Unchanged from 2012, Klenia Mycenae starts on a smooth and flowing gravel road with some fast sections until the eight-kilometre point when the surface changes to bedrock and it gets faster. But the high-speed stuff doesn’t last for long. The sudden switch to narrow and twisty sections, or a sequence of hairpin corners, is a feature of this test and has caught out many drivers in the past – including Sebastien Loeb who crashed at the 8km point here in 2009.
How the action unfolded:
Saturday’s opening test on the Acropolis Rally resulted in a dead-heat between rally leader Evgeny Novikov [pictured] and the man in second place, Jari-Matti Latvala.
Volkswagen Polo R driver Latvala was the first of the pair to complete the stage, and was pleased to have done enough to move ahead of Dani Sordo into second position.
“It was a really good stage,” acknowledged Latvala. “Normally [my co-driver] Miikka is not commenting on my driving, but when he says it was good it was good – and he did in there. Now we need to keep the pressure on [Novikov] but remember to stay calm and focused.”
Emerging from the stage after Latvala, however, Ford Fiesta RS driver Novikov seemed anything but pressured. “I have Latvala’s splits, so I followed them. I could go a bit faster if I needed to,” the Russian calmly explained.
Dani Sordo was third quickest, 13.5sec slower than the lead pair. “It’s difficult to find a rhythm but I’ll continue to try, I want to push but I don’t want to make a mistake.”
Thierry Neuville was fourth quickest, and said the rough state of the road had taken him by surprise.
The first three drivers through the stage - and the ones to encounter the worst of the slippery gravel - were the drivers who had hit trouble on Friday’s opening test.
The trio was led by Volkwagen Polo R driver Sebastien Ogier who is first in Saturday’s start order after a fuel pressure problem forced his retirement from day one. “It was okay but for sure really slippy. I tried but it’s not easy,” said the Frenchman who was eighth fastest.
Asked what result he though he could salvage from this rally, Ogier said: “I have absolutely no idea where I can finish. We have to drive and see what happens.”
Mikko Hirvonen was seventh fastest from his position of second in the start order. “It was okay, but there’s lots of loose gravel and it’s really slippery. The stage is cleaning a lot.”
Third in the start order, Mads Ostberg was fifth quickest. “I couldn’t do anything more. The stage is cleaning a lot but at least the guys ahead are leaving good lines.”
Elsewhere, Khalid Al Qassimi lost time with two overshoots, while Martin Prokop had a lucky escape when he misheard a pace note and arrived at a tight corner carrying too much speed.
Greek driver Lambros Athanassoulas did not restart Saturday's competition. The winner of the P-WRC category in 2009 retired after his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X suffered a broken suspension wishbone on Friday's opening stage.