Acropolis returned onto WRC last year for the first time since 2013. Previously known as a rough car-breaker event, the event is now generally smoother with many roads having been repaired – but there are still more or less rough sections as well. This year’s route is similar to last year but there are five new stages and a couple reversed and modified from last year. There’s less single runs than last year but still more than most rallies offer.
Cover image by Toyota Gazoo Racing (C)
Maps @ rally-maps.com
Thanks to Manolis Mousterakis for additional information
The shakedown of Lygaria is completely new. There’s a number of surface changes from rough to smooth and narrow to wide. There’s frequent tight corners but it’s not completely technical with also some faster bits. It’s a pretty good representation of the rally.
Like last year, the service park is at Lamia and the rally starts from Athens. Last year’s super special was on the streets of the capital but now we have SSS1 Athens Olympic Stadium twin-car super special. The last time this stage was used in 2005 and 2006. It’s a new configuration but still run on a tarmac surface – mostly narrow between fences with a jump on the crossover. Like always, there is nothing to win but everything to lose.
After SSS1 the cars relocate into Corinth for a remote night break. Even though there’s no service, the supplementary regulations state that restarting is available for Friday morning if you happen to damage your car on Thursday night – likely by hauling the car first to Lamia service park to be fixed, and then to Corinth’s parc ferme for restart.
Friday takes the crews from Corinth to Lamia containing 108 stage km with no midday service, just a tyre zone after four stages. Most of the stages are driven only once, which will mean more road cleaning, but then again there’s also less stage mileage than on most Fridays. The morning stages are technical and some of the roughest in the rally, while the afternoon has more smooth and fast-flowing sections.
SS2+4 Loutraki begins with 10 km of last year’s Aghii Theodori stage and ends with 4 km of last year’s Loutraki stage, both in the opposite direction. In fact, the configuration is same as 2011’s Nea Politia, but again in the opposite direction. The last time the beginning was driven in this direction was 2009 and the ending in 2014 (in ERC).
The initial acceleration is on tarmac, but soon we go onto gravel. The road is quite wide, semi-rough, but very technical, sinuous and slow. It gets a notch faster at the junction turn at 5.3 km, but a bigger rhythm change occurs at 7.4 km when the stage turns onto a wide tarmac road which is mostly fast-flowing apart from a string of tight corners right at the start at the section. The gravel returns at 12.2 km. The road is very wide and semi-rough with bedrock coming through a lot, but the character is less sinuous and faster than in the beginning, going downhill. There’s also a flat out passage at 14.8 km.
SS3 Harvati is also a mix of old versions. First up is a part of last year’s Loutraki in opposite direction while the rest wasn’t used last year at all. The very ending was used on the 2013 Pissia stage and the middle part in 2014 (in ERC).
Harvati begins quite wide, alternating between straighter and more sinuous sections. The roughness also varies from very rough to almost smooth. There’s also a couple of river crossings, but they are completely dry nowadays, shown well on this recce video.
The stage deviates from the 2021 route (in the opposite direction) at 6.1 km, turning left at a junction. The road remains varyingly rough, quite wide and sinuous, going on a mountain side.
The ending from 9.1 km onwards can be seen on this 2013 onboard at 4:22, where the 2022 stage will come from the left. This is also the point where the stage starts descending, having gone uphill all the way up this point. The section is very technical, sinuous and slow with the road being quite wide and occasionally rocky rough. There’s also banks on both sides of the road so there’s no room to go wide. The last 1.5 km is more straightforward.
SS5 Dafni is essentially a new stage. It’s only sharing it ending with Ossios Meletios, last driven in 1995.
The stage starts with a hill climb – 430 m of ascension during the first 5 km. The road is wide and smooth and involves five hairpin turns. Subsequently it becomes quite fast-flowing with very rounded corners and only occasional tighter turns. It’s a bit similar to the Kizlan stage in Turkey, also a wind park service road like this one.
A junction turn into the old Ossios Meletios route at 7.9 km makes the stage slightly narrower and rougher, with more damaged spots, going now downhill. There’s a coarser passage after 10.3 km and a few more similar ones after that. The stage was supposed to be a bit longer, but a monastery with national monument status next to the road required the stage to be shortened by four kilometres.
SS6 Livadia is a variation on the 2009 Evangelistria stage, which was driven then in the opposite direction but this year’s direction has been used earlier. The middle part is completely new for this year, since the original middle part is now paved.
Livadia starts medium wide, quite smooth and fast-flowing. There’s some rougher spots here and there, a narrower passage at 1.7 km and a wider technical passage at 2.3 km.
At 5.6 km the stage turns away from the 2009 route onto a smaller road. It’s not that technical, but very rough and rocky with boulders on the side of the road. Reportedly, the road has been repaired after the recce video – it will still be rough but not as bad as it looks there. Finally while passing the power plant at 11.7 km the road becomes much wider and completely smooth.
A tarmac road is crossed at 13 km, onto another gravel road which resembles the beginning by being medium wide, smooth and fast-flowing – except for a few damaged spots and single tight corners climbing up a mountainside. A junction turn at 16.8 km makes the stage narrower and slightly rougher. There’s also a pair of hairpins at 18.2 km.
SS7 Bauxites – a definite Acropolis classic – is driven exactly as last year, now just moved to the end of Friday. Last year Kalle Rovanperä went a bit wide here but survived to win the rally.
The start is at an old mine, hence the stage being called sometimes “Bauxite Way”. It’s a rocky rough road but mostly wide and quite fast, only with occasional tight corners and narrower places.
Midway through the stage takes a short link on a tarmac road and then proceeds onto a slightly narrower but much smoother gravel road, where the stage also becomes sinuously technical, mostly medium-paced but sometimes very slow, sometimes quite fast.
Towards the end of the stage there’s a bit more bedrock visible making the stage again a bit rougher.
Saturday is driven on the West side of Lamia. However, this year the route structure is more conventional with three stages driven twice and no single passes. These six stages contains almost half of the whole rally distance. Time-wise it will likely be more than half, since they are very technical and slow, although not particularly rough.
SS8+11 Pyrgos is the longest stage of the rally at 33 km, which makes it the second-longest stage of the season so far (the longest being the 37 km Amarante in Portugal). The stage is driven just like last year, although it’s now run twice instead of just once.
Pyrgos begins on a sandy road alternating all the time from narrow to medium wide, and smooth to medium rough. It’s technical, first medium-paced, then slower from 3.4 km onwards with a faster passage at 9.1 km. A technical downhill appears at 11.3 km, shown well on this video.
The junction turn at 12.4 km makes the road more consistently wider and more gravely, but otherwise the technical character proceeds. At 17.6 km the stage passes a small town on paved but narrow and rough roads, with the buildings, fences and walls very close. Once returning into the forest the stage remains similar but at 22 km there’s a very narrow and slow sinuous section. The stage becomes slightly faster but still very narrow and technical at 24 km with a sudden jump at 24.5 km.
A series of tight corners lead into a passing of another town, this time on gravel. Subsequently a wider and smoother road is joined. It’s still technical but considerably faster now. The stage concludes finally with five descending hairpin turns.
SS9+12 Perivoli is another new stage, having featured last in 2005. The stage starts on a medium wide and medium rough mountain road. The character is moderately technical. A straightforward passage kicks up the pace at 4.5 km but rough and narrow spots appear more often. At 5.8 km there’s another technical passage, and from now on technical and straightforwards passages alternate with each other until the end of the stage. The last 5 km are downhill, through several hairpin turns and the surface becomes coarsely rocky rough at the first one of them.
SS10+13 Tarzan is another Acropolis classic, although the road is today much smoother than in the past decades when it was known for its harsh roughness. Tarzan was last year’s power stage, although it got shortened for the second, bonus points awarding run. This year it’s run twice in the longer format.
Most of this stage is run in a forest. The initial acceleration is on tarmac, but the rest is gravel, mostly slow, technical and sinuous. The road is medium wide and quite smooth, only medium rough at most. 8.5 km before the finish we start getting more fast passages alternating with the sinuous ones as the stage emerges from the forest into a more mountainous setting.
Sunday is driven on the South-East side of Lamia with a similar structure as last year – a single-run stage sandwiched between the two runs of the power stage. However, the stages have been changed. There’s a mix of fast and technical sections on both stages.
SS14+16 Eleftherohori was already a part of last year’s Saturday route and is now made the power stage. However, the last tricky junction turn has been omitted. It’s still a very interesting power stage choice for being such a fast stage.
The stage begins medium wide and quite smooth, at first sinuous and technical. It becomes fast-flowing but mostly narrower at 1 km. The stage turns onto a softer and rougher road at 4 km at an open area with a lake. The next section starts with a sinuous climb but proceeds again fast-flowing. Another more technical and sandy section features at 7.5 km but at 9 km the stage is back on the fast stuff, now on wide and smooth road. The road surface becomes rocky at 11.2 km, soon also technical and narrow, remaining such for the rest of the stage.
SS15 Elatia – Rengini is more familiar in the opposite direction from the recent ERC years. It was last driven this way in 2002 when it made the ending of a longer Elatia stage. It has nothing in common with last year’s Elatia stage, which in turn was the beginning of the long 2002 Elatia.
First of all, like many Acropolis stages, this one has many surface changes. The color of the road changes all the time from grey gravel to more red and also to pale sandy. It’s impossible to mention all the changes because they are so frequent.
The stage starts climbing on a medium wide road, with a quite smooth surface but a layer of rocks and some bedrock visible, and some spots more damaged. At first it’s quite technical but even the tightest corners are rounded, likely to allow access for long trucks. At 2.8 km the tight corners end and the stage proceeds fast-flowing.
At 5.8 km the stage turns left onto a smaller road with banks on the side. There’s also a small river crossing right after the junction. The road is mostly straightforward becomes smooth and wide at 6.8 km. The stage gets gradually more technical and goes into a series of descending hairpins at 9 km. The final 1.2 km is straightforwardly fast, but rocky. The finish line is on a crest where the cars could jump a bit.