The Acropolis Rally 2011 kicked off on Thursday, with a total of 42 crews participating in what is said to be the toughest race of the World Racing Championship (WRC).
The Acropolis Rally, dubbed the "Rally of the Gods", is the seventh round of the 13-round 2011 World Rally Championship, and this year features 18 Special Stages (SS) and a Power Stage, which will be shown live on television.
According to the WRC, the Acropolis Rally is one of the most iconic events in the sport, and winning it earns significant kudos.
The ceremonial start took place beneath the historic Acropolis site at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, and will be shown live on state television ET-1, while Friday's stages are based around Kamena Vourla. A total of 8 Greek crews will be participating in the Rally Acropolis, which winds up on Sunday in Loutraki, near Corinth.
A little earlier, from 6:45-7:15 p.m., the crews will be on hand, across from the starting ramp, to sign autographs.
Drivers have already had two days of "reconnaissance" on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Many celebrated rally drivers have won the Acropolis Rally, including Walter Rohrl, Bjorn Waldegard, Ari Vatanen, Stig Blomqvist, Juha Kankkunen, Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae.
The WRC 2011 opened with the Sweden rally in February, followed by Mexico and Portugal in March, Jordan in April, and Italy and Argentina in May.
The next stages after Greece will be Finland (July 28-30), Germany (August 18-21), Australia (September 8-11), France (September 29 to October 2), Spain (October 20-23), and Wales (November 10-13).
The FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) pits cars and drivers in a series of two, three or four-day events though some of the toughest, and most varied, conditions on the planet.
The roads on this epic motorsport adventure range from the ice and snow of Scandinavia to the stifling heat of Jordan - over surfaces including packed ice, smooth asphalt and boulder-strewn rocky tracks.
Unsurprisingly, the series is widely regarded as the most challenging motorsport competition in the world.
The competition itself is deceptively simple. Each rally is split into a number (typically between 15 and 25) of 'special stages' which are run on closed roads. Drivers tackle these stages one car at a time in an effort to complete them in the shortest time. Competitors drive to and from each special stage on normal roads, observing normal traffic regulations. During the special stages, a co-driver, or navigator, reads pace notes to alert the driver to the conditions on the road ahead.
The WRC is regulated and controlled by the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body for worldwide motorsport. Most WRC rallies follow the same basic itinerary: two days of reconnaissance on Tuesday and Wednesday, to enable the driver and co-driver to check the route, and ‘shakedown’ - in effect practice - on Thursday, followed by the competition itself on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Some events also include ‘Super Special’ stages - short and compact sprint tests which often feature two cars racing head-to-head.