Bittersweet ending to gruelling event
We have ended a challenging Acropolis Rally, the tenth round of the 2023 WRC season, with Dani and Cándido finishing in a fine third place in our i20 N Rally1 Hybrid.
It was a bittersweet conclusion to a gruelling 15-stage event, in which our team was a genuine contender for victory before Thierry and Martijn’s heart-breaking retirement from the lead of the rally.
There was plenty of drama at the ‘Rally of the Gods’, with many crews feeling the full force of the punishing and unforgiving roads.
Hopes of Greek greatness dashed
Thierry and Martijn had taken a commanding lead on Friday, taking a stage win to move into first place on the opening stage of the day. The Belgians’ performance on SS5 Lividia particularly stood out, where they tripled the gap to their rivals behind.
Unfortunately, after a feisty start on Saturday, the abrasive Acropolis Rally roads bit back. Thierry and Martijn were forced to retire on the first stage of the afternoon, SS10 Pavliani 2, with broken suspension. The Belgians now target retribution in the final three events of the season.
“Luck wasn’t with us this weekend,” summarised Thierry. “Everything was going perfectly until our suspension failure, and unfortunately that cost us a victory. I enjoyed the driving today, the car was feeling very nice, so that’s a positive to finish the weekend.”
A rollercoaster ‘Rally of the Gods’
A dramatic end to Saturday saw Dani and Cándido end the day in second place overall, having started it in seventh.
The Spaniards were locked into a battle for third place, only to gain another place on the final stage as the rally leader hit trouble. Sunday saw Dani and Cándido slip to third, and although they responded emphatically with a stage win on the penultimate stage, they had to ultimately settle for third place.
“I tried everything in that final stage,” admitted Dani. “Today we were able to go for it, which I really enjoyed, so I’d like to give a big thanks to the team for giving me another opportunity to drive like this. They are striving all the time to improve the car and pushing me to do better, so I will try to continue doing so.”
One to forget
It was a character-building event for our Finns, Esapekka and Janne, who suffered technical issues on Friday and Saturday. Nevertheless, they never gave up; they returned on Sunday with three clean drives, and successfully claimed an additional Power Stage point.
Esapekka said: “It was good to finish the rally in the way that we did. I was enjoying the final stages, I was aggressively attacking but lost some time as well because of that approach. Today was ok overall, but it was not our weekend.”
Our Team Principal Cyril summed up our mixed emotions. “We wanted to make sure we finished this event on the podium, which Dani and Cándido achieved, but we are all a bit disappointed with the overall result of the weekend. The whole team wanted to do well at Acropolis Rally, particularly as it was the best result of the season in 2022, and we all wanted to replicate that success.”
WRC will return on September 28 – October 1 with Rally Chile, the 11th round of the 2023 season.