Round ten of the 2022 FIA World Rally Championship sees the M-Sport Ford World Rally team joined by nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb to form a five-strong attack on the gruelling gravel of Acropolis Rally Greece.
A founding event of the World Rally Championship in 1973, Acropolis Rally will bring unique challenges across 16 special stages covering 303.3 competitive kilometres.
One of the most brutal events on the calendar, crews will be put to the test next week in extreme temperatures that are set to go beyond 30 degrees Celsius. But focus is crucial on the Greek event; the rough gravel roads are lined by rocks waiting to catch crews out, with hanging dust hindering visibility.
Based in Lamia, 220 kilometres north of Athens, the event visits the country’s capital for an epic side-by-side super special inside the Olympic Stadium itself on Thursday evening. The opening full day of stages will prove to be an arduous one as crews will have to go the entire day with no midday service, instead having just a tyre fitting zone to punctuate Friday’s two loops of stages.
Nine-time world champion, and three-time Acropolis winner Sébastien Loeb, returns to the driving seat of an M-Sport Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 alongside Rallye Monte-Carlo winning co-driver, Isabelle Galmiche.
Loeb’s experience in Greece could prove valuable to himself and the team during the rally as he embarks upon his fourth outing with M-Sport. The Frenchman will look to his previous wins and podium finishes on Acropolis to help him this week; particularly the 2012 victory which saw him lead the event outright from the fourth stage, collecting six stage wins on his way to the top step.
Craig Breen will also call on previous experience, with one victory in 2014 on the event’s appearance in ERC, and another podium finish the following year. Breen has had a strong season on gravel so far, claiming a podium result in Sardinia, and will hope to carry the same pace to Lamia next week.
On his second outing in Greece, Gus Greensmith will take confidence from his debut fifth overall result last year. The young driver set strong times in 2021, maintaining a good position throughout the rally and will head into this year’s event with a strong knowledge base.
Pierre-Louis Loubet also returns to the M-Sport ranks in Greece, having impressed the team throughout the season so far with his focus and pace, the Frenchman has brought home some strong results for the team including a podium near-miss in Sardinia.
Jourdan Serderidis is back in a Puma Rally1 for his home event after his impressive Rally1 debut on Safari Rally Kenya, where he claimed seventh overall.
Rich Millener, Team Principal, said:
“It’s been a pretty gruelling turnaround for the team to get five cars prepared for gravel, but we are now ready and raring to go for Greece. I’m looking forward to having Séb and Isabelle back with us and with his experience on this event we are feeling optimistic.
“It hasn’t been an easy season by any means, but we have seen some very promising and exciting pace from each and every one of our crews, so we have to take that and move forward.
“Greece is always an epic event; it is called the Rally of Gods for a reason! I’m particularly looking forward to WRC returning to the Olympic stadium for a side by side super special; a truly awesome setting for an awesome sport.
“We’ve seen some good results on gravel this year, particularly in Sardinia, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the team can do next week.”
Sébastien Loeb, said:
“Greece is a nice rally that I have always enjoyed. It’s a different event to the one I knew, it looks a lot less rough! There are a few stages that are still the same, but mostly we will be starting from scratch.
“It’s not an easy event, but it’s great to drive, so I’m looking forward to that. I will try my best, I will prepare as best as possible and I just hope I’ll be able to get into a good rhythm like I had in Kenya and Portugal. Hopefully we will do a bit better, without any mistakes or problems; that’s the goal.
“Our test went well, it was good, the feeling with the car was correct and quite good. We tried to address a bit of the setup with suspension, diffs and hybrid which all seemed to go quite well. I’m happy after the test, the car was working well, everything was ok, and we are ready for the rally.”
Craig Breen, said:
“It will be nice to go back to Greece, it’s an event I haven’t done for a while; I was there last year to do the recce but 2015 was the last time I competed. I have some good memories from Greece, it was my first international rally win back in 2014 and one of the big stepping stones of my career.
“I’ll enjoy going back there again. It looks like a difficult rally, there are a lot of tough, single-use stages. It’s going to be a long recce and a challenging week, but I’m looking forward to it. The test went well, we had a good feeling with the car, and hopefully we can get ourselves back on track again and bring home a good result in Greece.”
Gus Greensmith, said:
“Greece is one of the legendary rallies of the championship, and I really enjoyed competing there last year. It was a good result for us, finishing fifth overall - a top-five result next weekend would be a fantastic result, so that’s what we’re aiming for.”
“We know there are a lot of things that can go wrong in Greece, with how rough the roads are, but the team has built us a strong car so that should help us out!”
Pierre-Louis Loubet, said:
“I’m very happy to be heading to Greece, it’s an amazing country and a fantastic rally. With our road position, and the pace we showed in Portugal and Sardinia, I think we can do great things. I will try to push to the max on this rally, because I think we have everything we need to do well.
“The car is working great, the test was positive, and I’m feeling even more comfortable than I have before. I think the potential is there, so let’s see what happens.”
Published 02 September 2022