Red Bull co-drivers Daniel Elena (normally found alongside Sebastien Loeb) and Jarmo Lehtinen (Mikko Hirvonen’s partner in crime) are full of fun facts. And today, they’re amazing us with their knowledge about Greece and the Acropolis Rally…
Daniel: “Loutraki, where the rally is based, is famous for mineral water.”
The coastal town that is the Acropolis Rally HQ was actually famous for its thermal spa – at least until 1928, when an earthquake razed the place to the ground. Undeterred, the resort was rebuild and extended – using rubble from the collapsed houses to reclaim parts of the sea. And yes, there is a famous Greek mineral water brand called Loutraki.
Jarmo: “The first Acropolis Rally was actually an asphalt rally.”
Finns are always hot on their sporting history and Jarmo is no exception. The rough rocks of the current event couldn’t present a greater contrast to the original 1953 Acropolis, which was won by a certain Mr Papamichael in a Jaguar XK120: not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of a rally car.
Daniel: “Colin McRae had more victories than anybody else on the Acropolis Rally.”
Amazing but true. Nobody else got near to the 1995 World Champion’s record of five wins in Greece, even though the roads seemed hardly suited to the Scot’s pedal to the medal, flat-out style. Proof, if it were needed, that McRae knew how to pace himself as well.
Jarmo: “Kebabs are not Greek.”
A controversial one this: the doner kebab is certainly a Turkish invention – but this is something that any self-respecting Greek would vehemently deny, preferring to call the rotating elephant’s trunk ‘gyros’ instead. Originally though, the shish kebab was a Persian invention – created by soldiers who used to grill cuts of meat on their swords in the open air.
Daniel: “The Acropolis Rally goes nowhere near the Acropolis.”
The closest that it gets is the ceremonial start at the Zappeion in the middle of Athens: a building constructed for the very first modern Olympic Games in 1896, where it was the main fencing hall. It has also hosted the Olympic Village. Apart from that, the rally route has nothing to do with the Acropolis (or Athens) at all.
Jarmo: “The rally is also called ‘the Rally of the Gods’”
And with a billing like that, how can it fail to disappoint? Had there really been a rally that was entered by all the Greek Gods though, it would undoubtedly have been a stitch-up, with Zeus (the most powerful of all the Gods and a resident of Mount Olympus) somehow managing to win every single stage.