Portugal set for WRC action with Vodafone Rally de Portugal

Portugal set for WRC action with Vodafone Rally de Portugal

The FIA World Rally Championship is back on gravel from May 9-12 with Vodafone Rally de Portugal kicking off a run of seven loose-surface events in succession.

 

A founding round of the WRC in 1973, Rally de Portugal provides a tough test for crews but a huge attraction for the fans who flock to the stages close to the city of Porto in their thousands.

 

This year’s rally counts as round five of the 13-event WRC season and coincides with the Beyond Rally Forum, hosted jointly by WRC Promoter, the FIA and Automóvel Club de Portugal on May 9 and featuring several FIA representatives among the speakers, including Sustainability and D&I Director Sara Mariani, Women in Motorsport Commission President Burcu Çetinkaya, Head of Sustainability Barbara Silva and Secretary General for Automobile Mobility and Tourism Jacob Bangsgaard. At this occasion, WRC Promoter will officially launch its Sustainability Roadbook, which sets out how the rallying community is working to ensure the sport thrives sustainably for generations to come and leaves a positive legacy beyond the sporting sphere.

 

Rally de Portugal will also serve as an opportunity for various WRC stakeholders to meet and progress plans to further increase the promotion of the championship, with FIA Chief Commercial Officer Craig Edmonson and Head of Sports Communications Tom Wood joining the discussions in person in Porto

 

And it’s a championship that’s as wide open as it’s finely balanced with four different winners from the opening four rounds and six points separating the top two in the provisional order, Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans.

 

Both are former winners of the event, which is characterised by stages that vary from soft and sandy to rutted and rocky. This of particular significance for car and tyre preservation when stages are run for a second time.  

 

All RC1, RC2 and RC3 cars competing in the WRC use tyres from official supplier Pirelli. For Rally1 cars the maximum number of tyres is 28, including those used in shakedown. Pirelli provides its soft-compound Scorpion KX WRC SB tyre as the first choice for Rally1 crews with the hard-compound Scorpion KX WRC HB the option tyre.

 

THE ROUTE IN SHORT

A timed distance of 337.04 kilometres split over 22 stages is in store on Rally de Portugal. Although the route is similar to 2023, changes have been made. They include the all-asphalt Figueira da Foz superspecial stage moving from Friday to Thursday evening, no midday service on Friday, Mortágua becoming a double-use stage and Góis getting a new start section.In addition, Montim is back, Paredes switches from Sunday to Saturday and the modified Cabeceiras de Basto stage is now used twice on Sunday’s deciding leg.

 

The central city of Coimbra hosts the ceremonial start on Thursday evening with Friday’s four double use stages covering 129.84 kilometres and split by a Tyre Fitting Zone in Aragnil. As well as four repeated stages, including the 37.24-kilomete Amarante test, Saturday’s 145.02-kilometre timed itinerary features a superspecial at the Lousada rallycross track.

 

The famous Fafe stage, and its iconic Pedra Sentada jump, hosts the Wolf Power Stage when it’s repeated from 12:15 local time as part of a 62.18-kilometre route.
 

RALLY DE PORTUGAL DATA

Stage distance:    337.04 km
Total distance:     1353.08 km
Number of stages:     22

 

RALLY1 CONTENDERS

Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team: Thierry Neuville, the provisional championship leader after four rounds, heads Hyundai’s bid for what would be his and the team’s second Rally de Portugal victory. Ott Tänak, another former Portugal winner, and team stalwart Dani Sordo, complete the line-up.

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team: Young talents Adrien Fourmaux and Grégoire Munster bring plenty of potential to the British outfit.

Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT: Having won the last two rounds of the WRC and the last four editions of Rally de Portugal, Toyota enters its WRC title-winning duo of Sébastien Ogier and Kalle Rovanperä on the same event for the first time in 2024. Elfyn Evans and Takamoto Katsuta add extra potency to Toyota’s challenge.
 

SUPPORTING CATEGORIES

Big on quality and quantity, the 39-car WRC2 entry demonstrates the popularity of the FIA’s Rally2-based category.

The championship’s current top three, Yohan Rossel ( DG Sport Competition Citroën), Oliver Solberg (Škoda) and Nikolay Gryazin (DG Sport Competition Citroën), are covered by three points and will all be in action in Portugal.

Gus Greensmith (Toksport WRT Škoda) was the leading WRC2 finisher on Safari Rally Kenya and took the WRC2 win in Portugal last season.

Pierre-Louis Loubet (Škoda) and Teemu Suninen (Hyundai) make their first starts of the WRC2 season driving with Škoda and Hyundai power respectively after stepping back from Rally1 level, with Sami Pajari aiming to record the first WRC2 victory for the Toyota GR Yaris Rally2.

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy's William Creighton (Ford Fiesta Mk II) is the FIA Junior WRC champion from 2023, while Kris Meeke (Hyundai i20 N) – a five-time WRC event winner, has taken three victories in this year’s Portuguese championship, of which Rally de Portugal is the fourth event of the season.

Portuguese Paulo Neto and Czech Jan Černý are the leading seeds in the FIA WRC Masters’ Cup and FIA WRC3 respectively.
 


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