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Portugal - 11-14 Apr 13

Posted: April 15, 2016 10:18 AM - 5957 Hits

Round 4 - 2013 World Rally Championship

NOVIKOV AND AL-ATTIYAH LEAD THE WAY FOR QATAR M-SPORT

Posted: April 13, 2016 7:42 AM

On an eventful final day at the 2013 Vodafone Rally de Portugal, Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team's Evgeny Novikov and Qatar World Rally Team's Nasser Al-Attiyah led the way for the squad as they brought their Ford Fiesta RS WRCs home in fourth and fifth places respectively.

Novikov ended the event in a respectable fourth place. Despite being unable to channel his customary speed, the Muscovite was undeterred by the difficult conditions. The youngster and co-driver Ilka Minor found themselves tantalisingly close to a podium finish when Jari-Matti Latvala's Volkswagen Polo R WRC encountered problems early in the day. Alas it was not to be, and although narrowly missing out on third place, the Russian recorded his best result of the year which propels him from 17th to 10th in the FIA World Rally Championship's drivers' standings.

Elsewhere in the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team, Mads ?stberg was showcasing some impressive pace. Posting the fastest time on three of today's four special stages, the Norwegian and his Swedish co-driver, Jonas Andersson, displayed speed which could have so easily challenged for victory were it not for their mistake on Friday morning.

Finishing eighth overall, ?stberg also claimed an additional two points in the all-important Power Stage as he dismissed the disadvantage of running fourth on the road by setting the second quickest time through the 52.30 kilometre test.

Continuing their strong performance this season, Al-Attiyah and co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini secured a second successive top-five finish. Continually improving his pace throughout the weekend, the Qatari was once again at one with his Fiesta RS WRC on only his second outing with the team.

Running first on the road, Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul were disadvantaged by the task of clearing the road for the crews behind. Continually building their experience, the pairing used the seat time wisely ? perfecting their pacenotes and building their experience ahead of next month's Rally Argentina.

Elsewhere however there was heartache for Dennis Kuipers and co-driver Robin Buysmans who were impressing on their return to the championship. Unfortunately for the Dutchman ? who was holding a strong seventh place overall ? his fine performance was to go unrewarded as an electrical issue halted his charge before the final stage.

In WRC 2, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt were setting the stages alight. Claiming all of the day's four stage wins, the British pairing proved that they have the pace to challenge for the top results. Indeed the Welshman's performance today even saw him outshine some of the WRC competitors and means that he will be a real contender when he returns to the series later this year.

Evgeny Novikov (4th) said:
"Fourth place is a very good result for us, but still I was not so happy with the times. It was a difficult weekend for us. I was pushing on the stages but for some reason the times just weren't where they needed to be.

"This [fourth place] is definitely the maximum I could have achieved this weekend, so I am happy with that. Now we just need to make sure we work hard and come back stronger in Argentina."

Nasser Al-Attiyah (5th) said:
"This is a fantastic result for us. It was not an easy rally but I think we performed really well and, as always, the team did a great job with the car. Our times are continually improving. This car is totally new for me this year and we are still learning, so to see the times improve like this is really good."

Mads ?stberg (8th) said:
"If you consider the way we came back from our mistake on Friday, we have had a very good rally. We have been very happy with our performance and, considering our road position these past two days, I think we have done a very good job.

"We had good pace and the car has been working really well this weekend. We know for the future that it is possible to win rallies, and I am quite sure that it will come soon."

Thierry Neuville (18th) said:
"This was a very disappointing rally for us but I can only be angry with myself. My performance was not where it should have been this weekend so I cannot be happy. We can only be happy with the performance of the car, the team and the mechanics, who have done another great job. We're four rallies into the season now and there have been no problems with the car so this is something important at least.

"Driver mistakes can happen, but I need to make sure that they don't happen so often! Now I just need to put this weekend to the back of my mind and look ahead to Argentina."

Elfyn Evans (8th in WRC 2) said:
"This weekend was all very unknown with a lot to learn. We got to grips with the car reasonably quickly and we were building our speed. Unfortunately we hit trouble on Saturday which was disappointing, but it couldn't be helped. Restarting today we just picked up where we left off on Friday. We had a good day with no problems and just got more and more comfortable as the day went on.

"We've gained some great experience this weekend, and I think we'll be well placed for the next event. I am very much looking forward to getting back and really challenging for the top results."

Dennis Kuipers (DNF) said:
"It's hugely disappointing to not have finished today because we were having a really good run and holding what would have been a fantastic result for us. I've really enjoyed being back in the WRC this weekend, and hopefully we can be back again soon."

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
"It's not been the best of weekends for the team, but there are still a lot of positives to take forward. Evgeny [Novikov] and Nasser [Al-Attiyah] put in a great performances and Mads' [?stberg] pace in particular proves that the team is capable of winning rallies.

"Elfyn [Evans] too has had a good weekend. He's not put a foot wrong all rally and it's just a shame that he hit problems on Saturday as a podium finish on his debut with the team [in WRC 2] was well within reach."

A VERY POSITIVE FIRST OUTING ON GRAVEL FOR ROBERT KUBICA

Posted: April 13, 2016 7:41 AM

Competing in a gravel rally for the first time, not to mention a round of the World Championship, Robert Kubica and Maciek Baran experienced the full range of feelings during the weekend. They ultimately came away pleased to have shown some real potential on the WRC's main surface. The Citroen DS3 RRC crew also scored their first points in the WRC2 standings.

After taking part in the Fafe Rally Sprint, Robert Kubica and his co-driver Maciek Baran discovered an extremely technical and demanding course during recce, full of blind jumps and corners.

Once the rally itself got underway, the Polish driver first had to learn how to decipher these many difficulties: "Without experience, it is difficult to judge how a crest is going to affect the handling of the car at full speed from what you see in recce. There are so many jumps here that you can't take it easy without losing two or three seconds per kilometre! I noticed a big improvement on the second runs and I was surprised to set such good times. Unfortunately, the two punctures we picked up on Friday prevented us from completing the leg."

After rejoining under Rally2 rules on Saturday, Robert then had to deal with some technical problems, which prevented him from using the semi-automatic shift on the gearbox. The final day went more according to plan, enabling the Krakow driver to rack up the miles, particularly completing two runs on the 52km-long Almodovar stage.

Robert Kubica ended the rally in sixth place in the WRC2, which meant he collected his first points in the category. "The last ten days spent in Portugal have been a very useful learning experience," he concluded. "Overall, it has been pretty positive, although we have been a bit unlucky at times. For my first gravel rally, I think I have shown good pace on the stages where I didn't have any problems. I have found a lot of answers to the questions I had a few days ago. If we were to rerun the rally in a few weeks time, I'd obviously be better equipped. So that augurs well for the rest of the season."

With this experience under his belt, Robert is nonetheless aware that he'll need to keep learning in his next few rallies:
"The most important thing for me is to manage to correlate what I see in recce with what happens in the race. The course this weekend was very technically demanding, so that will be useful for the coming rallies. But I am already aware that none of the rallies will be easy?"

After this first outing in the WRC2, Robert may opt to enter the next round of the European Rally Championship: We are going to look at taking part in the Rallye A?ores, which is also on gravel. My next WRC2 event will very probably be the Acropolis Rally."

DMACK Completes Toughest Tyre Test In Portugal

Posted: April 13, 2016 7:40 AM

DMACK has overcome one of the toughest tyre challenges in the FIA World Rally Championship this weekend, continuing its run of top-ten overall results, finishing runner-up in the WRC2 support category and taking a dominant victory in the WRC2 Production Cup.

It's tyres demonstrated a unique competitive flexibility, with drivers in WRC, S2000 and production cars using them to excellent effect on this fourth round of the world championship in Portugal.

Rally de Portugal is renowned for its abrasive bedrock surfaces and this year, following a reduction in permitted quantities, each tyre was forced to cover 50% more competitive distance than in 2012.

The stages in Portugal are a mix of twisty gravel tracks and wide roads where exposed bedrock punishes tyres and tyre wear can be increased by up to 40%. Even before the rally started DMACK had indicated its concerns around the high competitive distances delivered by each loop of stages and highlighted that drivers and engineers would need to manage their tyre allocation during the three-day rally.

The Algarve-based event demanded a mix of performance, durability and puncture resistance, and DMACK managed to deliver this blend in the form of its DMG+2 gravel tyre. Crews had a maximum of 24 tyres, using both the nominated H3 compound and the softer S3 alternative compound, on the 386km of competitive distance.

The rally was a challenge right from the opening day. Competitors were faced with 14 hours of rally action with no service or tyre change opportunities. Czech Martin Prokop started on a high after beating a host of works drivers to third place on the Fafe rally sprint last weekend. But, after climbing into sixth place overall by SS7 Vascao, his charge was halted on the second pass of the 25km test when a broken rear drive-shaft on his Fiesta RS WRC dropped him back to tenth. He recovered well to finish seventh and continued DMACK's impressive string of top-ten WRC finishes.

Lotos Team WRC driver Michal Kosciuszko, who had been safely in seventh place, also succumbed to mechanical problems on SS10 when his MINI unexpectedly ground to a halt. However, worse was to follow for the Pole when he retired with a broken gearbox on the very last stage of the rally today.

However DMACK driver Robert Barrable was also celebrating after finishing runner-up in the WRC2 support category for four-wheel-drive cars on his world rally debut. A total of 19 crews started the popular series and Barrable's super second in his CA1 Sport Fiesta S2000 was backed up by a fantastic fourth from Nicolas Fuchs also on DMACK tyres.

Peruvian Fuchs dominated the WRC2 Production Cup, taking an important victory which now moves him into the lead of the championship.

Rally de Portugal was based at the Algarve Stadium in Faro and took crews to Lisbon for a spectacular street stage on Friday evening. Its biggest challenge was the mammoth 52km Almodovar test which was completed twice as part of today's final action.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
"We were pretty apprehensive before this event as our experience of Rally de Portugal indicated the reduced allocation of tyres this year would make it extremely difficult. The abrasive conditions really punish tyres but we've been working hard on development and the results here are encouraging. DMACK tyres are designed to be used by all competitors and the results from this event, using WRC, S2000 and production cars, really demonstrate how we're achieving that."

ANOTHER PODIUM FINISH FOR MIKKO HIRVONEN

Posted: April 13, 2016 7:39 AM

Consistent throughout the final leg of Rally de Portugal, Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen finished as runners-up at the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio scored two additional points for the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in the manufacturers' standings.

Although there were clear gaps between the leading drivers, no-one was about to take the final leg of Rally de Portugal lightly. The day's schedule still included two loops comprised of the Silves (21.52km) and Almodovar (52.30km) stages. And, as the 2013 regulations restrict the quotas of tyres allocated to each car, the crews had to manage their tyres as effectively as they could so as to make it to the end of the rally in the best possible conditions.

Third overall on Saturday evening, Mikko Hirvonen set off this morning aiming to hold onto his position. However, looking at the split times on Silves 1 (SS12), the Finn noted that Ogier and Latvala were losing quite a lot of time. "I even wondered if there was something wrong with the timing system," exclaimed the Finn, who moved up into second place after the stage. "This rally is very hard on the cars and my DS3 WRC has been perfect in that respect. I am going to keep driving without taking any risks, so that I finish in this position. I'm not particularly worried about the tyres because I have managed my quota pretty well since the start of the rally."

Indeed, there were no mishaps in the closing stages for the Finn, who finished as runner-up once again. "Second place is always a good result, but I must say that I hoped to be a bit quicker here," admitted the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT driver. "We have made good progress since Mexico, but we needed a bit more time on the road to optimise the suspension settings and perhaps that's what prevented me from being on the pace on Friday morning. We need to keep working, especially to improve the performance in the fastest sections."

After rejoining under Rally2 rules, Dani Sordo's sole aim was to make it to the end of the rally and claim a couple of extra points towards the Manufacturers' World Championship. The Spaniard finished ninth among the works drivers. "Most of all, I'll take heart from how I started the rally, because the feeling I had in the car was better than ever before", he explained. "The other thing I learned was that you really need to perform well in qualifying to give yourself the best possible chance of victory. I'll head for Argentina even more motivated than before and determined to show everyone what I can do."

Khalid Al Qassimi completed an error-free rally to finish in the points, and he too felt hopeful for the future. "I'm happy to have made it to the end of this rally. But above all, I'm pleased to have made progress with my driving style on the last few stages," stated the driver of the Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT's DS3 WRC. "As the tyres were tending to heat up, I eased off a little and realised that this approach was a lot more effective. This is another step forward on my learning curve."

The final word went to Yves Matton, Citroen Racing Team Principal, who congratulated the work done by the team since Rally Mexico: "We have not only shown that our car is still the most reliable in the field, but we have also managed to improve its performance level whilst adapting it to the style of our drivers. We're pleased about this and it means that we can feel look forward to the rest of the season in a positive frame of mind."

Rally Portugal: Win number three for Volkswagen and Ogier

Posted: April 13, 2016 7:38 AM

First, third and sixth on the Algarve: Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (F/F) won the Rally Portugal ahead of Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen) and their Volkswagen team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN). Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) rounded off a very good team performance for Volkswagen: making their competitive debut in the Polo R WRC, the duo finished sixth. Volkswagen also moved to the top of the Manufacturers' Championship after the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Sebastien Ogier extended his lead in the Drivers' Championship with his third win of the season.

Results

Posted: April 13, 2016 7:26 AM

1 Ogier / Ingrassia VW Polo R WRC 4:07:38.7
2 Hirvonen / Lehtinen Citro?n DS3 WRC +58.2
3 Latvala / Anttila VW Polo R WRC +4:04.5
4 Novikov / Minor Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5:27.7
5 Al-Attiyah / Bernacchini Ford Fiesta RS WRC +7:43.5
6 Mikkelsen / Markkula VW Polo R WRC +9:39.8
7 Prokop / Ernst Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15:04:2
8 ?stberg / Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC +15:43.6
9 Al Qassimi / Martin Citro?n DS3 WRC +15:56.9
10 Lappi / Ferm Skoda Fabia S2000 +16:21.

KUIPERS GETS QATAR M-SPORT CALL UP FOR PORTUGAL

Posted: April 8, 2013 10:22 PM

M-Sport have confirmed that FERM driver, Dennis Kuipers, will make a return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) this week as he joins the Qatar World Rally Team fold for the 2013 Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

Kuipers will take to Juho Hänninen’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC as the Finn – who was due to make a welcome return to the team – is regrettably unable to attend due to personal reasons.

Kuipers is well versed when it comes to Rally de Portugal and M-Sport’s WRC specification Fiesta. Contesting the event last year, he and fellow countryman, Robin Buysmans – who will once again be calling the notes for the Dutchman – recorded one of their best ever results when they took their Fiesta RS WRC to sixth place overall.

Notably, Kuipers also holds the record for the best ever performance by a Dutch driver at rallying’s highest level – piloting a similar Fiesta RS WRC to fifth place at the 2011 Rallye de France - Alsace.

M-Sport send their wishes to Juho and his family, but look forward to working with Dennis and Robin once again.

Dennis Kuipers said:
“Firstly I want to send my best wishes to Juho [Hänninen] and his family and I am sure the team will agree that it won’t be quite the same without him and Tomi [Tuominen, Hänninen’s co-driver] in the service park.

“But I also need to say a big thank-you to Malcolm [Wilson] and Nasser [Al-Attiyah] for making it possible for me to compete in Juho’s absence. I really enjoy this event and it holds a lot of good memories for me. I can’t wait to get back to the WRC and I am really looking forward to working with M-Sport once again.”

DMACK Predicts Portugal Tyre Struggle

Posted: April 8, 2013 10:03 PM

DMACK is set to take on one of the toughest challenges in the FIA World Rally Championship next week on an event that’s renowned for being extremely demanding on tyres.

The stages on Rally de Portugal are some of the most abrasive throughout the entire season and can see tyre wear increased by up to 40%. The hard bedrock surfaces punish tyres to the limit and demand high levels of durability from tyre manufacturers.

This year, however, each tyre will be required to cope with 50% more competitive running than in 2012. Last year the stage distance per tyre was 10.86km and this year it’s been increased to 16.11km.

To try and cope with the abrasive conditions, DMACK has nominated the H3 hard compound version of its proven DMG+2 gravel tyre. Developed over the last two seasons in the WRC, the new compound was introduced at Rally Mexico last month and coped well with the rocky roads.

But that’s not the full story. Rally de Portugal really can be a tale of two rallies. Over the last few years the conditions have generally been hot and sunny but in 2012 torrential rain turned normally dusty gravel stages into mudbaths – posing drivers and tyre manufacturers with a completely different challenge.

The worry of tyre wear was thrown out the window as cars struggled to find the grip and traction needed to just stay on the road. And it’s this changeable weather which makes next week’s event a bit of an unknown.

In case of rain DMACK will also have its S3 soft compound at the Algarve Stadium service park. Competitors are limited to a total of 24 tyres across the three-day event but can only use a maximum of 16 soft tyres. Last year crews were permitted a total of 40 tyres and the reduction means tyre management will play a major role next weekend.

On the opening day cars are away from service for 14 hours with no tyre change or repair opportunities during the entire first day’s action.

And it doesn’t get any easier. The Saturday stage loops offer a punishing 79km of competitive action while Sunday sees two passes over the huge 52.3km Almodovar test. Clever management of tyres will be crucial to ensure success and if the conditions are dry and warm then the challenge will be even harder.

DMACK will again supply its world rally car drivers Martin Prokop, in the Jipocar Ford Fiesta RS WRC, and Michal Kosciuszko driving the Motorsport Italia MINI WRC. WRC2 competitors Rashid Al Ketbi, Nicolas Fuchs and Robert Barrable will also be quipped with DMACK for their support category challenge.

Event Details
The event kicks off with an all-new ceremonial start at Villamoura Marina on Thursday evening before a long day on Friday which sees four gravel stages and a trek up to Lisbon for the popular super special through the capital’s streets. Saturday features the most competitive action with two loops of three stages, including a reversed run through Loule, but Sunday offers probably the biggest challenge. Competitors face two passes through the mammoth Almodovar stage with the second pass also hosting the extra points-rewarding Power Stage.

Dick Cormack, DMACK motorsport director, said:
“Considering the length of the stages and the competitive loops, this is going to be an extremely difficult event for tyres and crews. Drivers and engineers will need to manage their tyre allocation and think carefully about which tyres they use when. All tyre manufacturers have struggled with the conditions in Portugal at some point over the years but the reduction in allocation from 40 to 24 tyres is a significant step. Each tyre will be required to do an extra five kilometres this year, an increase of almost 50%, which in our view is way too much. It all depends on the weather, if it’s wet then it may not be such an issue, but either way it’s going to be a very interesting event.”

JWRC - Rallying's young chargers line up in Ford's Fiesta R2 car

Posted: April 8, 2013 9:13 PM

Ford/s Fiesta R2 rally car will provide the platform for the world's best young drivers to showcase their skills when the 2013 FIA Junior WRC Championship begins at Rally de Portugal this week.

Ten young hot-shots from eight different countries will compete in identical Fiesta R2 cars on gravel roads in southern Portugal's Algarve region.

It is the first of six rounds in the Junior WRC series, which supports the FIA World Rally Championship. It provides the first step on the ladder for potential stars of the future to display their talent on the world stage.

Having been the car of choice for the 2012 FIA WRC Academy, the Fiesta R2 was again selected as the designated vehicle when the series took on official Junior WRC status for 2013. All cars will be supplied, prepared and maintained during the six rounds by Ford's long-term rally partner, M-Sport, at premises in Krakow, Poland.

The series comprises gravel events in Portugal, Greece and Finland, asphalt rounds in Germany and France and a mixed-surface rally in Spain to close the championship. Only drivers born on or after 1 January 1986 are eligible.

All 10 contenders have their eyes set on landing the top prize of an M-Sport supported drive in a Ford Fiesta R5 in next season's FIA WRC 2 Championship, the principal feeder series to the WRC itself.

Three drivers - Yeray Lemes (ESP), José Suárez (ESP) and Pontus Tidemand (SWE) - have contested the series in previous years. They will be joined by newcomers Sander Parn (EST), Martin Ko?i (SVK), Andreas Amberg (FIN), Murat Bostanci (TUR), Michael Burri (CHE), Niko Nieminen (FIN) and Marius Aasen (NOR).

Ford Racing's European manager, Gerard Quinn, said he looked forward to another exciting year's competition as the Fiesta R2 provided a springboard for youngsters' careers.

"The series is a breeding ground for future stars and the Fiesta R2 will again provide the perfect means for them to show their abilities in front of the sport's decision-makers and top team managers. The two previous winners of this category have progressed to a level of competition just below the WRC itself."? he said.

"The Fiesta R2 is a fantastic car for those honing their skills. With all 10 drivers competing in identical vehicles, a clear picture will emerge as the season progresses of who has the speed, intelligence and tactical know-how to move up the ranks,"? added Quinn.

Last year's WRC Academy champion, Welshman Elfyn Evans, will launch his prize campaign in Portugal when he pilots a Fiesta RRC in the WRC 2 category as part of the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team.

The Junior WRC covers the first two of Rally de Portugal's three legs. It gets under way with a ceremonial start in Vilamoura on Thursday (11 April) and finishes in Faro on Saturday (13 April) after 11 special stages covering 239.09km.

Volkswagen lines up with three Polo R WRCs for first time

Posted: April 8, 2013 8:38 PM

Fourth rally, fourth first: Volkswagen will line up with three Polo R WRCs for the first time at the Rally Portugal. After a strong debut in the FIA World Rally Championship at January’s Rally Monte Carlo, the Polo R WRC then started its first event on ice and snow at the Rally Sweden in February, before making its first outing on gravel at high altitude at the Rally Mexico. From 11 to 14 April, the Rally Portugal will provide the stage for another first: Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) will make their debut in the third Polo R WRC – the number 9 car. They will be joined at the rally on the Algarve coast in southern Portugal by their Volkswagen team-mates: Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) and the winners of the rallies in Sweden and Mexico, Se?bastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (F/F).

“After three completely different rallies at the start of the season, the first ‘typical’ WRC rally awaits us in Portugal,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “Tough gravel routes, spring temperatures and – unlike at the Rally Mexico – stages at just above sea level: we will probably come across the same kind of conditions at the coming rallies in Argentina, Greece and Italy. As such, the Rally Portugal provides us with another important indicator of what the Polo R WRC is capable of. Furthermore, we will also send a third driving pair into action at every rally from now on, in the form of Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula. Andreas and Mikko have already been very successful in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, and are now deservedly taking the next step into the pinnacle of rallying.”

Volkswagen Motorsport II: new team for Mikkelsen/Markkula

In order to offer Mikkelsen and Markkula the best possible conditions for a successful debut season in the Polo R WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship, Volkswagen will operate a second team from the Rally Portugal onward: Volkswagen Motorsport II. This will, for example, allow the Norwegian-Finnish duo to have access to ten test days this year, rather than having to share this contingent with their team-mates.

All three pairs of drivers arrive at the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship season as well prepared as possible. Each crew spent two days in Portugal at the end of March, adapting to the specific demands of the second gravel rally of the year, which will see the drivers complete 386.73 kilometres against the clock over the course of 15 special stages.

Spectator stage in Lisbon provides spectacular highlight

An exciting rally weekend gets underway with qualifying on Tuesday morning, when the WRC drivers will battle it out for the right to choose their start position on day one. The first four special stages consist of two runs of both the “Mú” and “Ourique” stages on Friday morning, before a 200-kilometre liaison stage takes the competitors to Lisbon. Once in the Portuguese capital, the drivers will take on a spectacular spectator stage against the imposing backdrop of the National Archaeology Museum. The “Mosteiro dos Jerónimos” is one of the most important examples of architecture in Portugal and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

The longest leg of the Rally Portugal is Saturday, with six special stages covering 158.74 kilometres over countless jumps on winding gravel routes along the Algarve coast. As at the Rally Mexico, the drivers must wait until Sunday to tackle the longest of all the stages – the 50-kilometre “Almodovar” special stage. When Sunday comes around, however, they will take on this monster stage not once, but twice, with the second run also forming the final Power Stage. Nowhere else do the drivers have to work harder to earn the bonus world championship points on offer for first, second and third place.

Andreas Mikkelsen: youngest driver ever to win a WRC point and two-time IRC champion

Andreas Mikkelsen was just 17 when he made his debut in the FIA World Rally Championship. Fifth place at the 2008 Rally Sweden when just 17 years and 233 days old earned the Norwegian a place in the rallying history books as the youngest driver ever to win a World Championship point. In the same year, Mikkelsen worked with two-time World Rally Champion Marcus Grönholm to improve his driving style. This proved to be a successful move: after claiming first place in the 2009 Norwegian Rally Championship, Mikkelsen burst onto the international stage when he won the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) at the wheel of a Škoda Fabia S2000. As well as successfully defending his IRC title, he also contested eight rounds of the World Championship for Volkswagen Motorsport in 2012.

Mikkelsen’s co-driver Mikko Markkula can also look back on a successful past with S?koda. The Finn claimed his first race win in the IRC alongside compatriot Juho Hänninen in 2009, and went on to win the title the following year. For the last two years, Markkula has narrowly missed out on the IRC title, finishing just behind a fellow Škoda driver on both occasions: Andreas Mikkelsen.

Quotes ahead of the Rally Portugal

Jari-Matti Latvala, Polo R WRC #7
“I have often been quick in Portugal, but my best result so far is the third place I achieved in 2011. I hope I manage to come through clean this year and challenge for a place on the podium. The Polo R WRC certainly has the potential.
Sébastien’s victories in Sweden and Mexico have shown that. The first three rounds of the world championship were a bit difficult for me. Unfortunately, not everything went entirely to plan. I just needed time to get used to the car. However, I had the necessary trust in the car on the Power Stage in Mexico – and that good feeling got even stronger during the tests in Portugal. The Rally Portugal is known for its ‘blind crests’, which are really rather special. You really have to be alert as you approach these crests, as you cannot see whether they are followed by a left-hander or a right-hander. For this reason, it is also important to be very accurate during the Recce in the run-up to the rally, to ensure that the pace notes cannot be misunderstood in any way.”

Sébastien Ogier, Polo R WRC #8
“I'm feeling much better now, after illness left me feeling below par last week. Withdrawing from the Fafe Rally Sprint was a very tough decision, especially given all the enthusiastic fans. However, it was the right decision in order to allow me to recover fully. We saw at the Rally Mexico that the Polo R WRC is also competitive on gravel, and that is important. The coming rally in Portugal is another good indication of where we stand, and will be particularly interesting because those will be the kind of conditions we will come up against most often in the World Rally Championship: hard gravel and stages not much above sea level. However, the Rally Portugal has two sides to it. When it is dry there, the ground is very hard and offers a lot of grip. However, when it is wet, the ground becomes very soft and muddy and only offers a very limited amount of grip. We discovered that last year – and it is not particularly fun driving there in those conditions. I much prefer it to be dry. A feature of the special stages in Portugal are the many crests and jumps, which are often followed by quick, blind corners. I am confident that we will follow on from our excellent recent performances in Portugal, as I really like the rally. It is one of my favourite rallies. In 2010 it was the scene of my first victory in the World Rally Championship, and I won again there in 2011. That makes it the only WRC rally that I have won twice in my career – so far.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Polo R WRC #9
“I can hardly wait for the start of the Rally Portugal. It will be my first rally with the Polo R WRC, although I did have a number of outings with Volkswagen last year and have already been completely integrated in the team. As such, the only thing that is really new to me is the element of competing in a current World Rally Car. After two successful years in the IRC, I feel ready to take the step up into the World Rally Championship. In my opinion, the Rally Portugal is one of the most difficult on the race calendar. There are a lot of ‘blind’ passages and relatively little grip. The last time I drove there was back in 2007, so it will practically be a new event for me. I was lucky enough to be able to take part in the Recce last year. As such, I have some idea of what to expect. Despite this, it will certainly be one of the most difficult rallies of the year for me. It will be important not to make any mistakes and to avoid any incidents. We want to finish the race and learn as much as possible. After that, we can concentrate on getting quicker at the subsequent rallies.”

Three questions for Sven Smeets, WRC Team Manager

What does it mean to the team, to line up with a third Polo R WRC from the Rally Portugal onward – from both a sporting and logistical point of view?
“From a sporting point of view, it is obviously nice to see Andreas back in a World Rally Car after a long break. He initially has different sporting goals to those of Sébastien and Jari-Matti. Portugal, in particular, is practically new territory for him. For Andreas, it will primarily be a matter of gaining experience and completing the rallies wherever possible. Where he feels more confident, he can also show what kind of speed he is capable of. For the team, a third car simply means more material and more work. We have to take more spare parts with us, including an additional spare engine and another gearbox. On top of that comes the equipment for another service place, as well as additional personnel: one engineer and three mechanics. Compared to the first two rallies in Europe, we are now travelling with another truck, which will mainly be loaded with material for Andreas and Mikko’s Polo R WRC.”

Why did Volkswagen not start the rally season with three Polo R WRCs right from the word go, rather than contest the first three rounds of the world championship with just two cars?
“Because of the extra effort that comes with a third car. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to conscientiously run through all the processes involved in a rally weekend – and with a completely new car and, to a certain degree, new drivers. We also wanted to see how the Polo R WRC performed in competitive conditions. Had we discovered a major problem over the course of the first three rallies, we would then have had to solve it on three cars. It goes without saying that this would also have meant extra costs. When it boils down to it, we just wanted to give ourselves a little time to find our feet in the first three months of the season.”

What will be the team’s biggest challenge at the Rally Portugal?
“That depends in no small part on the weather. In the past we have seen that the cars are given quite a tough ride at this rally when it rains. The route becomes very muddy and slippery. However, when it is dry and the roads are in good condition, we will experience a really good gravel rally in Portugal, at which it will all come down to the driver. It is a real drivers’ rally. The closing Power Stage is also over 52 kilometres long. That is extraordinary in itself, and means that the drivers must really earn the extra world championship points.”

The number for the Rally Portugal: 92,160

Being involved in rallying sometimes means being spoilt for choice. For example, the drivers and engineers at Volkswagen have thousands of different possible configurations when working on the set-up of the Polo R WRC. Even just the suspension of the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg offers 92,160 set-up options.

Volkswagen in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)

In entering the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Volkswagen is adding another chapter to its motorsport success story. Volkswagen claimed overall victory at the Rally Dakar with the Race Touareg in 2009, 2010 and 2011 – celebrating a hat-trick of titles at the toughest marathon rally in the world. The Polo R WRC is the first World Rally Car produced by the Wolfsburg-based company, which now lines up with its own works team in the pinnacle of rallying. The series offers Volkswagen the opportunity to prove itself on a global platform in direct sporting competition. No model is more suited to the challenge than the Polo – one of Volkswagen’s most heavily produced and distributed models in the world.

THREE DS3 WRCS RARING TO GO IN PORTUGAL

Posted: April 8, 2013 8:32 PM

After a five-week break, the WRC returns to action in Portugal. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT will be looking to its crews, Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen and Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio, to maintain the lead in the Manufacturers’ World Championship that it has held since the start of the season. Khalid Al-Qassimi and Scott Martin return to action in the Abu Dhabi Citroën Total WRT’s DS3 WRC after missing the last round in Mexico.

Like most of the squads involved in the WRC, Citroën Racing and its crews were in Fafe, near Porto, last weekend for a ‘rally sprint’, which attracted thousands of spectators. Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio emerged victorious, finishing one second ahead of Mads Ostberg. The crews now head for the Algarve region, where the rally will get underway properly.

Although three quarters of the stages are similar to previous years, the breakdown of the event has been extensively altered. Friday’s leg is now something of a marathon, with four stages completed without a service period, followed by a long road section to Lisbon. After a 3.27km super special stage, the crews will set off in the opposite direction, returning to where they started, to complete their 665km and 14-hour long trek! It goes without saying that starting positions and tyre choice will be essential for this first day. The two other legs will be more conventional, although competitors will have to tackle the 52km long Almodovar stage twice on Sunday.

After three rallies with very distinctive features, Rally de Portugal may be considered to be a more conventional gravel round, with stages alternating between fast portions and tight, narrow sections.
“The surface provides a good level of grip and above all else, that’s what I like about it,” indicated Dani Sordo. “However, if it rains like last year, then the course becomes a bit of an ice rink, and the outcome of the rally is anyone’s guess. I have already managed three podium finishes in Portugal in the C4 WRC, so if I could just climb a step or two on the podium, that would be perfect! I’m pleased with the work we have done in testing. The new set-up has made me feel more confident and I can’t wait to put that into practice in the rally.”

Comfortable in the hilly stages of the Algarve, Mikko Hirvonen goes into this, the fourth round of the season with victory firmly in his sights:
“We worked in testing to keep improving. To win this season, we’ll need to have a perfect rally, starting with the qualifying stage. I only have one target this weekend: I want to be fighting for the lead from the very start.”

After competing in Sweden, Khalid Al-Qassimi will be starting his second WRC rally in the DS3 WRC. On a surface that comes more naturally to him than the Scandinavian roads, the Abu Dhabi driver will be aiming for a top-10 finish: “Portugal is an event that I know reasonably well. After two rallies in the Middle East in the DS3 RRC, I am starting to find some rhythm. So I think I can fight for a place in the points. But to do that, I’ll need to avoid making any mistakes.”

THREE QUESTIONS FOR… MIKKO HIRVONEN

What have you been up to since Rally Mexico?
“The five-week break meant I could have a fairly light schedule. Apart from promotional work, we obviously did work during specific testing for this rally. I can’t go into details about what we worked on, but the fact is that we have improved the set-up of the DS3 WRC. The car slides less and I felt more confident driving it. As ever, we must be cautious, because the conditions of the rally won’t necessarily be the same as those we had in testing…”

There is already a clear gap to the leader of the Drivers’ World Championship. Have you given up on the title?
“No, of course not! It’s true that Sébastien Ogier has made a perfect start to the season, but there are still ten rallies left. Although we haven’t looked entirely convincing recently, we are going to do everything to improve our fortunes. That’s why I want to fight for the lead in the early stages in Portugal.”

What do you think about the format of the event?
“Like all the drivers, I’m not a big fan of road sections that involve spending several hundred kilometres on the motorway, especially when it’s just to complete a three kilometre-long city centre stage! Fortunately, the ‘real’ stages are very beautiful, so that makes up for it a bit. However, it’s good to have a biggie like the Almodovar stage on Sunday. The bonus points for the Power Stage, awarded on the second running of the stage, will be highly prized. There will be something up for grabs right to the finish!”

CITROEN TOP DRIVER OFF TO A FLYING START (WRC3)

Posted: March 21, 2013 11:47 AM

Created following the inclusion of the new WRC3 category in this season’s World Rally Championship, the Citroe?n Top Driver series is set to make its bow on the world scene at Rally de Portugal in a few weeks time. The formula has already been a huge success, as no fewer than nine European crews will line up at the start of the rally in a Citroe?n DS3 R3. The final rung of the ladder leading to the upper echelons of rallying, Citroe?n Top Driver is above all an affordable, professional formula which will reward the winning crew with a programme of six WRC2 rallies in 2014. Composed of four gravel rallies and two tarmac events, it will also feature a team competition for outfits entering at least two cars. As entries for Rally de Portugal are now closed, these eight crews will now head for the Algarve in order to battle it out in Citroe?n DS3 R3s. Five different nationalities will be represented with the Swiss pair of Francesco Parli and Federico Della Casa, the German Christian Riedemann, the Italian Simone Campedelli, the French trio of Se?bastien Chardonnet, Quentin Gilbert and Bryan Bouffier, the Irishmans Keith Cronin and Alastair Fisher. “We are pleased with the success that Citroe?n’s new challenge has enjoyed for this first round of the season”, commented a delighted Marek Nawarecki, Customer Racing Manager for Citroe?n Racing. “Among the entrants, we have two 2012 Citroe?n Racing Trophy winners in Quentin Gilbert (France) and Keith Cronin (UK), whilst the other drivers have produced strong performances in national promotional formulas and championships, such as Se?bastien Chardonnet, Bryan Bouffier and Christian Riedemann. This reflects the spirit of Citroe?n Top Driver perfectly since they will now be able to compete against each other in an international formula. Given the quality of the field, I think we can all look forward to an exciting, closely contested season.”

THE ENTRANTS

    Bryan Bouffier
    Age: 34 years old
    Nationality: French
    Co-driver: Xavier Panseri
    Team: Delta Rally
    Competitive record
    Three-time Polish Rally Champion (2007, 2008 and 2009) Winner of the Rallye Monte Carlo (IRC 2010)
    French Rally Champion (2011)

    Simone Campedelli
    Age: 25 years old
    Nationality: Italian
    Co-driver: Danilo Fappani
    Team: Saintéloc Racing
    Competitive record
    Italian champion under 23 (2009)
    Italian Champion Junior (2011)
    2WD Italian Champion (2011 and 2012)

    Sébastien Chardonnet
    Age: 24 years old
    Nationality: French
    Co-driver: Thibault de la Haye
    Team: Top Teams
    Competitive record
    Karting, single-seater and GT3 (1999 – 2009) Runner-up in the Citroën Racing Trophy (2010) Group R winner at the Rallye Monte Carlo 2013
    2Current leader of the WRC3 2013

    Keith Cronin
    Age: 26 years old
    Nationality: Irish
    Co-driver: Clark Marshall
    Team: Citroën Charles Hurst
    Competitive record
    Three-time British Rally Champion (2009, 2010 and 2012 in a DS3 R3) Winner of the UK Citroën Racing Trophy (2012)

    Federico Della Casa
    Age: 21 years old Nationality: Swiss
    Co-driver: Marco Menchini
    Team: Procar
    Competitive record
    Competed in the Switzerland Citroën Racing Trophy (2011 and 2011)

    Alastair Fisher
    Age: 24 years old
    Nationality: British
    Co-driver: TBC
    Team: Saintéloc Racing
    Competitive record
    British Championship (2010)
    Third in the 2011 WRC Academy
    Winner of the Rally de Portugal and runner-up in the Acropolis Rally in the 2012 WRC Academy

    Quentin Gilbert
    Age: 23 years old Nationality: French
    Co-driver: Isabelle Galmiche
    Team: Top Teams
    Competitive record
    Winner of the “Rallye Jeunes” (young rally drivers) initiative in 2009 Winner of the France Citroën Racing Trophy (2012)

    Francesco Parli
    Age: 41 years old
    Nationality: Swiss
    Co-driver: Tania Canton
    Team: Procar
    Competitive record
    Runner-up in the European Championship in the two-wheel drive category in a DS3 R3 (2012)

    Christian Riedemann
    Age: 25 years old
    Nationality: German
    Co-driver: Lara Vanneste
    Team: Team Riedemann
    Competitive record
    Runner-up in the German Rally Championship in a DS3 R3 (2012)

FIA WRC ACADEMY WINNER TO RUN QATAR M-SPORT COLOURS

Posted: March 21, 2013 10:20 AM

M-Sport are pleased to announce that the 2012 FIA WRC Academy Winner, Elfyn Evans, will become part of the Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team when he claims the sought-after prize for winning the series next month.

Becoming the sixth driver to adopt the Qatari colours, the Welshman will pilot an M-Sport run Ford Fiesta in the new WRC 2 category. Taking to the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RRC for Rally de Portugal, Evans will then return to the series with the company’s latest challenger – the Ford Fiesta R5 – when it is released later in the season.

Evans’ Fiesta will run alongside the Ford Fiesta RS WRCs of Mads Østberg, Evgeny Novikov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Thierry Neuville in the Manufacturers’ designated service area. Fully integrated within the team, the youngster will benefit from a wealth of advice and experience – not only from the team’s specialist engineers and technicians, but also from the drivers and management as he develops what is set to be a promising career in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Elfyn Evans said:
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I want to say a big thank you to M-Sport and to Nasser [Al-Attiyah] for allowing me to develop alongside the team. It only goes to show how strong the prize for winning the [FIA] WRC Academy [re-branded as the FIA Junior World Rally Championship for 2013] is. Nowhere else could a young driver hope for such an opportunity and I am really looking forward to starting the season and developing my career with the team.”

FIA WRC Manager, Michèle Mouton, said:
“Once again we are seeing how the FIA’s junior series is developing young drivers and giving them the opportunity to make that step in to the FIA World Rally Championship. We all wish Elfyn [Evans] the best of luck with his career.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“M-Sport has always worked to develop the careers of up-and-coming young drivers. Elfyn [Evans] is a talented driver with a promising career ahead of him and this prize will give him the best opportunity to learn from the entire team and develop as a world class driver.

“The scheme also shows Ford and M-Sport’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ at its best. Elfyn started rallying with the Ford Fiesta ST when he contested the FordFiesta SportTrophy series in 2007 and has grown with the Fiesta R2 through the [FIA] WRC Academy. He’ll now progress to the Ford Fiesta RRC – and eventually the Fiesta R5 – and I am sure it won’t be long until we see him challenging for results at the highest level.”

Ogier and Mikkelsen line up at the “Fafe Rally Sprint” in Portugal

Posted: March 21, 2013 9:13 AM

Full throttle over one of the most famous jumps in rallying – a tasty appetiser ahead of the Rally Portugal. This year, Volkswagen Motorsport will take part in the “Fafe Rally Sprint” for the first time. More than 100,000 spectators are expected at the show event in northern Portugal on Saturday 6th April 2013. Lining up in Fafe: the winners of the rallies in Sweden and Mexico, Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (F/F), and, for the first time in the Polo R WRC, Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula (N/FIN). Beginning with the Rally Portugal, the Nordic duo will compete for Volkswagen Motorsport in the third Polo R WRC at all the remaining rounds of this season’s FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

The 6.34-kilometre section of the iconic Lameirinha stage no longer officially forms part of the Rally Portugal. Just as it did last year, however, it will herald the start of the rally week. “We are really looking forward to lining up in Fafe for the first time,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “Sébastien and Julien will be in close contact with thousands of Portuguese fans at the ‘Rally Sprint’, and will be out to put on a good show for them. The event also offers Andreas and Mikko the opportunity to test the Polo R WRC under competitive conditions for the first time, and to familiarise themselves with the atmosphere before they make their WRC debut in the Polo R WRC the following week.”

The crowds in Fafe are in for a spectacular show: the teams must battle their way through two qualifying rounds on the way to the final. The fastest time in the final wins the “Fafe Rally Sprint”. Another extremely popular feature with the fans is the competition to see who can remain airborne for the longest over one of the most challenging jumps in rallying. The record, which was set by Armin Schwarz in a Škoda Octavia WRC in 2000, currently stands at 73.5 metres.

As well as Volkswagen, a number of other WRC teams have also confirmed that they will be competing at the cult event. The Rally Portugal gets underway with qualifying on Thursday 11th April 2013 and ends with the podium ceremony at Algarve Stadium between the cities of Faro and Loulé.

Seeded Entry List / Irish Entries

Posted: March 15, 2013 11:28 AM

35 Yazeed Al Rajhi/Michael Orr (Ford Fiesta RRC)
48 Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari/Killian Duffy (Ford Fiesta RRC)
53 Alistair Fisher/Gordon Noble (Citroën DS3 R3T)
60 Keith Cronin/Marshall Clarke (Citroën DS3 R3T)
87 Robert Barrable/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta S2000)

Event Website / Details

Posted: March 15, 2013 11:27 AM

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