turn, Thierry Neuville was another 2.2s faster than Evans.

“It was the first stage we really needed it [the bigger gaps], not in here, so usual story,” said Evans, thinly.

Neuville meanwhile predicted that those behind “will go another seven-eight seconds faster minimum” but that forecast didn’t quite come to pass.

Although Loeb’s M-Sport Ford did edge the Hyundai, it was only by a single second – and the nine-time champion was the only driver to post a quicker time than Neuville.


“The car is really good, the stage is really twisty and big stones on the side everywhere so it’s a bit tricky for the tire but overall I did a good stage,” said Loeb.

Overall, it means Loeb leads Neuville by 2.7s with Tänak’s Hyundai another 2.9s back.

But Tänak lingers behind Loubet, who couldn’t quite sustain the same searing pace that allowed him to go second fastest on the previous test but was still third fastest to lurk just 4.8s off the lead.

Loubet stopped himself short of saying he was disappointed with his performance on Harvati, but with the best road position he felt more was possible.

“I was a bit more careful with the car in this one, I think it was possible to do better but it’s OK,” he said.

It’s been a quietly impressive morning for M-Sport in general though, with Craig Breen running fifth overall despite a small fire at the end of SS2 that he tried to put to the back of his mind on SS3.

Breen has half a second in hand over Esapekka Lappi overall; Lappi heads Evans by 1.1s and Dani Sordo – who “didn’t have a lot of confidence in the fast” – by 2.7s.

Rovanperä is ninth overall, but still not too far from the lead with a 13.3s deficit.


Takamoto Katsuta remains outside the top 10 and is already three-quarters of a minute off the lead after just two gravel stages.

Katsuta hasn’t contested the Acropolis before but that didn’t really go to explain such hefty time loss.

“I don’t know, for myself it’s not working,” said Katsuta. “I need to do something, but [this is] not nice.”

Gus Greensmith’s Puma is the closest car to Katsuta’s Yaris, but the 10th-placed driver is some 28s up the road.