› Former WRC2 champion wins the category despite losing nearly two minutes during the first leg
› With his third victory of the season, Andreas Mikkelsen extends WRC2 overall lead
› Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson complete Škoda 1-2 in WRC2 at the FIA World Rally Championship’s tenth round
Lamia (GR), 10 September 2023 – Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) won WRC2 at Acropolis Rally Greece, tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). The Norwegians didn’t give up after suffering three punctures on Friday and fought back by eventually winning eleven of the event’s 15 stages. Sharing another Toksport WRT run Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, Briton Gus Greensmith and Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson finish second. Andreas Mikkelsen now leads the WRC2 overall standings from Frenchman Yohan Rossel (Citroën) and Greensmith.
With Greece suffering from heavy rains during the week before Acropolis Rally Greece, the event itself was affected as well. A thick layer of mud replaced the usually bone-dry and extremely rough road surfaces on most parts of the stages. The shakedown had to be cancelled altogether. But even in damp and relatively cold conditions, the “Acropolis” lived up to its reputation as toughest gravel event in Europe.
The action had only just begun, when Andreas Mikkelsen was hit by a series of three punctures, all at the same corner of his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. “I don’t understand, there must be something wrong,” the Norwegian was puzzled. At the end of the first leg, Mikkelsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen were down in 12th, trailing overnight leaders Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (Citroën) by 1:43 minutes. Second placed Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson led the Škoda charge at that point. The British-Swedish pairing was second ahead of Marco Bulacia from Bolivia and Spanish co-driver Diego Vallejo. Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen, the Finnish crew aboard another Toksport WRT run Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, followed in fourth.
On Saturday, Andreas Mikkelsen was on a charge. “After the problems from Friday, I said to myself: We cannot leave Greece with seventh place or something, it doesn’t give me any good points. So we just go maximum. And if we are off the road we’re off the road,“ was his daring strategy for the Saturday leg. Surprisingly, it worked. Mikkelsen/Eriksen won every single of Saturday’s six stages. “I just let my inner beast out and gave everything,“ Mikkelsen joked. “In every single corner we were at the limit.“
Greensmith on the other hand opted for a tactical approach: “Driving fast, but not too fast.” When leaders Rossel/Dunand were delayed by a puncture, Greensmith/Andersson went into the WRC2 lead. Despite some brake issues, they defended the top position against the storming Mikkelsen/Eriksen crew and brought an advantage of 12.0 seconds over their Norwegian teammates to the day’s finish after leg 2.
At that point, Mikkelsen/Eriksen and Greensmith/Andersson were pretty much on their own at the top of the WRC2 standings. Oliver Solberg, one of the favourites for WRC2 victory, dropped out already on Friday. A technical issue sidelined the Toksport WRT run Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 of the 21-year-old Swede and British co-driver Elliott Edmondson. Their teammates Marco Bulacia/Diego Vallejo from Bolivia and Spain respectively were running as high as second in WRC2, until they were stopped by an accident (SS9). When Finnish youngsters Sami Pajari/Enni Mälkönen had to retire during the second leg (SS10), also with technical problems, another top Škoda crew was missing from the time sheets.
On Sunday, the fight for victory between the two Toksport WRT crews came down to the wire. With two more WRC2 stage wins, Mikkelsen/Eriksen finally took the lead from Greensmith/Andersson, who had to deal with brake problems. “This victory is a special one,” Mikkelsen beamed. “After Friday everything looked so dark and we decided we had nothing to lose. We drove the fastest we could at every corner the whole rally. We had to change the rear diff in the last service, the mechanics are incredible.”
Obviously, Gus Greensmith was not that happy. “For sure I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed,“ the Briton commented. “Unfortunately the one person, we had to outscore, we haven't. But second is not a bad result either.” At least, Gus Greensmith jumped to third in the WRC2 overall standings. Andreas Mikkelsen extended his lead over Yohan Rossel to 16 points.
For the next round the FIA World Rally Championship stays on gravel, but leaves Europe for South America. Rally Chile (28 September to 1 October 2023) is next.
Acropolis Rally Greece, 8-10 September 2023, Result WRC2
1 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, 3:09:57.7 hours
2 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (GBR/SWE), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, +10.3 seconds
3 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2, +1:26.0 minutes
4 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (FRA/FRA), Ford Fiesta Rally2 Mk2, +2:16.1 minutes
5 Grégoire Munster/Louis Louka (LUX/BEL), Ford Fiesta Rally2 Mk2, +2:34.7 minutes
6 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL/POL), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, +2:54.8 minutes
Standings WRC2/Drivers (after 10 of 13 rallies)
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), Škoda, 108 points (from 5 rallies)
2 Yohan Rossel (FRA), Citroën, 92 points (from 5 rallies)
3 Gus Greensmith (GBR), Škoda, 80 points (from 5 rallies)
4 Sami Pajari (FIN), Škoda, 71 points (from 6 rallies)
Number of the rally: 1:53.2
After three punctures until SS5, Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Torstein Eriksen (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) were trailing the WRC2 leaders by 1:53.2 minutes. Nine stages later, the Norwegians were on top of the category eventually celebrating their third season victory. “That would never be possible in Finland,” Mikkelsen said. “In Greece it’s possible because it’s so rough. People are taking care and if you don’t care you can gain a lot of time.“