World champion Kalle Rovanpera, behind the wheel of a Toyota, swept to victory on the opening stage of the 70th Acropolis Rally as drivers braced for “unpredictable conditions” this weekend.
The Finn bounced back from his shock retirement on home ground last time out to lead from two Hyundais: compatriot Esapekka Lappi and Belgian Thierry Neuville.
Coming into this 10th round of the 13-race world championship, Rovanpera led the standings by 25 points from Toyota teammate Elfyn Evans of Wales.
Evans was only 12th fastest on Thursday, 2.8 seconds off Rovanpera’s pace.
“After the disappointment in Finland, I want to do a good rally. We have to fight for it,” said Rovanpera.
The race continues Friday with five stages, followed by six on Saturday and three on Sunday’s final day.
Thursday morning’s shakedown was cancelled because of the severe flooding affecting Greece.
Conditions have improved, but organisers said that grip levels on Friday’s gravel road course will remain challenging.
“I am not sure if anybody likes the unpredictable conditions – but I am sure it’s going to be very entertaining,” Lappi told wrc.com.