Scotland's latest young rally star, John MacCrone makes his 2012 World Rally Championship (WRC) debut this weekend on Rally Portugal.
Throughout the year, the 22-year-old from the Isle of Mull will tackle the six rounds of the championship which make up the WRC Academy, the official feeder series to the WRC.
"This is a massive challenge," MacCrone, partnered by Glasgow co-driver Stuart Loudon in the Rally Team Scotland car, admitted yesterday (Wed).
The pair have already shown their potential by finishing top Scot in last year's RallyScotland, the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Rally Championship,
"But it's also a major step towards achieving my ultimate goal, which is to compete full-time in the WRC," MacCrone, backed by Scots confectionery firm Tunnocks, and Pallet Force, continued.
"Not only are all six events difficult, but there are a number of guys coming back to do it for a second year, so it's going to be tough."
The one-make feeder series to the WRC sees the world's best young drivers compete in identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared and maintained by M-Sport.
The winner receives the opportunity to contest all rounds of the 2013 WRC in a Fiesta R2. Alternatively, they can opt to compete in five rounds, stepping up to a Fiesta S2000.
MacCrone travelled to Lisbon for the ceremonial start, before tackling the opening four timed stages on the drive back south to the Algarve.
After another six stages tomorrow (Fri), MacCrone will contest the final three stages on Saturday morning before the rally finishes back at Faro.