Acropolis WRC 2022: Neuville leads historic Hyundai 1-2-3 in Greece 

Thierry Neuville has taken his first victory of the hybrid era at the Acropolis Rally 2022. The Belgian driver led Hyundai’s first 1-2-3 in history, after defeating his teammate Ott Tänak by fifteen seconds. Meanwhile, Dani Sordo (+1 minutes, 47 seconds and 7 tenths) completed the podium, his third consecutive after Portugal and Sardinia.  

The team from Alzenau has, therefore, in such a rotund manner, consolidated its WRC resurrection. This Sunday they took their third consecutive victory and fourth in total this season, after Tänak’s wins in Sardinia, Finland & Belgium.

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Toyota, on the other hand, seems to have hit a wall. After dominating the World Championship comfortably until August in Estonia, they have endured three defeats in a row, raising some reasonable doubts amongst its fans, especially after their Greek debacle this Sunday. 

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Despite this new setback, Rovanperä -five wins in Sweden, Croatia, Portugal , Kenya & Estonia– stills retains a sizable lead in the standings and his chances of winning the title remain the same. 

All in all, it seems that the balance of power has shifted. The Japanese have lost their dominant position, overwhelmed by the momentum of the South Koreans. 

A Rally too demanding for some of the favourites  

True to its legend, the Greek test has proven to be extremely tough all throughout its four days of competition. Sébastien Loeb (M-Sport) has been this weekend’s most illustrious victim.

The nine-time world champion retired after the first special on Saturday, when he commanded the race with a comfortable 19-second lead. The alternator belt of his Puma Hybrid said enough is enough during the following link leg. 

In the subsequent stage, his teammate Pierre-Louis Loubet suffered a similar fate. The Frenchman had a puncture which cost him his provisional second place. But the ruthless Acropolis Rally 2022 had yet more damage to inflict. 

Kallë Rovanperä (Toyota) suffered the wrath of the gods of sport and crashed into a tree later on the same day. Thankfully the crew came out uninjured but the damage to the rear of their GR Yaris caused them to lose more than fifteen minutes and a drop to nineteenth place.

It was farewell to the Finn’s victory dreams. Similarly, his teammate Esapekka Lappi lost his second place after suffering mechanical problems on Saturday’s penultimate stage. 

 

Hyundai inherits the lead 

Hyundai’s drivers inherited the leading positions of the race following the debacle suffered by a large part of their enemies on Saturday. Their regularity and consistency, together with a necessary dose of good luck, allowed them to maintain those positions until the end. 

Sunday started with Neuville at the lead 27.9 seconds ahead of Tänak and 52.9 before Sordo. Behind them was Elfyn Evans (Toyota) hoping for a mistake from his predecessors. 

Team Orders: May Neuville Win

Before starting the final battle at the 2022 Acropolis Rally, many wondered if Hyundai would force Neuville to give up the first place and the victory to Tänak, better classified in the General, second after Rovanperä. Yes, there has been a team order, but not in that sense.
The three cars had to maintain their positions without taking risks, which has generated tension within the Alzenau team. During the first of the last three stages of the race, Tänak would actually cut 2.9 seconds off Neuville, reducing the distance between them to 25 seconds.

But, the Belgian, who did not want any surprises, returned the coin to the Nordic, stretching his income to 29.3 seconds.
Separated by that time they met in the final assault. Although Tänak gritted his teeth to win the ‘Power Stage’, closing 14.3 seconds on Neuville, it was not enough.

The Belgian had 15 seconds left to sign his sixteenth victory in the WRC and, incidentally, break a negative streak that began in the Rally of Spain-Catalonia 2021, eleven months ago. Behind them, Sordo has made full with his third podium of the course.
 

Images of Acropolis Rally 2022: WRC.com.

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