Drama on EKO Acropolis Rally Greece

Following the retirement of Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier, Kalle Rovanperä is on course for victory at EKO Acropolis Rally Greece. After Saturday's brutal penultimate morning leg, it became a matter of survival in the afternoon as heat and rock-strewn roads took a heavy toll in the 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Neuville had been 10.9sec clear when he struck a hole in the track which shattered the front-right suspension on the first stage of the afternoon loop. The Belgian driver had trailed championship leader Rovanperä by 36 points coming into this fixture, round 10 of 13.

Neuville's demise left Ogier in control but the Frenchman, who entered the final Eleftherohori stage 12.4sec ahead of team-mate Rovanperä, uncharacteristically hit a rock which destroyed the rear-left suspension on his Toyota GR Yaris, retiring on the final road section and leaving teammate Rovanperä in the lead. This means the 22-year-old Finn will start Sunday's final leg with a lead of more than two minutes over Hyundai Motorsport Dani Sordo. Victory on Sunday would move him a step closer to clinching back-to-back world titles.

Further drama ensued throughout the field as Rovanperä's closest championship challenger and fellow Toyota driver Elfyn Evans limped to the finish of SS9 in EV mode when his Toyota began overheating. Having plummeted to fifth, the Welshman hauled himself back up the order only to be demoted to third by Sordo in the final test after the Spaniard had ended Friday's opening leg down in seventh but crept up the order as those around him struck trouble, and 4.1sec split the podium-sitting pair at close of play.

Despite having 3min 40sec in time penalties for being late out of Friday's tyre fitting zone, M-Sport Ford Puma driver Tänak enjoyed a trouble-free run and climbed from ninth to fourth, passing fifth and sixth-placed Esapekka Lappi and Takamoto Katsuta in the process. A transmission failure had left Lappi's Hyundai with only rear-wheel drive while a fraught run through Karoutes 2 saw Katsuta stop twice to change punctures on his GR Yaris.

Sunday's finale totals 42.37km north-west of Lamia and begins with the classic Tarzan test. Double runs of Grammeni round out the event, the latter of which forms the Wolf Power Stage where bonus points are available.

10th September, 2023