European Capital of Culture, Elefsina, to host prize giving ceremony
Category 3 podium positions remain to be decided in the grand finale of a memorable season
The FIA European Historic Rally Championship heads to the Historic Acropolis Rally for its season-ending finale on November 3-5, where a full 50 cars will be present to take the start ramp in one of the most prestigious gravel events.
After eight rounds of intense competition across the whole of Europe so far in 2023, the final challenge for the championship crews is a tough three-day event on Greek gravel following a ceremonial start at the Acropolis itself. There will be plenty of action as the crews battle for one of the most coveted events on the international motorsport calendar, as well as the final act in the some of the overall category podium positions among the season-long points for the FIA’s flagship historic rally series.
All of the main categories in the series have now been decided following the recent Sanremo Historic Rally. In Category 1, Ernie and Karen Graham had already taken the champion’s trophy in their Ford Escort Mk1 Twincam. A series of maximum points hauls earlier in the season gave the UK husband and wife team an unassailable lead. Graham will instead be competing in his Category 4 Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800 in Greece, following recent asphalt outings in a BMW M3 E30.
In Category 2, Norwegian veterans Valter Jensen and Erik Pedersen celebrated their 15th appearance on the Italian round by crowning their campaign with the championship title. Their Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800 taking yet another category victory in the process after a year of impressive performances.
In Category 3, Austrian duo Karl Wagner/Gerda Zauner overcame an eventful season to claim maximum points in Italy. In doing so, the multiple FIA Historic champions added yet another winners’ trophy to their rallying cabinet.
In Category 4, Italian legend Luigi ‘Lucky’ Battistoli took the championship title home alongside legendary co-driver Fabrizia Pons. Their Lancia Delta Integrale has been locked in a season-long battle with Hungarian star Tibor Erdi Jr and co-driver Istvan Kerek.
A mechanical retirement in Italy meant that Tibors’s Ford Sapphire Cosworth 4x4 team had to settle for a hard fought runners up trophy in the championship. The trophy haul for Lucky didn’t end there, however.
As part of Team Bassano, ‘Lucky’/Pons and Paolo Pasutti/Giovanni Battista Campeis have been two of the most consistent points scorers all year long. Those consistent large points hauls meant that the pair won the FIA EHRC Teams’ Trophy, just ahead of the UK’s Team Flexifly, led by Ernie Graham and Tom Coughtrie.
As attention now turns to the final round in Athens, there are still many battles to resolve in the championship. First home in EHRC on the recent Rally Sanremo Historic were Northern Irish crew Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell. The UK team will bring their Ford Escort Mk2 RS1800 to Greece for some gravel mileage ahead of an assault on the Roger Albert Clark Rally in the UK later this November.
McCormack will lead the EHRC field away in Athens, ahead of Porsche ace Wagner, the Graham’s and series newcomer Alexandros Christodoulou in his Martini Racing Lancia 037 Rallye.
Category 3, for cars from 1976 to 1981 is perhaps the area of most interest for EHRC battles to be resolved in Greece. Whilst Wagner/Zauner are already crowned as deserved victors, the battle behind them is a three way one for the final podium positions.
Scottish driver Tom Coughtrie has been a consistent points scorer all season long and is one of the few competitors to have competed on every round of the series this year in his debut season in EHRC. Battling the Ayrshire based driver for the final podium places are the French drivers Philippe Mermet and Eric Guignard.
After a late withdrawal from Mermet, Guignard brings his wonderful Renault 5 Turbo Cevennes to the gravel of Greece, his first foray onto loose surfaces in EHRC this year. Frequent high points scoring finishes in Category 3 have given both drivers the chance of 2nd and 3rd places in the championship. Their co-drivers Gerard Clerton (Mermet) and Didier Meffre (Guignard) are equally locked into a close battle for podium places, along with Swiss co-driver Sebastien Moulin, who misses the Greek round and cannot improve his score.
Joining the battle in Greece will be the German husband and wife team of Siegfried and Renate Mayr. After demolishing a wall in Asturias back in May, their Volvo 240 underwent major surgery to repair it, with the team missing several rounds of the series. After a strong returning Category 3 win at Lahti Historic Rally in August, the pair will look to be strong performers again on the gravel roads of Greece.
In Category 2 for cars between 1970 and 1975, it’s all eyes on Italian aces Pasutti/Campeis. 2nd spot in the championship is currently occupied by the rapid Czech pairing of Stanislav Budil and Petr Vejvoda. After a great run in Italy, Budil brought his season to a close in Sanremo in his BMW 2002ti. With a total point score of 154, he cannot be lower than 3rd on the championship podium.
However, just 6 points behind Budil going into Greece are Pasutti/Campeis. The Italians had a difficult rally in Sanremo blighted by mechanical issues – but a strong finish on the final gravel round could see them leapfrog the Czech BMW team into 2nd in the championship. Can the vastly experienced Italian duo bring their Porsche to the finish on Sunday afternoon and take the trophies?
Category 1, for cars built up to 1969 has seen battles between Teuvo Hamalainen, Ernie Graham, Antonio Parisi and Oldrich Kovarik Senior in 2023, with points shared regularly across all drivers during the season.
Czech driver Kovarik is normally co-driven by his son, Oldrich Junior and, for Acropolis, both father and son will drive on the rally in Skoda’s from two different eras. Senior drives his 1969 Skoda Octavia Super in Category 1, whilst Junior will pilot his rapid 1989 Skoda Motorsport Favorit 136 in Category 4. Always a hard charger, Kovarik ‘Junior’ will be one of the drivers to watch in Greece.
The Greek classic brings the curtain down on an action-packed season for the FIA European Historic Rally Championship, with 50 entries in the FIA Historic section of the rally. With nearly 60 registered crews in 2023 for EHRC, the championship has attracted a hugely diverse range of historic rally cars and competitors at each round, offering fantastic competition from Spain to Finland, Hungary to Switzerland, Italy to Czech Republic, and Austria to Greece.
The final podium spots will all be decided by Sunday 5th November, and it’s straight to the series prize giving in Elefsina. A European City of Culture, the location near Athens will host both the event and the FIA European Historic Rally Championship prize giving on the Sunday evening, crowning a fantastic action-packed season.
Top 10 seeded EHRC Entries for Historic Acropolis Rally:
1. Martin McCormack/Barney Mitchell/Ford Escort RS1800
2. Karl Wagner/Gerda Zauner/Porsche 911 SC
3. Alexandros Christodoulou/Athanasios Samaras/Lancia 037 Rallye
4. Ernie Graham/Karen Graham/Ford Escort RS
5. Paolo Pasutti/Giovanni Battista Campeis/Porsche 911 RS
6. Eric Guignard/Didier Meffre/Renault 5 Turbo
7. Siegfried Mayr/Renate Mayr/Volvo 240
8. Oldrich Kovarik Jnr/Marek Kapic/ Skoda Favorit 136L
9. Tom Coughtrie/Alex Lee/Ford Escort RS1800
10 Oldrich Kovarik Snr/Petre Dufek/Skoda Octavia Super