Greece is gearing up for Rally Acropolis, part of the World Rally Championship (WRC), which begins on Thursday, eight years after it was last held in the country.
Greece discontinued the rally due to financial problems, caused by the decade-long financial crisis, but in 2020, the Greek government agreed to support the organizers financially. In late December, the Hellenic Ministry of Sport agreed with the Organizing Committee for Motorsport to revive the Acropolis Rally, which is showcasing Greece throughout the world.
Dubbed the The “Rally of Gods,” Acropolis Rally is the ninth round of WRC 2021 and has attracted 55 participants of high quality.
The rally is held on very dusty, rough, rocky and fast mountain roads in mainland Greece and is best known for being extremely tough on the competing cars and drivers.
September means temperatures will not be as severe as they used to be on the Acropolis’ traditional June date. And while many roads are smoother than the boulder fields they used to be on, there’s no doubt this ninth round will be one of the season’s toughest.
Acropolis Rally starts in Athens
As is tradition, a start ceremony at the foot of Athens’ towering Acropolis citadel launches the event late on Thursday afternoon.
It is followed immediately by the Cosmote 5G Athens Stage (0.98km), a quickfire blast around the streets surrounding Syntagma Square. It passes in front of the stunning 19th century Old Royal Palace, which has housed the Greek Parliament since 1934.
After overnighting in the capital, competitors head west to the Peloponnese peninsula for a double run through Aghii Theodori (17.54km). It sandwiches a single pass of Loutraki (19.40km) and a tyre fitting zone in the town, close to the Corinth Canal.
A long run north takes in Thiva (23.27km) and Elatia (11.65km) before engines are switched off in Lamia after 89.40km of competition. It’s a tough day with no opportunity for service until crews finally reach the respite of their teams in the evening.
Saturday is the longest and toughest leg with 132.56 competitive kilometres south of the city.
Long stages in Pavliani (24.25km) and Gravia (24.81km) lead to a tyre fitting zone in Itea, after which Bauxites (22.97km) and Eleftherohori (18.14km) precede service. The day ends with second passes through Pavliani and Eleftherohori.
Sunday’s finale takes place west of Lamia. The legendary Tarzan (23.37km) and Pyrgos (33.20km), the longest test of the rally, take crews to a tyre fitting zone in Sperchiada.
The closing Wolf Power Stage, with bonus points on offer in both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ series, runs through a shortened version of Tarzan (12.68km). Then it’s back to Lamia for the mid-afternoon podium ceremony.
The 15 tests cover 292.19km.
History of Acropolis Rally
The Acropolis Rally started out as a marathon/endurance type event back in the early 50’s. When the rally became part of the World Rally Championship after 1973, the crews had to face up to 800 competitive kilometers, in some of the most grueling stages and conditions imaginable.
This trip involved locations all over Greece up to the late 80’s, such as the more known Kalambaka and Meteora, stages near Mount Olympus, Attica, Central Greece, and even down south in the Peloponnese. The traditional start always took place under the legendary Acropolis in Athens, and the finish ceremony was carried out in the Panathenaic stadium.
The Acropolis Rally has been held since 1951 by the Greek Motorsports Organization Automobile and Touring Club of Greece (ELPA), making it one of the longest-standing competitions in world rallying. Many world renown drivers have won this event including Walter Röhrl, Björn Waldegård, Ari Vatanen, Stig Blomqvist, Juha Kankkunen, Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae, among others.