Toyota City, Japan, Sept 11, 2023 – (JCN Newswire) – TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team has achieved a one-two finish in another demanding edition of the Acropolis Rally, Kalle Rovanpera scoring his second win in three years in Greece to increase his championship lead while Elfyn Evans secured second place in a final-stage showdown.
Torrential rain in the days leading up to the rally brought a different complexion to the event but made it no less difficult, with drivers encountering a wide variety of conditions in the stages: from thick mud to rough and rocky sections as the weather dried out. Saturday, the longest day of the rally, proved to be especially challenging for drivers, cars and tyres with a number of competitors hitting trouble.
Reigning world champion Rovanpera however managed to avoid issues while also setting a string of fastest times in his GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID to gain a lead of more than two minutes at the end of Saturday. That allowed him to take a safety-first approach to Sunday’s first two stages ahead of the rally-ending Power Stage, where he set the best time by 2.5 seconds to claim five additional bonus points.
The third win and maximum score of the season for Rovanpera and co-driver Jonne Halttunen represents a perfect bounce back from retirement last time out at Rally Finland, and increases Rovanper’s drivers’ championship lead to 33 points ahead of Evans – who has in turn moved 33 points in front of third-placed Thierry Neuville (Hyundai).
Evans and co-driver Scott Martin lost some time on Saturday morning with radiator damage but managed to continue and came into Sunday just five seconds away from second place, which they took with a stage win in the day’s first test, Tarzan. With the second-best time in the Power Stage, Evans held on to beat Dani Sordo (Hyundai) by 4.2s.
The one-two finish for the team represents a turnaround in the team’s fortunes and performance in Greece after a difficult event one year ago. Its maximum score in both the rally and the Power Stage also increases its lead in the manufacturers’ championship to 91 points with three rounds remaining.
On his first appearance since June’s Safari Rally Kenya, Sebastien Ogier was leading the rally on Saturday afternoon until sustaining tyre and suspension damage in the day’s final stage. Forced to retire, he restarted on Sunday morning and finished 10th overall.
Driving a fourth GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID with the support of the TGR WRC Challenge Program, Takamoto Katsuta finished sixth overall – having been close to the Evans-Sordo battle before stopping twice to change wheels in SS11 on Saturday afternoon.
Akio Toyoda (TGR-WRT Chairman)
“First of all, let me start with congratulating Jari-Matti and Juho at Rally Hokkaido as they won the rally this weekend. I am grateful that they showed us their world-level driving on actual competition stages in Japan, not just demonstration runs. His driving fascinated fans and inspired fellow drivers. Jari-Matti and Juho helped Japanese rally get closer to the world-level. I’m truly thankful for them.
Jari-Matti was always smiling behind the wheel. However, he must have had some concerns because his team was fighting in Greece also this weekend. But I was not worried at all. TGR-WRT is a field-oriented team. When I was in Finland last month as an alternative Team Principal, I was able to see the work of team members up close. If something happens, a person who is an expert in the field makes a judgement and the management members support that. TGR-WRT is built to work like that, and because I knew Jari-Matti made that kind of team, I was confident that it would be no problem for him to be in Hokkaido. And as I expected, the team well demonstrated their ability.
Kalle, Jonne, congratulations on your victory after a difficult event in Finland! And Elfyn, Scott, thank you for achieving the one-two finish! Your achievement blew away the anxiousness of the Team Principal. All team members will keep making efforts in each field to be able to smile again in November in Japan. Thank you all for working hard in Greece!”
Kaj Lindstrom (Sporting Director)
“It feels great to have a one-two in the rally and in the Power Stage. It’s been a very tough week here after the conditions changed dramatically during the recce. The crews had to adapt to the changing road conditions, and the team had to adapt as well to make the car perform in those conditions. We were disappointed here in Greece one year ago and knew that there was some work to do. We already saw some results from this work in Mexico earlier this year, and this result here shows how good a job the team has done. Kalle was the smartest guy during the event: he saw where you can push and where you needed to take care. It was a really great performance from Elfyn as well. He faced some problems but didn’t panic, continued and it paid off at the end.”
Kalle Rovanpera (Driver car 69)
“It’s been a nice weekend, for sure. This rally is always so tricky and it was a tough week with all the difficult conditions, starting already in the recce. It was a big challenge, and starting first on the road I was not expecting to finish first, so taking 30 points is amazing. Last year we struggled from start to finish in Greece, and this year even as first car we could at least fight with the others. Big thanks to the team, as the car was super strong. We could fight back quite well on Saturday, still staying out of trouble and trying to take care of the car and the tyres which you always need to do on this type of rally. Then I really went for it on the Power Stage, like we always try to do. Now we need to stay consistent and focus on the next rallies.”
Elfyn Evans (Driver car 33)
“It’s been a pretty up-and-down weekend. If we rewind to Saturday lunchtime, we were very lucky to stay in the rally after the radiator damage. We lost over a minute, so to come back to second place, we have to be happy considering everything. Dani was keeping the pressure on and it was still really tight going into the final stage, so it was good to secure the place in the end and to take some Power Stage points as well. It’s not been a perfect weekend for us in championship terms, as Kalle’s been very strong, so congratulations to him, but we will continue to give it everything. And it’s an incredible result for the team: a credit to everyone for making a leap forward from where we were here last year.”
Sebastien Ogier (Driver car 17)
“It’s not been the rally we wanted on our side but that’s the way it is sometimes. This is the kind of rally where you need to have luck on your side, with the very rough conditions, and unfortunately, we had an accumulation of issues yesterday and had to stop. Today I tried my best in the Power Stage but starting pretty much in the front was not so easy. At the end, the positive is that we had some good performance this weekend. We were not rewarded for it, but at least the team did another great result with a one-two, both in the rally and in the Power Stage, which is really good for both championships.”
PROVISIONAL FINAL CLASSIFICATION, ACROPOLIS RALLY GREECE
1 Kalle Rovanpera/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) 3h00m16.7s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +1m31.7s
3 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +1m35.9s
4 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Puma Rally1 HYBRID) +4m28.4s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Hyundai i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) +6m22.3s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +7m20.9s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m41.0s
8 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (Skoda Fabia RS Rally2) +9m51.3s
9 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroen C3 Rally2) +11m07.0s
10 Sebastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR YARIS Rally1 HYBRID) +11m43.4s
(Results as of 14:20 on Sunday, for the latest results please visit www.wrc.com)
The WRC returns to South America for Rally Chile, which was previously held in 2019. The stages in the forests of the Bio Bio region around the port city of Concepcion are technical but largely fast and smooth.
For more information, visit https://toyotagazooracing.com/wrc/release/2023/rd10-day4/.