Rovanpera leads Acropolis Rally after tough day in the gravel

Athens (AFP) –


The young Finnish driver Kalle Rovanpera (Toyota) came through a difficult day at the wheel to take a narrow lead in the Acropolis Rally on Friday.

The 20-year-old, who collected his maiden win in Estonia in July, won two of the four stages and closed the day 3.7 seconds ahead of 2019 world champion Ott Tanak and 3.9 seconds in front of championship leader Sebastien Ogier.

The Frenchman also won the last stage of the day to add to Thursday night's extravaganza on the streets of Athens while Tanak also won two stages on Friday.

But the conditions on the dry, dusty, rocky Greek roads some 80 kilometres west of Athens, made for a tough day for all the drivers, several of whom suffered major setbacks to their cars.

Ogier's Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans had problems with his gearbox which initially saw him docked 40sec for a late start on the day's second stage and later saw him stuck in fourth gear.

Thierry Neuville, who won the last rally in Belgium, also suffered, having to leave the tyre fitting zone 24 minutes late due to a power steering problem after SS3, resulting in a four-minute penalty.

He would then drop 1min 50sec on SS$ putting him over six minutes behind Rovanpera in 26th overall.

"It's a big mess," he said after the stage.

"All day we have a lot of technical issues and now the power steering issue. It’s a day to forget. Now we have lost four minutes and a lot of time, but we are not going to give up."

Neuville managed to fix the power steering for the final stage of the day and was second fastest behind Ogier.

"I can be happy with this day, I did my best and we avoided the problems", said Ogier.

Just off the podium lie Spanish veteran Dani Sordo (Hyundai) in fourth and French debutant Adrien Fourmaux, fifth in the fastest of the Ford Fiestas.

Another Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet, however, was forced to retire because of broken steering on his Hyundai.

Stadnings after six special stages:

1. Kalle Rovanpera (FIN/Toyota) 1h01:57.1, 2. Ott Tanak (EST/Hyundai) at 3.7, 3. Sebastien Ogier (FRA/Toyota) 3.9, 4. Dani Sordo (ESP/Hyundai) 23.9, 5. Adrien Fourmaux (FRA/Ford) 54.2, 6. Gus Greensmith (GBR/Ford) 1:23.3

Special stage winners

Ogier 2 (SS1, SS5), Tanak 2 (SS2, SS6), Rovanpera 2 (SS3, SS4)