Det står mye på spill for Skoda-duoen Andreas Mikkelsen og Torstein Eriksen som leder WRC 2 foran kommende helgs Akropolis Rally. På røffe greske veier vet de at en topplassering vil være avgjørende i kampen om årets VM-gull.
Andreas leder VM-kampen for førere, mens Torstein leder VM for kartlesere foran helgens løp, som kan bli av den spennende arten. Det har til dels vært kraftig nedbør og svært vanskelige forhold under deler av gjennomkjøringen. Spesielt på tirsdag var det neste ufremkommelig i deler av løypa.
I fører-mesterskapet ligger Mikkelsen fem poeng foran franske Yohan Rossel for løpet i Hellas. Sami Pajari på tredjeplass er seks poeng bak Rossel.
Blant kartleserne har Torstein Eriksen 24 poengs ledelse til franske Arnaud Dunand. Forspranget Torstein har i forhold til hva Andreas har kommer av at Torstein kjørte inn poeng også som kartleser for Ole Chr. Veiby i Rally Sweden.
Akropolis Rally innledes med startseremoni og en publikumsetappe i Athen på torsdag kveld. Denne etappen har Andreas Mikkelsen dårlig minne fra i fjor. Da krasjet han i en tung og hard banemarkering og tapte svært mye tid.
-I år blir det viktig for oss å finne balansen mellom et bra tempo og å være på den sikre siden på de tøffe veiene, sier Andreas Mikkelsen før start.
Pressemelding fra Skoda Motorsport:
Acropolis Rally Greece: WRC2 title fight for Škoda drivers
heats up with Sami Pajari chasing leader Andreas Mikkelsen
› At the FIA World Rally Championship’s tenth round, Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crew Andreas Mikkelsen/ Torstein Eriksen chase their third WRC2 victory of the season
› After winning the category in Finland together with co-driver Enni Mälkönen, Toksport WRT youngster Sami Pajari (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) holds third position in the WRC2 overall standings
› Also tackling the rough gravel stages of Greece with a Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, Gus Greensmith/ Jonas Andersson and Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson are favourites for WRC2 victory as well
Mladá Boleslav, 6. September 2023 – Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crew Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen travels to Acropolis Rally Greece (7-10 September 2023) on the back of its very first WRC2 victory. While the Finnish youngsters won the category recently on their home event, fourth place together with co-driver Torstein Eriksen was enough for Andreas Mikkelsen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) to take over the lead in the WRC2 Drivers’ classification. Also competing for Toksport WRT, Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson and Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson urgently need another WRC2 victory to keep their respective championship dreams alive. 17 of the 30 crews entered into WRC2 compete with a Škoda Fabia.
Under the Greek summer sun the battle for the WRC2 title promises to heat up. At least five drivers still have their respective championship hopes alive. Four of them compete at the wheel of a Toksport WRT run Škoda Fabia RS Rally2: current leader Andreas Mikkelsen from Norway (82 points), Finnish youngster Sami Pajari (71 points) in third, Oliver Solberg (64 points) from Sweden and Briton Gus Greensmith (62 points). But this picture is somewhat incomplete. Due to the regulations, that each driver can nominate not more than seven from the 13 rallies as his individual points scoring events, the top 5 are on different levels. While Mikkelsen has taken the overall lead with points from four events only, both Pajari and Solberg have scored already five times.
So, Mikkelsen can look forward to the “Rally of the Gods”, as the Greek WRC event is subtitled, with little pressure. “I have to find the right balance between speed and being on the safe side on the tough gravel roads,” the 34-year-old Norwegian plans to take it relatively calmly. Mikkelsen won WRC2 at Acropolis Rally Greece at the wheel of a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo on his way to the WRC2 Drivers’ title in 2021. Last year, he and co-driver Torstein Eriksen finished seventh, when they had to recover from a close encounter with a concrete wall during the Super Stage inside Athen’s Olympic stadium.
In contrast to Mikkelsen’s tactical approach, “win it or bin it” may be the motto for Sami Pajari from Finland as well as for Sweden-born Oliver Solberg, both 21 years of age. Pajari and co-driver Enni Mälkönen are on a high after celebrating their very first WRC2 victory recently at Rally Finland. “I like gravel roads. But the stages in Greece are much rougher and cannot be compared with those in my home country. Although I know, that the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 is robust and reliable, there are passages you cannot go flat without the risk of breaking the car”, says Pajari.
Solberg and British co-driver Elliott Edmondson beat Pajari/Mälkönen at the Finnish gravel “Grand-Prix” home event on stage times. But the son of former FIA World Rally Champion Petter Solberg did not compete for WRC2 points. Which is especially unfortunate, because he has already two rallies with zero points on his account. “Of course, in hindsight we should have nominated Rally Finland for WRC2 points. But that’s how it is,“ Solberg closes this chapter and firmly sets his sight on the upcoming Acropolis Rally Greece.
Gus Greensmith is also slightly on a back foot. After retiring from Rally Finland, the Londoner like Solberg has already booked his personal drop result, as only the best six results count for the WRC2 championship. “I cannot afford another rally with zero points,” Greensmith says, who as usual shares the Toksport WRT run Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 with Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz travels to Greece holding seventh position in WRC2. But the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 driver from Poland and navigator Maciej Szczepaniak have contested only three events so far, including a WRC2 victory at Safari Rally Kenya. Mikołaj Marczyk and co-driver Szymon Gospodarczyk, also from Poland, for their part demonstrated a steep learning curve during the 2023 season with the Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 of Team ORLEN. Both crews are set for a top position in WRC2 at Acropolis Rally Greece.
Part of the 30 entries strong WRC2 field is the WRC Masters Cup, which is reserved for drivers over 50 years of age. The current leader, Spanish Škoda driver Alexander Villanueva, co-driven by José González Murado, is facing strong opposition from Austrian Škoda driver Johannes Keferböck, who is navigated by Ilka Minor.
The officially called “EKO Acropolis Rally of Gods” offers 14 rough gravel stages plus one asphalt test covering a total of 307.69 kilometres. The event starts on Thursday (7 September) at 6:00 pm local in front of the world-famous Acropolis. A first taste of the action provides the 1.48 kilometres short EKO Super Special Stage through the port area of Athens. After three legs, the podium ceremony is scheduled for Sunday (10 September) at 3:55 pm local close to the service park in Lamia.
Did you know, that…
…Acropolis Rally Greece was part of the inaugural World Rally Championship season 1973 and returned to the calendar in 2021 only after an eight-year break?
…Acropolis Rally Greece with relatively low speed over winding and rough gravel roads at high temperatures is one of the toughest challenge the WRC offers?
…conditions are especially tricky on repeated stages, when rocks and bedrock unearthed during the first pass increase the danger of punctures and suspension damage?
…during the Friday leg with no service break even the smallest technical issue will most likely have severe consequences?
Standings WRC2/Drivers (after nine rounds)
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), Škoda, 82 points (from 4 rallies)
2 Yohan Rossel (FRA), Citroën, 77 points (from 4 rallies)
3 Sami Pajari (FIN), Škoda, 71 points (from 5 rallies)
4 Oliver Solberg (SWE), Škoda, 64 points (from 5 rallies)
5 Gus Greensmith (GBR), Škoda, 62 points (from 4 rallies)
Standings WRC2/Teams (after nine rounds)
1 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, 119 points (from 6 rallies)
2 Toksport WRT (Škoda), 110 points (from 3 rallies)
3 Toksport WRT2 (Škoda), 105 points (from 3 rallies)
4 Toksport WRT3 (Škoda), 105 points (from 4 rallies)
2023 FIA World Rally Championship
Rallye Monte-Carlo 19-22 January
Rally Sweden 9-12 February
Guanajuato Rally México 16-19 March
Croatia Rally 20-23 April
Rally de Portugal 11-14 May
Rally Italia Sardegna 1-4 June
Safari Rally Kenya 22-25 June
Rally Estonia 20-23 July
Rally Finland 3-6 August
Acropolis Rally Greece 7-10 September
Rally Chile 28 September-1 October
Central European Rally (CZE/AUT/DEU) 26-29 October
Rally Japan 16-19 November