M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak will be looking to make an impact as the World Rally Championship embarks on the toughest round of the season at the 59th Acropolis Rally next week.
First run in 1953, the Greek event is one of the longest-standing in the world series. Famed as one of the toughest events in the calendar, M-Sport’s young guns will have to put all of their experience into practice as they contend with a mix of rough, twisting tracks through the region’s mountain stages, blistering heat and dust making visibility a challenge.
As the ultimate test of man and machine, this classic event renders driver fitness crucial and demands a mechanical blend of strength, reliability and speed. With air temperatures reaching highs of over 30C, the conditions place high demands on the engine and gearbox with little cooling through the technically slow mountain climbs.
The event’s fearsome reputation is exemplified by the rocks and underlying bedrock that litter the stages and M-Sport’s rising stars will have a tactical battle ahead of them as they set their sights on another strong points haul.
Nevertheless, with the event holding the record for the highest number of rally victors – with more than 20 drivers making it to the top step of the podium – the duo will be keen to impress once again as they aim to translate their speed into another good result for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team.
Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet have had an impressive start to their 2012 campaign and are currently laying a credible fifth in the championship standings. Despite a disappointing start to the previous round in Argentina, the young Russian proved he had the pace to challenge the top-three with blistering speed over the final day to set three second and one third fastest stage times.
This will be Novikov’s fourth venture to the Greek stages and the Russian will run with the Chelsea FC logo on his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Given the Russian affiliation with the English Premiership team, the association aims to illustrate ALM Rally’s support for the club as they face Bayern Munich FC in the final of the UEFA Champions League this coming weekend.
Elsewhere, in spite of their obvious speed, it has been a difficult start to the season for Tänak and regular co-driver Kuldar Sikk. Despite claiming three stage victories, the Estonian’s season has been blighted by misfortunes and the 24-year-old will be eager to prove his potential next week.
As well as supporting the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign, the Acropolis Rally will see Tänak sport the ‘Worldwide Ford Rally Fans’ logo on the rear of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC – Ford and M-Sport’s tribute to a whole host of social media groups which have been set up in support of the brand over the past year.
Evgeny Novikov said:
“The Acropolis Rally is one of my favourite rallies. It is really challenging and you have to be on the maximum with speed and concentration. The roads are really rough and can be quite hard on the car so you have to know when you can push and when you can’t.
“I have competed here three times before, but the earlier date this year means that the roads may be much rougher than they have been in the past. We will have to wait and see what to expect.
“This will be my first time back in the car since Argentina as we will have no pre-event testing, but for sure we will be looking to do our best for another top-five finish.”
Ott Tänak said:
“This is a really nice event. I competed in Greece last year and most of the roads are ok, but some of them can be really rough and you have to be careful and make sure your pacenotes are really detailed. With the earlier date for this year’s event, it is hard to know exactly what to expect – but I am looking forward to getting back in the car.
“The last few events have not been too good for us and this event will be all about making it to the end and getting some good points on the board. I’m constantly working on my training, and hopefully this event will see me regain my pace and my confidence behind the wheel.”