The Toyota GR Yaris-driving Rovanperä outpaced Hyundai rival Esapekka Lappi by just one-tenth of a second through the asphalt-based EKO Super Special Stage, run for the first time on this 70th-anniversary edition of Acropolis Rally Greece.

The Finn, who topped the championship standings by 25 points before this rally, is determined to bounce back strongly from the dramatic crash which ruled him out of the previous round.

“After the disappointment in Finland, I want to do a good rally,” Rovanperä said as darkness fell over Athens. “We have to fight for it.”

Thursday morning’s shakedown was unfortunately cancelled due to the severe weather affecting Greece this week.

Conditions are now improving but the grip levels in tomorrow’s gravel road tests will remain ultra-challenging, as second-placed Lappi concurred: “I am not sure if anybody likes the unpredictable conditions – but I am sure it’s going to be very entertaining!”

Less than one second separated the leading five crews but it was Thierry Neuville, driving an i20 N identical to that of Lappi’s, who filled the final podium spot. Returning team-mate Dani Sordo was 0.1sec further back while M-Sport Ford Puma man Ott Tänak completed the top five.

Ott Tanak.

Kalle Rovanpera explained the opening stage.

“It’s nice to start the rally by driving in front of the fans in Athens. The stage was tricky but we tried to enjoy it and the time was good. Normally if it was dry this might not be the best style of rally for me, but now with conditions as they are it could be a bit better. Still, I hope the stages are drying up a bit at least from how it’s been during recce. It was quite a challenge with a lot of rain over the last few days. Making the pacenotes has not been so easy when it’s this muddy and you can’t see the corners so well.”

Results after SS1

1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m32.9s
2 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +0.3s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +0.4s
4 Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +0.5s
5 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +0.7s
6 Sébastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1.3s
= Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1.3s
8 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Nicolas Gilsoul (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +1.7s
9 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +2.1s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) +2.5s
11 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +2.8s

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Luke Whitten

Luke is part of the third generation of the RallySport Magazine team and holds a degree in marketing & communications.
Luke is part of the third generation of the RallySport Magazine team and holds a degree in marketing & communications.