Thu 08 Sep 2022

Neuville leads Acropolis after spectacular Athens opener

Thierry Neuville kicked off his EKO Acropolis Rally Greece in style by winning Thursday night’s super special stage in Athens Olympic Stadium.

Tens of thousands of passionate fans packed into the spectacular arena to witness the sights and sounds of rally cars for the first time since the stage last featured on the itinerary in 2006.

Neuville fronted a quartet of Hyundai i20 N cars through the tight and technical asphalt blast, which saw cars and drivers go head-to-head alongside each other. 

His nearest challenger was, amazingly, WRC2 star Teemu Suninen, who dropped just one-tenth of a second to the Belgian in his lesser-powered Rally2-specification machine. 

“This is like it should always be,” Neuville enthused whilst pointing to the capacity crowd. “It’s such a great atmosphere here.”

“Congratulations to the organisers for putting this in place for us and for all the spectators who came today. It shows that it's possible to bring huge crowds to the WRC and we should look to do more of this on other events as well.” he added.

Dani Sordo filled the final podium spot a mere second adrift of his top-tier team-mate, with Ypres Rally Belgium winner Ott Tänak just one-tenth further back. 

WRC2 Junior frontrunner Emil Lindholm was also punching above his weight and blasted his Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo into the top five with a neat and tidy run. Lindholm’s Toksport team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen wasn’t so fortunate and pulled off the stage after hitting a barrier damaging his steering. 

WATCH: Mikkelsen crashes on Athens Super Special

Gaurav Gill was sixth in another Fabia and the misfire which halted Sébastien Loeb’s Ford Puma during this morning’s shakedown was quickly rectified by M-Sport’s mechanics. The nine-time world champion completed the top-seven just 1.3sec adrift of the leading pace. 

After overnighting in Corinth, competitors face a gruelling Friday. It’s an early start - the first car leaves parc fermé at 05:53hrs - and there is no service until later that evening after 108.31km of flat-out action. 

  • Full coverage from EKO Acropolis Rally Greece will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.
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