Greece WRC: Flying Finn Rovanpera blitzes rivals in Greek mountains

Kalle Rovanpera blitzed his World rally Championship rivals to open up a commanding Acropolis Rally lead after Saturday morning’s loop of stages.

Listen to this article

The Finn was in a league of his own winning all three stages in the Greek mountains as he transformed a 3.7s overnight lead into a 21.4s advantage over Hyundai’s Ott Tanak.

Toyota’s Rovanpera produced a masterclass display barring a lucky escape on the final morning stage when he clipped a bank at high speed.

Championship leader Sebastien Ogier started the day 3.9s adrift of the lead in third, but now finds himself 36.8s behind, such was Rovanpera’s pace.

Hyundai’s Dani Sordo remained fourth overall 1m15.8s back, but ahead of M-Sport Ford duo Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith as the morning came to a close. 

After Friday’s mechanical dramas Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville climbed the leaderboard to the fringes of the top 10 in ninth and 12th positions, with the pair 5m28.9s and 7m23.4s in arrears respectively. 

Rovanpera came out the blocks fast, blitzing the opening (24.25km) stage of the day with a drive similar to his performance in July’s Rally Estonia where he stamped his authority on the event on the Saturday morning.

The stage, held at much higher altitude, featured sizeable sections of damp gravel from the week’s earlier rain, that were described as like “driving on ice”. It was also the stage that was covered in fog on the recce which hampered crews as they made their pace notes.  

The conditions failed to hamper the Toyota driver as he won the stage by 5.6s from his nearest rival Tanak, with the Finn an impressive 12.8s faster than Ogier. 

"It was pretty damp in this one. The ideal choice would be full softs [tyres] in there for sure, but we don't have many for the rally, so that's the bigger question," said Ogier. 

Toyota teammate Evans was third fastest on the stage now equipped with a fully functioning gearbox in his Yaris. Neuville, who also suffered mechanical issues on Friday, enjoyed a trouble-free run but was 24.4s adrift of the pace on hard tyres.

Rovanpera continued to apply pressure on his rivals after dominating Stage 8 to extend his overall lead even further.

This time an inspired tyre call (three hards, three softs) helped him take a further 7.6s out of Tanak and 13.9s faster than Ogier as the majority of the runners struggled to find grip on the slippery gravel.

"I am feeling good. It was a nice tyre choice, so thanks to my engineer also because he was supporting me,” said Rovanpera. 

"It was a really difficult two stages - like now when I had the hards on the front, in the mud it was tricky, but I was pushing to try and gain everything I could in the other places."

Fourmaux found out just how little grip there was coming down a mountain side road as he found an armco barrier on one of several hairpins. Luckily the damage to the front right was only cosmetic and the Frenchman reached the finish.

"I went straight in a barrier in a slow corner, It was quite tight and I just lost the grip,” said Fourmaux. “It probably is the same for everybody, but it was really difficult to drive - there is no grip.”

Rovanpera couldn’t be stopped on the final stage of the loop as he took another 4.6s out of nearest rival Tanak, who was second quickest on the stage, ahead of Ogier, the same order as the previous tests.

However, the rally leader admitted he was lucky to escape high speed run in with a bank.

"The moment was a huge one," said Rovanpera. "I have to say we were lucky to escape and that there was nothing in the ditch. It was maybe a bit too much from the pace notes, I was pushing a bit too much. I tried to be a bit more careful after that."

Rovanpera wasn’t the only driver to have a moment as Greensmith spun his Fiesta at a hairpin, but continued unabated.   

Crews will tackle three more stages this afternoon, including a repeat of the morning’s first stage, to conclude Saturday’s running at the Acropolis Rally. 

shares
comments

Related video

WRC title hopes have gone from "bad to worse" - Evans
Previous article

WRC title hopes have gone from "bad to worse" - Evans

Next article

Greece WRC: Rovanpera in control as Tanak issues mini fightback

Greece WRC: Rovanpera in control as Tanak issues mini fightback
Load comments
Why Loeb v Ogier duel gave the WRC's new hybrid era the ideal start Prime

Why Loeb v Ogier duel gave the WRC's new hybrid era the ideal start

OPINION: Any lingering concerns about the new-for-2022 Rally1 hybrid cars were dispelled by a blockbuster opening round to the World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo. The duel between Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier created a perfect feel-good story that will carry the series forward into its new era.

WRC
Jan 27, 2022
How Monte masters stole the show as WRC's hybrid era blasted off Prime

How Monte masters stole the show as WRC's hybrid era blasted off

The new Rally1 hybrid cars made their competition debuts in Monte Carlo, but it was two semi-retired drivers who took centre stage in a thrilling battle between two of the World Rally Championship's most successful names. Here's how Sebastien Loeb completed a remarkable return on his M-Sport debut by beating reigning champion Sebastien Ogier

WRC
Jan 24, 2022
The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022 Prime

The WRC heirs scrapping to assume Ogier's throne in 2022

Eight-time World Rally Championship king Sebastien Ogier has abdicated (well, gone part-time) in 2022, meaning for just the second time in the past decade we will have a different champion this year. We pick out the drivers gunning to take his place and take over the mantle as the WRC's new ruler

WRC
Jan 20, 2022
The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival Prime

The WRC star that's earned the right to lead M-Sport's revival

Part-time opportunities with Citroen and Hyundai have offered brief glimpses of what Craig Breen can do in a World Rally Championship car. Now signed up by M-Sport to lead it into the WRC's new hybrid era, Breen has been given the chance he's pursued for so long and is determined to make the most of it

WRC
Jan 18, 2022
Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best Prime

Why the WRC's 'modern Group B' era was rallying at its bonkers best

The World Rally Championship has brought down the curtain on the aggressive, aero-laden generation of cars first introduced in 2017 that have been likened to the 1980s Group B icons. As the championship prepares to begin a new era of Rally1 hybrid cars, its stars explain just why the outgoing machines were so special

WRC
Dec 24, 2021
Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021 Prime

Ranking the top 10 WRC drivers of 2021

On the eve of a new hybrid era for the World Rally Championship, the 2021 season was a blockbuster fought out between Toyota's two top dogs, with a familiar figure eventually emerging on top after a final showdown at Monza. We pick out the 10 best performers from the top class and its supporting cast

WRC
Dec 21, 2021
Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour Prime

Why Ogier's WRC swansong was a season to savour

He’s shuffling into semi-rally-retirement, but Toyota star Sebastien Ogier was at the peak of his powers in the final season for the high downforce era-World Rally Championship cars. Despite Toyota's domination, there was still much to enjoy as the old master emerged atop a fierce title fight against teammate Elfyn Evans.

WRC
Dec 19, 2021
How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers Prime

How WRC legend Ogier will be remembered by his peers

After winning his eighth WRC title, Sebastien Ogier has drawn the curtain on his full-time rallying career. To understand Ogier's legacy, many of his former rivals, team-mates and colleagues have shared their thoughts on a vastly successful career

WRC
Nov 26, 2021