The final countdown for the Acropolis Rally, 10th round of the World Rally Championship, scheduled for 8-11 September, has begun.
This year’s event, marks the return of Manos and Kostas Stefanis to action, behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 N Rally2, in which they will be part of WRC 2 classification as well.
Preparation and technical support of the car during the event, will be provided by Italian team GB Motors.
The entry of Manos and Kostas Stefanis at the Acropolis Rally, is sponsored by Hyundai Hellas and Coral S.A. – Shell Licensee.
A few days before the arrival of the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 in Greece, where one day of Pre Event Testing will be held, Manos and Kostas Stefanis took the opportunity for a “final charge”, in view of the Acropolis Rally.
The holiday season provided the perfect occasion for them to answer a different “Q&A”, combining the seriousness required with a relaxed mood, which is also essential, especially during this period of year.
Where are you now?
Manos: I am at Patmos, my favorite Greek Island.
Kostas: I am sitting with my granddaughter Fylianna (Manos’ daughter), catching cicadas, listening them singing and letting them fly back to nature again.
What are you drinking whilst answering these questions?
Manos: Sparkling water with lots of ice and a slice of lime.
Kostas: Frozen water.
How do you feel ahead of the Acropolis Rally?
Manos: I’m very happy, as we have the opportunity to participate in our most renowned rally.
Kostas: I look forward to being at the start line of another Acropolis Rally, in its new form, but with its classic difficulties. Its name says everything: Acropolis Rally!
What is your biggest anxiety ahead of the rally?
Manos: To have as smooth a rally as possible by avoiding big trouble, as the Acropolis Rally has always been a huge challenge for both the crews and the cars.
Kostas: I have no anxiety at all and just wish us to stay out of trouble during the event.
After seeing the 70 entries of the Acropolis Rally, 35 of which are part of WRC 2 classification as well, what are your targets and what is your opinion on the level of competition?
Manos: Our main target will be to do all the rally kilometers, so as to have the highest possible ranking among Greek crews. The level of competition will definitely be really high with so many entrants, while once again the Acropolis Rally is accompanied by many notable Greek crews.
Kostas: There are two levels of competition: This of the professionals and that of the more amateur Greek and foreign crews.
Amongst the professionals, competition is at a very high level and of course, we don’t even think to look them in the eye in terms of special stage times. It would be utopia, but it would also be nonsense.
Amongst the more amateurs, where our entry belongs, of course we have respect for our competitors, as we also have 15 years of absence from action, apart from a Rally Sprint participation in 2015. Our target will be to be as fast as possible without causing problems to the Hyundai i20 N Rally2, whilst as rally kilometers go by and Manos gets himself at home with the car, try to pick up our pace.
Manos, which memory from Kostas’ participations at the Acropolis Rally comes to your mind?
Manos: The finish ceremonies at Zappeion during early ’90s! They were very emotional and as I was a little kid back then, they have indelibly been engraved in my memory.
Which is your favorite special stage from this year’s Acropolis Rally?
Manos: I’d say that Tarzan has always been my favorite special stage.
Kostas: Tarzan and Bauxites stand out in my heart.
Have you got a story to share with us, including you favorite special stage?
Manos: Tarzan stage is located only a few kilometers from Tsouka village, where my grandfather comes from, so it has always been related to my routes, in or outside of a rally car.
Kostas: It must have been one of the last times that “Jigger” and I ran the trio of special routes on the way back to Athens: Rachoula, Neraida, Tarzan.
Due to the tight itinerary and the lack of service at late ’80s-early 90’s, we were scheduled to be served by the official Lancia Martini team outside Tarzan’s house, for tyre change and refueling. Upon arrival, the Lancia mechanics set up jacks at the front and rear, lifting the car into the air, while two other people on the right and left, held the car steady to prevent it from falling off the jacks.
At the same time, we surprisingly found out that on Jigger’s side, the car was being held by the window box from Cesare Fiorio, Abarth’s Team Manager or “Capo di tutti capi”, as the Italians called him.
Apart from being a surprise, this was a huge honor for us and instantly I heard Jigger saying to me through the helmet intercom, as there was no time for us to take them off: “Where is a photographer to have this historic moment in my photo album!”.
Close your eyes and dream. As soon as you open your eyes, in which special stage and in which car, are you?
Manos: I’m at the Flying Finish of Eleftherohori 2 (Power Stage) in the Hyundai i20 N Rally2…
Kostas: I’m back at the 80s. It’s end of May at Mountainous Nafpaktia. We are in Special Stage Elatovrisi under heavy rain, but the cabin temperature of the Quattro is between 60-65 degrees Celsius. “Jigger” is working the left foot on the brake, the turbo is constantly running at full throttle and the car is literally launching from corner to corner.
Who is your favorite rally driver?
Manos: Juha Kankkunen and “Jigger”
Kostas: Markku Alen