The World Rally Championship (WRC) returned to Greece after an eight-year absence Thursday with a crowd-pleasing special stage around Athens’ main Syntagma Square.
Defending champion and standings leader Sebastien Ogier completed the circuit as the fastest driver of the day, watched by thousands of fans as he screeched past Greece’s parliament to clock 51.5 seconds.
The French seven-time World Rally Championship (WRC) world champion covered the 0.98km distance in 51.5 seconds in a Toyota Yaris WRC, topping the overall standings.
“I love Greece. It’s a beautiful country, even (had) some holiday here many times,” Ogier said. “And I’m really happy to come back on the road.”’
Notably, Toyota cars registered the three best times in the first qualifying round, as Briton Elfyn Evans came 0.6 seconds behind Ogier, while Kalle Rovanperä of Finland was 0.8 seconds behind the Frenchman.
The next three places were taken by three Hyundai i20 Coupe WRCs.
In 24th place, Lambros Athanassoulas, also with an Hyundai i20 N Rally2, recorded the fastest Greek time, with 58.9 seconds.
The starting ceremony of the Acropolis Rally took place on the Acropolis, from where the competing cars moved to the starting point on Amalias Avenue.
Thursday’s event marked the return of the Acropolis Rally to Greece after it was discontinued in 2013 due to financial constraints caused by the decade-long financial crisis.
Some 55 crews from 24 different countries ready to compete in one of the toughest events of the WRC.
The event, also known as the “Rally of Gods,” is the ninth stage of the 2021 World Rally Championship. It was first held in 1951 and has featured in the WRC 38 times.
The rally ends Sunday.