Volkswagen added victory on the Acropolis Rally – the WRC’s roughest and toughest event – to its impressive roster of wins at the start of June, but this time it wasn’t runaway championship leader Sébastien Ogier on top.
With Ogier out of contention after a connection to his Polo R WRC’s fuel pump worked loose on the opening stage, team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala triumphed 10 years after making his debut on the demanding Greek encounter.
It was also Latvala’s first success for VW and made up for a troubled start to 2013, which began with a sizeable crash on the Monte Carlo Rally. But Latvala’s victory owed plenty to Saturday’s second stage, when a large rock ruined Evgeny Novikov’s bid for a maiden WRC win.
The young Russian was pulling clear on the back of three fastest stage times and was almost 40sec in front when he punctured his right-rear Michelin and also wrecked his Ford Fiesta’s brakes and suspension. He valiantly made it to service for repairs, but his hopes were over and he went on to finish ninth. However, there were no such problems for Latvala, who won at a canter ahead of factory Citroën driver Dani Sordo and M-Sport privateer Thierry Neuville.
Following wretched runs on the preceding rounds in Portugal and Argentina, Sordo hit back for his first podium since Monte Carlo. But there was disappointment for the Spaniard’s team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, whose DS3 WRC suffered a steering failure on stage one at a cost of more than six minutes.
The 29-mile first stage also accounted for Mads Østberg’s challenge, with the luckless Norwegian’s poor run of form continuing after he broke his Fiesta’s front-left wheel against a concrete ledge.
Robert Kubica dominated the WRC 2 category to finish 11th overall for his first major success in rallying. Richard Rodgers