Rally News

The WRC three-peat that crowned McRae the Acropolis master

The WRC three-peat that crowned McRae the Acropolis master

Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier have re-written most of the World Rally Championship’s record book over the last 20 years. But when it comes to the Acropolis Rally the pair remain in the dust trail of Colin McRae, who remains the Acropolis master.

Twenty years ago, the 1995 world champion conquered Europe’s toughest and most gruelling rally for a record fifth time in seven years to firmly stamp his authority on Greece’s punishing rock-ladened mountain gravel roads. Few can hold a candle to McRae in Greece, the Scot scoring wins for Subaru in 1996 (in somewhat fortunate fashion, as he had to effect repairs to his propshaft before the final stage in a specially convened service that hadn’t been on the original schedule) and once more in 1998, before claiming a hat-trick for Ford that culminated in his 2002 success.

That victory drew him level with Carlos Sainz and Tommi Makinen on 24 career WRC wins, atop of the all-time winners list, but would also mark McRae’s penultimate triumph of his top flight rally career.

Due to McRae’s untimely death in 2007, we will perhaps never truly understand why the exponent of maximum attack gelled so well with one of the toughest events on the WRC calendar. And the Acropolis wasn’t a one-off in that respect either, for McRae also won three times on the no less difficult Safari Rally in 1997, 1999 and 2002 – the last coming straight after his record-extending Acropolis success. It was on the Greek stages that McRae scored more wins than any other rally on the WRC calendar, a feat the man himself struggled to explain.

“I don’t know it is just one of these things,” said McRae, when asked in 2002 why he was so dominant there. “It is a rally we have got right, there is no real reason why it is just going our way.”

The hot Mediterranean climes marked the halfway point of a 2002 season that had hitherto been dominated by Peugeot. The French marque’s 206 had won four of the first six rallies, with two wins apiece for 2000 world champion Marcus Gronholm and tarmac ace Gilles Panizzi.

In fact, Peugeot should have added a fifth win in Argentina, the round prior to Greece. Gronholm had pressured Subaru’s Makinen – the victor on the Monte Carlo Rally following a penalty for young upstart Loeb – into a mistake on the final stage to collect what should have been a 1-2 ahead of Peugeot’s new signing Richard Burns. But the pair were both disqualified after the finish – Gronholm after mechanics breached…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at Motorsport.com – RALLY – Stories…