The historic Acropolis Rally, part of the World Rally Championship, has returned to Greece on Thursday after an eight-year absence with a crowd-pleasing special stage around Athens’ main Syntagma Square.
Defending champion and standings leader Sebastien Ogier completed the circuit as the fastest driver of the day, watched by thousands of fans as he screeched past Greece’s parliament to clock 51.5 seconds.
The French seven-time World Rally Championship (WRC) world champion covered the 0.98km distance in 51.5 seconds in a Toyota Yaris WRC, topping the overall standings.
“I love Greece. It’s a beautiful country, even (had) some holiday here many times,” Ogier said. “And I’m really happy to come back on the road.”
Notably, Toyota cars registered the three best times in the first qualifying round, as Briton Elfyn Evans came 0.6 seconds behind Ogier, while Kalle Rovanperä of Finland was 0.8 seconds behind the Frenchman.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis launched the race at the foot of the Acropolis. “We are very happy that we managed to bring the Acropolis Rally back to our country. The Acropolis Rally has returned and is here to stay,” exclaimed the Greek premier.
Acropolis Rally 2021 marks the 65th running of this motoracing event of the World Rally Championship (WRC), and this year is based in the town of Lamia in central Greece. Drivers will have to compete on some tough terrain over fifteen special stages totalling 292km (181m).
Dubbed, the “Rally of Gods,” Acropolis is being held from September 9-12 and features 55 crews from 24 countries. It is being broadcast on 65 television networks, with coverage distributed to 155 countries, reaching some 840 million viewers.
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.
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.