Wed 10 Aug 2022

Record Rally1 entry for Greece

Next month’s EKO Acropolis Rally Greece (8 - 11 September) will boast a record top-tier Rally1 field as Sébastien Loeb was confirmed in M-Sport Ford’s line-up on Wednesday.

The presence of the nine-time FIA World Rally champion raises the number of new-generation hybrid-powered cars to 13 for the Greek classic.

The British squad will field six Ford Pumas – the first time a single team has entered as many cars in the new era. Loeb will be joined by Craig Breen, Adrien Fourmaux, Gus Greensmith, Pierre Louis-Loubet and Jourdan Serderidis.

Manufacturers’ championship leader Toyota Gazoo Racing is represented by drivers’ series pacesetter and 2021 Acropolis winner Kalle Rovanperä, Elfyn Evans and Esapekka Lappi. Takamoto Katsuta pilots a fourth GR Yaris for the Japanese manufacturer’s second string.

Hyundai Motorsport will field last weekend’s Secto Rally Finland winner Ott Tänak, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo, who replaces Oliver Solberg for only his third start of the year, in i20 N cars.

Loeb admits his return to the Acropolis for the first time in a decade will be ‘complicated’.

The 48-year-old is a three-time Greece winner but the last time he competed was in 2012 and he acknowledged much has changed since.

“I think there are only two stages on this year’s itinerary that I have experienced, but it was 10 years ago so my memory of them isn’t great,” Loeb said. “I will have to start from zero again which is always complicated. I think from this year there are quite a lot of new stages for everybody.”

The Frenchman was victorious in 2005, 2008 and in 2012 but did not compete when the tough gravel road fixture returned to the WRC calendar last year after eight years away.

The Acropolis has a reputation for rocky roads but last year’s event was smoother than most expected and that was a factor for Loeb, for whom this will be a fourth start of the season.

“I chose to enter Greece as it’s a nice gravel rally which I always enjoyed. It looks better now and not as rough as the last time I did it,” added Loeb, who won the opening round in Monte-Carlo before tougher outings in Portugal and Kenya.

Despite his lack of recent experience, Loeb has 11 previous Acropolis starts to his name, dating back to 2001.

“I had some good and more complicated moments,” he recalled. “For example, I had my biggest crash in Greece. I also had a mistake with a tyre choice, choosing the soft as we were expecting a storm but, in the end, it was 40°C.

Video: EKO Acropolis Rally Greece 2021 helicopter special

“It’s difficult to identify my targets for this rally, I will try my best in terms of preparations and hope that I will be able to get into the rhythm like it was in Kenya and Portugal. Hopefully we can do a bit better without mistakes and problems which is the main target.”

The 70-strong entry boasts a stunning 35-car field in the WRC2 premier support category, featuring most of the title protagonists. Championship leader Andreas Mikkelsen, Emil Lindholm, Yohan Rossel, Teemu Suninen, Nikolay Gryazin and Marco Bulacia head the starters.

The rally marks the final round of the FIA Junior WRC and all six regular championship contenders line up in Ford Fiesta Rally3 cars, headed by pacesetter Sami Pajari.

Click here for the full entry list.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM