Craig Breen has become the third different winner in as many rounds of this year's FIA European Rally Championship with an emotional maiden victory in the legendary Acropolis Rally with co-driver Scott Martin.
"It's been the perfect weekend," said Breen. "We showed a lot of speed on the Tarmac yesterday and everything worked just as well on gravel today so hats off to the team and Peugeot Sport for all their hard work."
The result also marked a debut ERC win for Peugeot's all-new 208T16 and follows Kajetan Kajetanowicz's triumph in Poland last year when he scored the first victory by an R5 car in the championship.
Breen's performance also earned him the prestigious Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy, and he marked his success by paying tribute to his best friend and former co-driver Gareth Roberts who lost his life in a rally crash in 2012, as well as his racing hero the late Frank Meagher, who was the last Irishman to win a round of the European championship.
"Frank Meagher was my absolute idol," said Breen. "I remember Gareth and me asking ourselves the day before the accident how long it would take until we could be winning one of these events. A couple of years later and it's an amazing feeling and thanks to Scott, he's done a fantastic job."
Breen started Sunday's gravel-based final leg leading by 14.7s and remained in control up front as Bryan Bouffier and Xavier Panseri (Citroen DS3 RRC) fought a dramatic battle with Kajetanowicz and Jarek Baran (M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5) battle for second place, which Bouffier eventually won after Kajetanowicz finally settled for third.
"My target, as usually, is to win and I did quite a lot of mistakes this weekend so I'm a little disappointed," said Bouffier. "But we only discovered the car on Tarmac in shakedown and on gravel this morning so we have to be happy with this result. Now we will try to beat Craig on the next round in Ireland."
For Kajetanowicz, the result maintained his strong start to the season for the LOTOS Rally Team. "It was an incredible rally for us and we are very happy to be on the podium," he said.
Erstwhile ERC title-leader Esapekka Lappi finished fourth for SKODA Motorsport with Bruno Magalhaes overcoming a scare when his Pirelli-shod Peugeot 207 Super 2000 suffered a broken cross member on Sunday's third stage to take fifth on his first international rally in two years. While Lappi was unable to emulate the spectacular performance that carried him to victory on the last ERC round he remains in the thick of the title fight, four points behind Breen.
Emerging Russian star Vasily Gryazin had to settle for sixth after he stopped to change a left-rear puncture on Sunday's second stage, and Jaroslav Orsak overcame suspension and steering dramas to take seventh with Jean-Michel Raoux securing his first points of the season in eighth.
Jaromir Tarabus bagged his first stage win of 2014 with the fastest time through the all-asphalt Super Special Korinthos, but his use of Tarmac tyres infringed the rules and he was handed a three-minute time penalty that left him in ninth place at the finish.
Robert Consani soldiered on following myriad technical problems to complete the top 10 and score the final leg bonus point ahead of Italian ERC newcomer Giacomo Costenaro and Czech ERC stalwart Antonin Tlustak.
The young Russian driver Evgeny Sukhovenko won the ERC 2WD category, while Vitaliy Pushkar secured first place in the ERC Production Car Cup when long-term Tibor Erdi retired on the road section heading to the finish. Ekaterina Stratieva took maximum ERC Ladies' Trophy points for the first time this season.
Sepp Wiegand restarted on day two after retiring his SKODA AUTO Deutschland Fabia with broken suspension on Saturday afternoon, and after posting several strong stage times the young German bagged three leg bonus points. However there was no restart for Kevin Abbring after the Dutchman retired from the lead on stage five with a high water temperature on his 208T16.
Final Top Ten
(after 13 stages, 238.84 kilometres)
1. Craig Breen
(GBR) Peugeot 208T16 2h 21m 20.2s
2. Bryan Bouffier
(FRA) Citroen DS3 RRC + 8.1s
3. Kajetan Kajetanowicz
(POL) Ford Fiesta R5 + 42.1s
4. Esapekka Lappi
(FIN) SKODA Fabia S2000 + 1m 33.0s
5. Bruno Magalhaes
(PRT) Peugeot 207 S2000 + 4m 40.0s
6. Vasily Gryazin
(LVA) Ford Fiesta S2000 + 6m 11.8s
7. Jaroslav Orsak
(CZE) SKODA Fabia S2000 + 7m 51.2s
8. Jean-Michel Raoux
(FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 + 9m 08.6s
9. Jaromir Tarabus
(CZE) SKODA Fabia S2000 + 9m 18.4s
10. Robert Consani
(FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 + 9m 52.9s
FIA ERC Production Car Cup:
Vitaliy Pushkar (UKR)/Ivan Mishyn (UKR) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X R4
FIA ERC 2WD Championship:
Evgeny Sukhovenko (RUS)/Sergei Larens (RUS) Renault Clio R3
ERC Ladies' Trophy:
Ekaterina Stratieva (BGR) Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy:
Craig Breen (IRL)