Sat 09 Sep 2023

Neuville repels Ogier in thrilling Acropolis duel

Thierry Neuville regained the upper hand at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece on Saturday morning after briefly relinquishing his lead to Sébastien Ogier in the first stage of the day.

Neuville headed Toyota GR Yaris rival Ogier by just 2.8sec overnight but saw that swiftly advantage swept from beneath him when he was caught napping in Saturday’s opener at Pavliani.

On what were the muddiest conditions seen so far at this 10th FIA World Rally Championship round of the season, Hyundai i20 N star Neuville had no answer to the speed of Frenchman Ogier, who beat him by almost 12 seconds on the stage to go in front by 7.8sec.

But on the contrastingly bone-dry roads which followed in Karoutes, the lead changed hands again when Ogier overshot a left-hand junction. That mishap, and the subsequent stall, cost the eight-time world champion almost 10 seconds.

After surging back ahead, Neuville further extended his lead with a dominant drive in Eleftherohori where he outpaced Ogier by 8.9sec. As they returned to Lamia’s service park for the midday halt, 10.9sec split the pair.

Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä almost halved the deficit to his second-placed team-mate Ogier and trailed him by just 12.8sec after winning two of the morning’s three stages. More than one minute behind him was Dani Sordo, who climbed from seventh to fourth overall in a Hyundai.

Sordo’s ascension was aided when Elfyn Evans, who had held fourth, limped to the finish of SS9 in EV mode with his Toyota overheating. Also in trouble were Takamoto Katsuta, who spun his GR Yaris, and Esapekka Lappi, who stopped to perform a wheel change on his i20 N in SS8. The ailing trio dropped to fifth, sixth and seventh overall respectively.

Penalty-hit Ott Tänak reported a lack of power in Pavliani but remained eighth overall at service. Behind him heading into the repeated afternoon loop were Yohan Rossel and Marco Bulacia, frontrunners in the WRC2 category.

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