The FIA WRC Academy crews are back in action in Greece this week less than two months since Alastair Fisher swept to victory on the season-opener in Portugal.
A new addition to the WRC Academy schedule for 2012, the Acropolis Rally is set to provide the sport’s rising stars with their toughest test yet thanks to the punishing nature of the rock-strewn stages and the searing heat they’ll encounter.
Unlike their more senior counterparts, the WRC Academy competitors are due to finish their event in Loutraki on Saturday afternoon following 13 stages of intense competition in their identical Ford Fiesta R2s, prepared by the British preparation firm M-Sport and using Pirelli control tyres.
As in Portugal, the onus will be placed firmly on blending speed with a degree of caution and mechanical sympathy over the rough gravel tracks. Fortunately, all Fiestas competing in Greece have been subjected to additional strengthening measures to cope with the tough terrain.
Eleven drivers will be chasing WRC Academy glory in Greece headed by title leader Fisher, from Northern Ireland, and bolstered by South African newcomer Ashley Haigh-Smith, who is eligible for series points for the first time this week on his first appearance of 2012.
Brendan Reeves, second in the standings after the opening round, teams up with co-driving sister Rhianon Smyth for a 50th time in Greece. Like Reeves, Pontus Tidemand, who claimed Rookie honours in third overall in Portugal, will be expected to run at the front in Greece, as will Dutch driver Timo van der Marel.
Spaniard Jose Suarez will be hoping an outing on a gravel rally in France will boost his chances, while Elfyn Evans arrives in Greece on a high following recent success in the British Rally Championship. Evans will link up with new co-driver Phil Pugh, who possesses vast experience of competing in the World Rally Championship. Portugal’s Joao Silva also has a new co-driver after joining forces with countryman Hugo Magalhaes.
American Chris Duplessis (pictured) and Scot John MacCrone will be hoping for improved fortune on the Acropolis Rally after they both hit trouble in Portugal.