Sun 10 Sep 2023

ERC @ 70: Great Greek moments

Prior to its return to the FIA World Rally Championship in 2021, the EKO Acropolis Rally enjoyed a five-year stint back in the FIA European Rally Championship, which it first hosted back in 1956, between 2014-2018. Here’s a reminder of just some of what happened.

Breen makes a lion roar
Craig Breen become the third different winner in as many rounds of the 2014 ERC when he gave Peugeot’s all-new 208 T16 a triumphant debut to move to the top of the provisional standings. With Scott Martin co-driving as the Acropolis returned to the ERC for the first time since the late 1960s, Breen led at the completion of asphalt-based first leg and remained in front during the gravel stages that formed leg two. “It’s been the perfect weekend,” Breen said. “We showed a lot of speed on the Tarmac and everything worked just as well on gravel so hats off to the team and Peugeot Sport for all their hard work.”

Tears then cheers in Greece
It was an emotional end to the 2016 Acropolis Rally for Lambros Athanassoulas. After discovering he’d taken second place rather than losing it at the end of the final stage, the Greek driver broke down in tears, thrilled he’d done enough to defeat Jaromír Tarabus to the runner-up spot behind maiden ERC winner Ralfs Sirmacis.

Dreams come true for Magalhães
Bruno Magalhães joined an illustrious list of Acropolis winners with victory in 2018. The Portuguese was more than a minute in front starting the closing four stages. But a cautious drive avoiding the rocks, which had troubled many of his rivals earlier in the event, meant his final margin of victory was trimmed to 29.1s at the finish in Lamia. “Sometimes in our lives, dreams come true,” said Magalhães, whose name would appear on the list of Acropolis winners alongside legends such as Sébastien Loeb, Colin McRae, Walter Röhrl and Carlos Sainz. “To win a rally like Acropolis, my name in the album of winners, is absolutely great.”

Dramatic category win for Pushkar as Érdi drops out
Vitaliy Pushkar scored his maiden ERC Production Car Cup victory in dramatic fashion on the Acropolis Rally in 2014. Tibor Érdi Jr, who had led from the start, had all but conceded defeat after losing a chunk of time on the final stage with broken rear suspension. But when Pushkar – who had cancelled out Érdi’s comfortable overnight lead with a string of fastest stage times – emerged at the stop line with a front-left puncture, Érdi Jr thought victory would be his after all only to retire on the road section heading to the finish with a mechanical issue. Despair for the Hungarian but joy for his Ukrainian rival.

Acropolis Rally goes all Roland Garros
Nasser Al-Attiyah and Kajetan Kajetanowicz swapped their steering wheels for tennis rackets ahead of the 2017 Acropolis Rally, as the Fthiotikos Tennis Club Academy in Lamia got into the Roland Garros spirit and showed off their racket skills for a TV feature. “That was my first time playing tennis,” said Kajetanowicz, the Acropolis winner in 2015 and 2017. Al-Attiyah added: “It's really nice to be playing tennis with Kajto. We weren't counting, but I think both of us won! It was the first time I played tennis and I think it wasn't bad. It's also great that we played on a clay court, like the Roland Garros."

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