Friday is Qualifying day on the Acropolis Rally, round three of the FIA European Rally Championship. Here is a summary of what’s happening today (all times shown are local).
Free Practice (for FIA/ERC priority drivers): 10:30hrs-12:30hrs (3.27-kilometre all-asphalt stage, 11.18 kilometres from Loutraki)
Qualifying Stage (for FIA/ERC priority drivers): 13:23hrs (3.27-kilometre all-asphalt stage, 11.18 kilometres from Loutraki)
Shakedown (for all other drivers): 14:00hrs-15:30hrs, Friday 28 March (3.27-kilometre all-asphalt stage, 11.18 kilometres from Loutraki)
Start order selection: 15:00hrs, Service Park, Loutraki
Ceremonial start: From 18:00hrs, Corinth Canal
Abbring sets ERC Free Practice pace in Greece
The Peugeot 208T16’s FIA European Rally Championship debut got off to an impressive start this morning when Kevin Abbring and Craig Breen took turns to top the time sheets in Free Practice for the Acropolis Rally.
Breen was fastest on the opening run, taking 1m49.134 to complete the 3.27-kilometre stage near Loutraki, before Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Abbring took control on the second run with a time of 1m46.154s.
ERC title-leader Esapekka Lappi, who was sixth quickest for ŠKODA Motorsport, will start the Qualifying Stage first at 13:20hrs local time.
The results of the Qualifying Stage will be used to determine the starting order for leg one among the nine FIA and ERC priority drivers. The fastest driver will earn the right to select their starting position first followed by the next quickest driver and so on until all nine priority drivers have made their selection. The Start Selection Ceremony will take place in the service park at 15:00hrs. The Qualifying Stage will be covered live on ERC Rally Radio.
Free Practice classification (for priority drivers only):
ERC rookie Abbring wins Acropolis Qualifying Stage in Peugeot 208T16
Kevin Abbring has gone fastest in Qualifying for the Acropolis Rally, round three of the FIA European Rally Championship.
Driving the all-new Peugeot 208T16, Abbring, who is contesting six rounds of the ERC in 2014 as his prize for winning the 208 Rally Cup in France last season, completed the 3.27-kilometre stage in a time of 1m45.007s.
His Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Craig Breen was second fastest, 0.634s behind the flying Dutchman with European championship leader Esapekka Lappi third best for ŠKODA Motorsport, 0.752s down on Abbring.
Abbring now earns the right to select his starting position first for Saturday’s opening leg of all-asphalt stages. He will make his selection in the service park in Loutraki at 15:00hrs local time.
“It’s a small victory,” said Abbring, who is making his Acropolis Rally debut and competing with British co-driver Sebastian Marshall for the first time. “Driving with the Eurosport helicopter [above me] and those flowing fast stages was unbelievable and I’m so happy to be back. I can’t complain about the times but in the fast sections we are improving and learning every time. I haven’t thought about where I will start but somewhere in the top three.”
Lappi, meanwhile, said he wasn’t happy with his start to the stage in his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000: “The stage was okay but I completely messed the start, not good,” reported the Finn. “I couldn’t make a good start in the Free Practice so I practiced on the road but the roads are going too down and I couldn’t slide the clutch. But it’s only one stage, it’s okay.”
His factory ŠKODA team-mate Sepp Wiegand also wasn’t completely satisfied after he clocked the fifth best time: “It was not so fantastic because I lost a lot of time in the second or third corner on some loose gravel. I lose the car completely so I’m a little bit disappointed because I can go faster. But the time is not bad with this moment. I try my best.”
Kajetan Kajetanowicz was fourth quickest in his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5. “It was good, quite okay, I’m happy with my time,” said multiple Polish champion after he set a time of 1m45.895s. “We will see what we can do tomorrow.”
Top seed Bryan Bouffier was sixth quickest with a 1m46.211s but said there is still room for improvement behind the wheel of his CitroŽn DS3 RRC. “The feeling is getting better and better and I cannot complain,” said the Frenchman. “The Qualifying Stage is not so important for the race. I tried to drive well but on some parts I am not so happy.”
Bruno Magalh„es, back in action for the first time since August 2013, was seventh quickest in his Delta Rally Peugeot 207 S2000 with Vasily Gryazin eighth in his Sports Racing Technologies Ford Fiesta S2000. JaromŪr Tarabus was ninth and the last of the priority drivers taking part in Qualifying.
Drivers will select their starting positions for leg one in the service park at 15:00hrs local time.
After SS1: Bouffier fastest on ERC Acropolis opener
Bryan Bouffier has set the pace on stage one of the Acropolis Rally, round three of the FIA European Rally Championship.
The CitroŽn DS3 RRC driver clocked a time of 10m25.5s, which was 0.8s quicker than Kevin Abbring managed in his Peugeot 208T16. “It’s a good start,” said the Frenchman. “The stage was very fast and slippery but the car is fantastic.”
Abbring reported a small problem when his new car’s gear selection indicator became detached three kilometres from the start of the all-asphalt 21.08-kilometre Aghios Ioannis stage. He said it was difficult to know what gear he was in as a result.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz made it three different types of car in the top three, going third quickest in his Ford Fiesta R5. The multiple Polish champion was 1.1s down on Bouffier.
ŠKODA Fabia S2000 driver Sepp Wiegand was fourth fastest with Craig Breen and Esapekka Lappi completing the top six. Lappi, the European championship leader who has little asphalt experience, conceded his time as “not good”.
Bruno Magalh„es, who was seventh fastest, admitted he’d made the wrong call by selecting the hardest compound Pirelli tyre for the cool temperatures, while Vasily Gryazin said his Fiesta S2000 had been sliding too much during the run.
After SS2: Drama for Bouffier as Abbring takes lead
Kevin Abbring is the new leader of round three of the FIA European Rally Championship, the legendary Acropolis Rally, as a front-right puncture hit Bryan Bouffier’s hopes of a second successive fastest stage time in Greece.
Bouffier was four kilometres from the finish of the 23.63 kilometres of Aghionori when he was unable to avoid hitting a rock lying in the middle of the road. As a result he was 17.9s slower than Abbring completing the stage and drops to fourth in the overall standings.
Meanwhile, Peugeot 208T16 driver Abbring, who was fastest through the test in a time of 11m26.4s, now heads the overall classification by 6.7s with team-mate Craig Breen up to second.
“It’s so fast and flowing and to get the rhythm in the pacenotes… I think I managed it quite well,” said Abbring. “The rally is full of surprises all the time. We are learning a lot. I took it a bit too carefully at the end, the downhill part. I think we manage well.”
Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Ford Fiesta R5) holds third overall despite reporting a loss of 12 seconds when he overshot a junction during the stage and had to reverse. “It was a slow corner but there was some water on the road,” said the Pole.” He was fourth quickest behind ERC title leader Esapekka Lappi in the lead factory ŠKODA Fabia S2000.
Sepp Wiegand was fifth quickest after recovering from an off-road moment in his ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland entry. The German said a trip into a ditch had knocked his confidence.
Robert Consani, who reported a serious vibration at the finish of stage one, lost a significant amount of time completing the stage in his Peugeot. He suggested the car had lost drive.
After SS3: Breen makes it three winners out of three in Greece
Craig Breen underlined the serious competition in the FIA European Rally Championship by becoming the third different stage winner in a row on leg one of the Acropolis Rally.
Driving his Peugeot 208T16 in competition for the first time, Breen took 10m05.9s to complete the 17.60-kilometre Psari stage, despite reporting the slippery stage surface meant it was difficult to predict the level of grip available.
Stage two winner Kevin Abbring still leads the event but his advantage out front has been trimmed to 2.9s after he made a mistake at a hairpin. “It’s been a very successful morning, the new car is really fine and is running well. The car felt really good on the last two stages but I made a stupid mistake on this stage on a hairpin with the handbrake.”
Bryan Bouffier, who lost the lead when he picked up a front-right puncture on stage two, suffered further delay when he went straight on at a junction. He was 4.2s slower than Breen through the stage but, crucially, quicker than Kajetan Kajetanowicz. The Pole is now just 4.5s in front of the Frenchman in the battle for the final podium spot.
After SS4: Kajetanowicz responds to Bouffier threat
Kajetan Kajetanowicz has responded to Bryan Bouffier’s threat on round three of the FIA European Rally Championship, the Acropolis Rally, by outpacing his rival through the fourth stage of the event.
Bouffier had closed to within 4.5 seconds of Kajetanowicz after three stages but the Pole’s advantage is now 6.7s after he outpaced his rival through the repeat of Aghios Ioannis, which featured a damp section of approximately five kilometres following rain.
“It was good before but now it’s better,” said Kajetanowicz, who was second fastest through the stage in his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5. “It was raining in the middle of the stage and it was wet. For us it’s not good because we had the hard tyres.”
Bouffier, who was fourth fastest, said: “I’m happy, my time was better but I was not so good in the dirty part and when there was water. It’s like that, I have to be better.”
Meanwhile, Kevin Abbring was quickest through the stage in his Peugeot 208T16. He heads team-mate Craig Breen by 5.8s. Breen was third fastest with Bouffier fourth quickest and ERC title-leader Esapekka Lappi next up in his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000. However, his team-mate Sepp Wiegand has stopped in the stage amid reports of damaged suspension on his Fabia.
“We had three kilometres with damp roads,” said Lappi. “You come to the braking and you go like a boat, straight with no grip. I was lucky. I think [Sepp and Frank Christian] are trying to repair a wishbone with the car. There was a really fast left before that and we also had a small slide in there. So maybe he went off and hit something, I don’t know.”
Robert Consani reported a steering problem at the stage finish.
Kevin Abbring’s chances of giving Peugeot’s 208T16 a debut victory in the FIA European Rally Championship look to be over after the Dutchman was delayed by more than three minutes completing stage five.
Abbring finished stage four with fluid leaking from the front of his all-new car and team-mate Craig Breen reported that he had stopped in the Aghionori stage when he completed the run. Abbring eventually reached the stage finish but was unable to restart his car’s engine and appears to have retired from the Acropolis Rally.
His misfortune has handed Breen top spot, 12.7 seconds ahead of Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Ford Fiesta R5) with Bryan Bouffier 1.0s behind the Pole. Bouffier, in a CitroŽn DS3 RRC, was quickest through the stage.
After SS6: Bouffier snatches second on ERC Acropolis Rally
Bryan Bouffier has claimed second place from Kajetan Kajetanowicz by outpacing his Polish rival as day one of the Acropolis Rally took another dramatic twist.
Bouffier, in a CitroŽn DS3 RRC, started the 17.60-kilometre stage one second behind Kajetanowicz (Ford Fiesta R5), but was faster by 1.3s to move into the runner-up spot heading to the overnight halt in Loutraki.
However, a second stage win for Craig Breen means the Irishman’s overnight lead on round three of the FIA European Rally Championship stands at 14.7s in his Peugeot Rally Academy 208T16.
While the stage was largely dry for the early runners, drops of rain turned into a full shower for the bulk of the crews. JaromŪr Tarabus, who is running first on the road, took full advantage by demoting Jaroslav OrsŠk for seventh. OrsŠk is running 14th on the road and struggled in the conditions: “It was not good, I had hard tyres and it was raining.”
Esapekka Lappi, who was fourth fastest behind Kajetanowicz, added: “When there are drops on the windscreen you start to get scared and I took it a bit carefully at the end.”
Crews are now heading back to Loutraki for a two-hour service halt to enable their respective mechanics to convert their cars to gravel specification for Sunday’s final leg.
ERC Acropolis Rally day one report: Breen heads Greek thriller
Round three of the FIA European Rally Championship, the legendary Acropolis Rally, is set for a thrilling climax when it switches to gravel on Sunday.
Craig Breen holds top spot after the opening Tarmac leg, but a debut ERC win for Peugeot’s 208T16 is far from guaranteed with Bryan Bouffier and Kajetan Kajetanowicz close behind in Greece.
Bouffier took an early lead after he won the opening stage in his CitroŽn DS3 RRC. But the number one seed hit trouble when he struck a rock cutting a corner on the next stage and punctured his front-right tyre in the process. Bouffier’s delay handed first place to Kevin Abbring, who was quickest through the test in the second Peugeot Rally Academy-entered 208 T16.
Despite almost spinning at a hairpin on stage three, Abbring was in front at midday service in Loutraki. “I was focused but I pulled the handbrake too aggressively and we nearly spun,” said the Dutch driver. “But the car has been perfect, a big surprise because it is so new. Me and the entire team can be very happy and I’m really pleased to be back competing at this level and being competitive too.”
Abbring was still leading by 5.8s after he collected his second stage win of the day on the fourth test. But with fluid leaking from the front of his car, the 25-year-old was already in trouble. He started the next stage but stopped during the run. And although he eventually reached the finish of Aghionori, his time loss was more than three minutes and he retired a high water temperature shortly afterwards. A decision on whether he will restart on day two will be taken once his car has undergone a thorough inspection.
“It’s very disappointing for Kevin but we must take our hats off to him and Peugeot for the job they were doing,” said Breen, whose advantage over second-placed Bouffier after Saturday’s closing stage stands at 14.7s. “But it’s a fantastic achievement that we have one car leading overnight so it’s a big pat on the back to the everyone involved. I don’t think there has been a debut like this. I’m very happy.”
After SS7: Kajto reclaims second on thrilling Acropolis Rally
FIA European Rally Championship pacesetter Kajetan Kajetanowicz is back into second place on the Acropolis Rally, which has switched to gravel for Sunday’s final leg.
The four-time Polish champion, in a Ford Fiesta R5, outpaced Bryan Bouffier through the opening stage of day two, the Klenia-Mycenae test. He took 11m59.5s to complete the run and now heads Bouffier by 10.5s in the battle for second place having cancelled out an overnight deficit of 0.3s.
“It was an unbelievable stage, very fast,” said LOTOS Rally Team ace Kajetanowicz. “I try to find the rhythm but it’s not easy. We fight to win but it’s not easy believe me.”
Bouffier, who is armed with a PH Sport-run CitroŽn DS3 RRC for his Acropolis Rally debut, said: “I tried to drive well but for sure it’s not enough. Kajto did a fantastic time and we try to be better in the following stages. I have to be better to put the pressure on him.”
Out front, Craig Breen has extended his lead to 15.8s after he beat Kajetanowicz to the fastest time by 0.8s in his Peugeot 208T16. “I’m still discovering the car after quite a short test on gravel,” said the Irishman. “We were running with two spares, which was a bit different to before and it was very loose in some places. We are still fighting at the front so we are quite happy.”
After SS8: Drama in Greece as ERC aces suffer stage delays
The Acropolis Rally leaderboard has been turned of its head following a dramatic eighth stage.
Craig Breen, in a Peugeot 208T16, still leads the FIA European Rally Championship counter but Bryan Bouffier is now up to second after Kajetan Kajetanowicz’s Ford Fiesta R5 suffered a powersteering glitch, which required a reset by the multiple Polish champion.
While Breen’s lead is up to 19.4s, the Irishman wasn’t entirely happy at the finish of the 22.20 all-gravel Nea Kineta test. “We lost the rear bumper but I don’t know where to be honest,” said Breen. “But we’re struggling a little bit with the pop-off valve because I was loading the turbo up a bit too much.”
Bouffier now heads Kajetanowicz by 2.0s in the battle for second place. “I have started to get a good feeling on gravel and the time compared to Kajto is quite good. We try to do the same on the following stage.”
ERC title-leader Esapekka Lappi lost almost 30 seconds when he picked up a left-rear puncture in his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 at the 10-kilometre mark. However, he continues to occupy fourth overall.
Vasily Gryazin also suffered a left-rear deflation on his Fiesta S2000, which he stopped to change. “It was maybe eight kilometres from the finish and we changed the tyre a little bit slower than we wanted,” said the 20-year-old Russian ace, who has dropped from fifth to eighth place.
Jaroslav OrsŠk completed the stage with damage to the front-left wheel of his Fabia S2000, while Sepp Wiegand admitted he found it tough starting first on the road. “For sure it’s not easy, very slippery with no lines but it’s a nice experience,” said the German. “Maybe in the future I will have the same conditions so I have to change my driving style and try my best.”
After SS9: Magalh„es holds on to fifth despite car break
Bruno Magalh„es continues to occupy fifth spot on the Acropolis Rally, despite completing the ninth stage of the FIA European Rally Championship qualifier with the hazard lights flashing on his Peugeot 207 Super 2000.
Magalh„es is making his return to international competition after a two-year enforced layoff as part of a six-round ERC campaign.
“Something has broken in the rear, I don’t know what has happened,” said the Portuguese driver, who reported at the end of stage eight that his car was set up too low for the rough gravel surface. “The rear is moving a lot, I don’t know exactly why but we try to get to the service park. I did not hit anything.”
Elsewhere, the thrilling battle for second place continues to intensify with Kajetan Kajetanowicz reclaiming the spot from Bryan Bouffier by a margin of 0.4s. “That stage was very hard for the tyres, I lost traction completely and it’s slippery like hell,” said the Ford Fiesta R5 pilot. “But it was a fantastic time although I don’t know how.”
Jaroslav OrsŠk continues to be plagued by a steering issue caused by a problem on the front-left corner of his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000.
Out front, Craig Breen’s lead in his Peugeot 208T16 has been trimmed to 14.1s. “Everything is going quite okay at the moment, I’m quite happy.”
JaromŪr Tarabus has claimed his maiden stage win in this year’s FIA European Rally Championship by setting the pace on the all-asphalt Super Special Korinthos stage.
Roared on by thousands of enthusiastic fans, the ace Czech, who is tackling eight rounds of ERC in a Kresta Racing-run ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, was one second faster than Acropolis Rally leader Craig Breen through the 1.18-kilometre course.
Bryan Bouffier is back into second overall after he outpaced Kajetan Kajetanowicz by 0.7s. However, he trails Breen by 14.6s starting Sunday’s final trio of gravel stages. Pole Kajetanowicz is 0.4s behind his French rival.
After SS11: Breen and Bouffier edge ahead in Greece
Ireland’s Craig Breen has boosted his chances of a maiden FIA European Rally Championship victory by moving 18.3 seconds ahead of Bryan Bouffier with two stages of the Acropolis Rally left to run.
Breen, in a Peugeot 208T16, was 3.7s faster than Bouffier through the repeat of the gravel-based Klenia-Mycenae test to pull further clear at the top of the overall classification.
“You have no idea how much I want to win this,” said Breen. “Me and Scott [Martin] are putting everything we can into it. We’re not quite on the limit, there’s a little bit left but not a whole pile.”
In the battle for second spot, CitroŽn DS3 RRC driver Bouffier now heads third-placed Kajetan Kajetanowicz by 11.2s. Despite his time loss, Kajetanowicz insisted all was in order with his Ford Fiesta R5. “I want to be careful,” said the LOTOS Rally Team driver. “It’s good for our experience and I don’t want to make mistakes. I am happy to be here.”
Bouffier added: “If he hasn't got any problems it’s a good time for us. I tried to drive well, I try to push, this is the target. But [second] is never secure with two long stages and a really tough run. It’s fun to push and anything can happen so we have to continue.”
Like Kajetanowicz, Bruno Magalh„es has also opted for a low-risk strategy in his efforts to secure fifth overall behind ŠKODA Motorsport’s Esapekka Lappi. “We have made the car a little bit higher,” said the Portuguese. “I have lost some speed but it’s much more safe. I want to be at the end so I have to be clever. I take no risks.”
Meanwhile, Vasily Gryazin inflicted some slight cosmetic damage to his Fiesta S2000 after he hit a tree close to the stage start.
The penultimate stage, Nea Kineta, gets underway at 15:45hrs local time.
After SS12: Bouffier spins but still wins penultimate stage
Bryan Bouffier has set the pace on the penultimate stage of the Acropolis Rally despite spinning his CitroŽn DS3 RRC during the all-gravel run.
Bouffier was 1.8s quicker than event leader Craig Breen, who reported a half spin nearing the finish of the 22.20-kilometre Nea Kineta test.
“I start to really push, I tried and I did it but I spin once,” said Bouffier, who will start the final stage of the FIA European Rally Championship round trailing Breen by 16.5s. “For sure I lost a few seconds, I don’t know how many but this is the game. We are trying to drive very well.”
Breen, who is on course for his maiden victory in the ERC and the first for Peugeot’s 208T16 in the European championship, said: “I lost a bit of time but we’ve got a short stage to go, I’ve got a good lead and I’m happy.”
JaromŪr Tarabus, who has been hit by a three-minute time penalty for using Tarmac tyres for the Super Special Korinthos test when gravel tyres only were permitted, lost more time with an off-road moment. “I was out of the road and we are very lucky we are here. It was a big moment but a stupid moment. I was 20 metres off the road.”
Meanwhile, Kajetan Kajetanowicz has conceded second place to Bouffier in his Ford Fiesta R5. “I am not pushing very hard, I want to be on the finish line,” said Kajetanowicz. “We must remember this is the Acropolis Rally. We must stay calm and focused of course. Third place is very good for me.”
Breen caps memorable Acropolis weekend with Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy
Craig Breen has been voted as the winner of the prestigious Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy for the Acropolis Rally, adding to his victory on the legendary Greek event.
Breen, Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Kevin Abbring and rally rival Bryan Bouffier, were among those considered by the panel of judges for the prize.
ERC Sporting Manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas, who along with Eurosport’s Gilbert Roy and Colin’s father Jimmy formed the judging panel, said: “As usual it’s very difficult to decide who will win the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy. We have seen a beautiful fight since the beginning of the rally between these drivers and Kevin Abbring, who also has done a fantastic job. It was difficult for us to decide but we have decided to give the trophy to Craig Breen, who has done a fantastic rally. But we also want to highlight the performance of Kevin Abbring coming from the 208 R2 and for his first rally in the ERC really he has done a great performance against these three drivers.”
Breen, whose victory on the Acropolis Rally in Peugeot’s all-new 208T16 was his first in the ERC, said: “This really means a lot. I’ve had the pleasure of winning this trophy two times before so to win it here and to get my first victory in the ERC this just puts the icing at the top of the cake. Colin McRae was an idol to me as he was to a lot of other young drivers so thanks to everybody who has given me the chance to win this award.”
The Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy is presented on all rounds of the ERC to the driver whose performance best embodies the spirit of the rallying legend. Other winners this season include Robert Kubica and Vasily Gryazin. Colin McRae, meanwhile, won the Acropolis Rally a record five times.