What we learned from Acropolis Rally Greece 2023

The testing mountain rally required strength from drivers and cars, enabling several crews to shine


Ten rounds of the 2023 World Rally Championship season are now behind us, meaning that, disappointingly, only three remain.

But Acropolis Rally Greece was an engrossing contest with plenty of drama, lead changes and tales of despair.

However for one man, it was the perfect response to anybody who doubted who’s boss in this year’s title race.

Here’s what we learned from the 2023 Acropolis Rally:

Title battle is a two-horse race


Mathematically, four drivers can still win become World Rally champion this year. But really just two are realistic contenders: Kalle Rovanperä and Elfyn Evans.

Ott Tänak was all but out of the battle anyway before Greece, while Thierry Neuville’s chance was extinguished by his retirement on the second day.

So that leaves the Toyota boys – and oh how things can change.

After his crash in Finland and Evans’ perfect score, suddenly the pressure appeared to be on Rovanperä to repel his team-mate. How did he respond? With a perfect 30-point score of his own.

On any other weekend and at any other time, 22 points for second in both the rally and the powerstage would do nicely for Evans. But in Greece, it felt like a sign that this title really is Rovanperä’s to lose.

Toyota the clear class of the field


Did we really learn this from the Acropolis? In a sense, no. Toyota’s seven wins from the nine rounds before last weekend sort of spelt it all out for us.

But returning to an event it struggled on last year, it’s clear that Toyota has everything covered with its GR Yaris Rally1.

It wasn’t invincible of course. Takamoto Katsuta had his issues, Evans ran into an oil temperature scare and Sébastien Ogier’s rear suspension collapsed (along with his three punctures) leading to his retirement.

But the clearest example was that hole which sidelined Neuville’s i20. The Hyundai was stranded, but Ogier’s Toyota escaped with just a broken wishbone.

It’s up to the others to catch up, with Toyota seemingly on course for a third straight drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship double this year.

Perseverance pays on rough rallies


Again, you could argue that we didn’t really learn this – we sort of knew it already. But it was interesting to see three drivers rewarded for their patient and determined approach.

The first was Tänak, who ran into the same water pump trouble with his Ford Puma Rally1 as his luckless M-Sport team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet had earlier in the day. His rally looked to be over after docking a 3m40s penalty as he checked out of the tire fitting zone, but he ended up climbing all the way back up to fourth come the end – his best result since Rally Portugal in May!

Then there was William Creighton, who – with the Junior WRC title on the line – suffered the heartbreak of retiring on the first day. But incredible work from his mechanics kept him in the game and he ended up walking away with a well-deserved title.

And what about Andreas Mikkelsen? As low as 16th in WRC2 following three bizarre rear-left punctures on three consecutive stages, Mikkelsen licked the stamp and sent it over the next two days and emerged with victory.

It’s nice to see that while fast rallies are epic to watch, there’s still a place for the thinking man’s approach where simply surviving and never giving up can yield big results.

Mikkelsen’s the firm WRC2 favorite

Andreas Mikkelsen

Let’s stick with Mikkelsen, whose victory wasn’t just impressive and incredibly satisfying to claim, but hugely important for his title chances too.

The Acropolis had been billed as a hugely important event with all of the main WRC2 title contenders competing, yet they all knew what they couldn’t afford to do was let Mikkelsen steal another win.

Oliver Solberg was an outsider anyway but has been completely ruled out through another retirement. Sami Pajari’s chances took a dive with his own non-finish, while a muted run to sixth didn’t help Kajetan Kajetanowicz’s bid either.

Yohan Rossel and Gus Greensmith gave good accounts of themselves. Both led at one phase of the rally, and secured strong podium results in third and second respectively.

But it was that man Mikkelsen who did them both. That’s now three wins on the board, and another podium finish, for the Norwegian who has shown himself to be ruthlessly consistent and blindingly fast.

Rossel and Greensmith are his only realistic challengers, and with Mikkelsen absent from Rally Chile both will need a win there if they want to prevent Mikkelsen from becoming a two-time WRC2 champion.

Sordo’s worth his weight in gold to Hyundai


Over recent months there’s been increasing speculation about Dani Sordo’s WRC future. He’s incredibly unlikely to leave Hyundai, but what role he will fulfill remains to be seen.

But last weekend the Spaniard proved that, at 40 years old, his worth to Hyundai is still immense.

He may not have managed to defend second from Evans, but there’s no shame in a part-time driver narrowly losing out to a title contender. What impressed was his desire to fight it, and his dependability to make it through the weekend unscathed and deliver yet another podium (his seventh from his last 13 rallies).

When Neuville retired and Esapekka Lappi ran into trouble, there was never any doubt that Sordo would be there to cover and bank a solid result.

There are faster drivers out there than Sordo, but few others can master that balance between pushing and protecting their cars like he can.