Gladiator at the ‘Rally of the Gods’ | Kalle Rovanpera
After becoming the youngest ever WRC winner in Rally Estonia, Kalle Rovanpera (Toyota Racing) strikes again at Greece by dominating the 2021 Acropolis Rally. The 20-year-old Finnish driver led most stages over the four-day rally, building a gap of 42.1 seconds over veteran driver Ott Tanak (Hyundai Motorsport). The rest finished at least an hour behind the leading two as they faced damaged cars during the stages. The gods were particularly not happy as rains made the gravel tracks slippery and unpredictable, a problem which added to the fact that Acropolis Rally made its appearance after 2013 and most drivers had no experience on this track. These factors made sure that the playing field was even for all the drivers and only courage could give them the edge. Rovanpera, with this win under the belt, is now close to pouncing on Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville in the drivers championship. With that said, let us look at how Rovanpera held his nerve for the win over the three days of intense rallying through Greece.
Kalle Rovanpera won just two of the five rugged special stages on Friday, but it was enough to take him to the top of the leaderboard. The Finn finished just 3.7 seconds ahead of Ott Tanak with Championship leader Sebastian Ogier trailing behind Tanak by 0.2 seconds. It was a painful day for Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville after Evans lost five minutes with a gearbox issue and Neuville dropped six minutes with a power steering issue.
Saturday is where Rovanpera outclassed the rest of the field as he extended his gap from the nearest competitor, Ott Tanak by nearly 40 seconds after some set-up changes. That’s not all. Rovanpera had a narrow escape near the end of Bauxites when the rear of his Yaris slid into a ditch. But despite that Rovanpera was still the fastest and then won the closing Eleftherohori stage. Tänak was second fastest in the first three tests but dropped almost 20 seconds in Eleftherohori while Ogier happily sat in third with a safe and steady drive.
Sunday was a day for Ott Tanak as he tried to cover up the distance to the 20-year old Finn and came in fastest in two of the four stages. Despite the late charge from Tanak, Rovanpera came home victorious with a 42.1 seconds lead over the Hyundai driver and also took the victory at the 12.6km Wolf Power Stage in Tarzan. By the end of the day, Elfyn Evans capitalised back to P6 after the difficult start from Friday and managed to keep himself in the title fight with Sebastian Ogier, who finished third overall.
This victory was much needed by Kalle Rovanpera as it put him within reach of the second position in the championship. With 27 points added to his championship tally, Rovanpera now stands fourth with 129 points as Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville stay ahead with 136 and 130 points respectively. But Sebastian Ogier leads the pack with 180 points and clearly has one hand on the title. On the constructor championship table, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT leads the table with 397 points, with Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team trailing by 340 points and M-Sport Ford World Rally Team in third with 153 points. The WRC calendar has three more rallies on the itinerary with the next rally being Rally Finland starting from October 1. So as the fight in the Championship table intensifies, all we can do now is wait patiently for the next 15 days. Stay tuned for updates!