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Portugal - 3-6 Apr 14

Posted: May 25, 2014 6:36 PM - 5098 Hits

Round 4 - 2014 World Rally Championship

Another strong WRC-2 points-scoring finish for Robert after surviving Rally Portugal war of attrition

Posted: May 25, 2014 6:35 PM

On his first gravel rally in almost five months, Robert Barrable scored another strong points-scoring finish with 6th in WRC-2 and 16th overall in his Tunnock’s World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5 on the gruelling Rally Portugal.

This was the first time that the 26-year old Irish driver had ever returned to a round of the FIA World Rally Championship, having made his series debut in Portugal last year. This year’s conditions were even more difficult, as torrential rain during the recce had made the fast and twisty gravel mountain roads in the Algarve region extremely slippery. As conditions dried out during the four-day event, the road surface changed from muddy and wet to dry and dusty from one corner to another, making the notoriously tricky gravel event even more of a challenge.

Co-driven by Stuart Loudon, Robert’s first gravel event since last November’s Wales Rally GB started well, as his tactics of keeping clean and fast lines paid dividends. Others didn’t fare so well, and even several of the works drivers, including Jari-Matti Latvala, Elfyn Evans, Robert Kubica and Kris Meeke, crashed early on.

Another good run on Day 3 saw Robert move up two places to 7th on the second run over the long Santana de Serra stage – even after surviving a huge fifth gear sideways moment, when the rear of his Tunnock’s car stepped out of line on a narrow mountain ridge.

The three stages on the final Day 4 were the trickiest of the entire event, with patches of mud, deep puddles on the inside of blind corners and remarkably slippery section. Yet Robert continued to drive exceptionally well, making up another place in his CA1 Sport-run Fiesta R5 to score another excellent result – finishing 6th, 10.1 seconds ahead of Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari.

Robert: “I’m very pleased to have finished sixth in Portugal. We haven’t done a gravel rally in five months, so it’s understandable that we weren’t able to challenge for a podium finish this time. Twenty cars started in WRC-2 and the calibre of drivers, in terms of both speed and gravel experience, was very high, so we’re happy enough with what we achieved this weekend.

“Rally Portugal is a very difficult and technical event, there is no room for error whatsoever, and it’s been very busy in the car. The conditions throughout were very tricky, with patches of mud and puddles that were trying their best to throw you off the road, so I’m pleased nothing caught us out.

“It was also good to have a battle on the final day with Al-Kuwari, because it kept everything really interesting – and I was very pleased to finish ahead of him.”

Stuart: “We’ve completed all the stages, had no real dramas and gained a lot of experience, so it’s been another really productive World Championship rally for us. Having totally different conditions to what they were on the recce made this year’s Rally Portugal a real challenge, and right up until the end the changing road surface was catching people out.

“We’ve come over blind crests and it’s been a dry road ahead and then we’ve come over the next crest and it’s all mud and water in front of us, and that’s made this event extremely challenging. Rob has done a great job reading the road all weekend and a fantastic job to bring the car home in one piece.”

MAIDEN WIN FOR STÉPHANE LEFEBVRE

Posted: May 25, 2014 6:33 PM

Fourteen Citroën DS3 R3s took part in Rally de Portugal, the first round of the 2014 FIA Junior WRC, for which Citroën Racing is the exclusive supplier.

After the ceremonial start in Estoril, the crews completed the super special stage held on tarmac roads in the centre of Lisbon. The Italian Simone Campedelli got off to the best start, finishing ahead of Martin Koci and the Czech Jan Cerny.

After a long road section south to the Algarve, the Citroën DS3 R3s finally ventured onto the gravel on Friday morning. Alastair Fisher was the quickest man of the morning loop, with two consecutive stage wins. With a lead of almost half a minute, he led from Simone Campedelli and Martin Koci.

The leader’s progress was only held up by a puncture on the final stage of the day. Martin Koci took full advantage to become the first Slovakian to win a stage in the JWRC. Alastair Fisher nevertheless returned to Faro with around a thirty-second lead over Martin Koci and Simone Campedelli. Stéphane Lefebvre and Christian Riedemann rounded off the top five.

On his 21st birthday, Martin Koci was quickest out the blocks on day two, winning SS8. Despite closing to within 21 seconds of the leader, his hopes of making further progress were quickly dashed. Hampered by problems with his brakes, he lost almost two minutes and fell back to fifth place, behind Alastair Fisher, Simone Campedelli, Stéphane Lefebvre and Christian Riedemann.

Saturday’s second loop shook up the standings. Category leader Alastair Fisher went off on SS13 and was forced to retire. Simone Campedelli was unable to start the final stage of the leg due to problems with his brakes. Stéphane Lefebvre therefore ended day two in first place in the standings, ahead of Martin Koci, Christian Riedemann, Federico Della Casa and Simone Campedelli.

Stéphane Lefebvre controlled from the front on the final three stages to win the opening round of the season. Behind him, Christian Riedemann took advantage of Martin Koci’s puncture to grab second spot from the Slovakian.

Swiss driver Federico Della Casa finished in fourth position, ahead of Simone Campedelli, Simone Tempestini, Jan Cerny, Molly Taylor, Panikos Polykarpou and Quentin Giordano. Eleventh and twelfth respectively, Sylvain Michel and Kornel Lukacs finished outside the points.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Stéphane Lefebvre:
“I am as surprised as anyone by this result. This is the first time I have competed in the World Rally Championship. I was looking, above all, to test myself again the competition at this first round. I was patient. I drove in the middle of the road to try and avoid picking up any punctures. The conditions were really difficult and rough. We had to look after the car. I am here to win the championship. I can now see it is possible to win races without having competed at the rally before.”

Christian Riedemann:
“It’s a very good start to the season. It isn’t always the quickest driver that wins at rallies like this one. You have to be clever and keep out of trouble. We did pretty well to come away with second position. I’m happy and the team is pleased with our performances.”

Martin Koci:
“It’s very pleasing to score big points in the opening round. We lost a bit of time due to a mechanical issue and a puncture. It was a very rough gravel rally. I’m pleased to finish on the podium. It’s a very good start to the season and a great way to celebrate my 21st birthday.”

FINAL PROVISIONAL STANDINGS
1. Stéphane Lefebvre / Thomas Dubois 4:02:51.8
2. Christian Riedemann / Lara Vanneste +1:02.7
3. Martin Koci / Lukas Kostka +3:30.6
4. Federico Della Casa / Domenico Pozzi +9:14.1
5. Simone Campedelli / Danilo Fappani +9:17.4
6. Simone Tempestini / Dorin Pulpea +10:16.9
7. Jan Cerny / Pavel Kohout +10:50.6
8. Molly Taylor / Coral Taylor +11:27.9
9. Panikos Polykarpou / Gerald Winter +14:14.7
10. Quentin Giordano / Guillaume Duval +9:24.7
11. Sylvain Michel / Gwenola Marie +18:45.7
12. Kornel Lukacs / Marc Mesterhazi +29:37.3

DMACK Shows Strength At Tough Rally Portugal

Posted: May 25, 2014 4:14 PM

DMACK continued its stunning form on one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s toughest events this weekend as Jari Ketomaa finished runner-up in the fiercely competitive WRC 2 series. Rally de Portugal lived up to its reputation of being technically and physically demanding as DMACK’s range of gravel tyres provided Ketomaa with the strength and speed needed to top the times.

DMACK runners used a mix of its soft S6 and hard S3 compound DMG+2 gravel tyres to master the conditions. Portugal is famous for its demanding abrasive gravel roads which traditionally increase tyre wear. However, torrential rain early in the week made the pre-event recce a real challenge and left roads initially damp for Friday’s opening action.

Ketomaa and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom started well after a strong run on a promotional event at Fafe Rally Sprint last weekend. They set a string of fastest stage times in their Autotek-run Fiesta R5 and held the lead of the WRC 2 category by the end of day one.

As the battle for victory intensified, Finn Ketomaa dropped time after being held up by a slower competitor and, despite pushing on the final day, was unable to claw back the time and settled for second.

Sweden’s Fredrik Ahlin and Peruvian Nicolas Fuchs also shone for DMACK with a series of competitive times but had a number of problems over the weekend which stalled their progress.

For DMACK it was the firm’s best ever result in Portugal. Its gravel roads high in the mountains serve up a mix of fast, open roads and narrow tracks. With hard bedrock, sandy sections and lots of rocks, the constantly changing surfaces deliver a real test for tyres.

With cool, damp conditions for the early part of the rally, DMACK’s S6 was the tyre of choice as it delivered impressive traction and grip. As conditions got warmer and the roads dried out, competitors switched to the hard compound which offered impressive durability and puncture resistance.

The event was based at Faro in the southern Algarve region with crews tackling 16 competitive stages.

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:
“We’ve lifted things up a level with our gravel tyres and we knew our selection would be strong here. Jari has driven well and we’ve once again given him a high performance tyre to chase for victory. The results have been extremely encouraging and it sets things up well for the rest of the season.”

Jari Ketomaa said:
“The aim was to come here and push for a strong result and second gives us some really good points for the championship. The whole package of car and tyres worked extremely well and we were able to push hard right from the start. It’s just a shame we were slowed by a couple of little problems but now we have good confidence with it all.”

Pärn’s Perfect Portugal In Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy

Posted: May 25, 2014 4:13 PM

The Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy delivered on its promise to provide close competition when this weekend’s opening event saw five different drivers lead the series before Estonia’s Sander Pärn blasted home to steal victory on the final loop of stages today at Rally de Portugal. The dramatic finish unfolded when Frenchman Quentin Gilbert, who started the final day at the head of the field, retired after a road accident on his way to the first stage this morning.

Pärn (22) and co-driver James Morgan, who was making his FIA World Rally Championship debut, found themselves locked in a scintillating final day battle with Brits Tom Cave (22) and co-driver Craig Parry. After making a slow start this morning, which allowed Cave to move into a slender 0.4 second lead, Pärn upped the pace to take the opening round victory by 20.8 seconds.

Third place went to the Belgian duo Ghislain de Mévius (25) and Johan Jalet who put in a consistent drive on their first WRC event.

The dramatic finish followed three days of arduous Algarve action on Portugal’s round of the world championship. The event kicked off the cost-effective series which gave 12 aspiring drivers the opportunity to line up in M-Sport-prepared Ford Fiesta R2 rally cars shod with DMACK’s newly-developed gravel tyre.

The opening sprint through the Tarmac street stage in Lisbon on Thursday evening saw Spaniard José Suárez edge into an early lead but when the rally headed into the Serra do Caldeiro hills above Faro, Marius Aasen from Norway moved ahead after setting fastest times on the morning loop. However, he was sidelined with broken steering as exposed bedrock on the tough gravel stages battered the Fiestas.

Saturday saw Yeray Lemes take the battle to Suárez with the pair locked in a day-long fight – trading seconds on every stage. But the intense pace saw them both make mistakes on the 31.9km Santana da Serra stage. Lemes was first to retire after pulling a rear wheel off his car with Suárez forced into a deep ditch after innocently clipping the inside of a slow corner.

With Gilbert’s rally ending on a non-competitive section first thing this morning, Pärn and Cave found themselves in a surprise fight for victory. Pärn was slow out of the blocks allowing Cave to briefly move into the lead by just 0.4 seconds and creating a nail-biting climax under sunny blue skies. But Pärn responded to shoot through the final two tests and clinch a deserved win to go top of the points table.

Early leader Suárez fought back to fourth but boosted his championship position by taking an additional five points awarded for fastest stage times and moving up to third in the championship.

Max Vatanen had a rally full of ups and downs. He showed a surprising pace on his WRC debut to set two fastest times but rolled on the opening day, incurred a road accident on Saturday and retired early today after sliding off the road.

Szymon Kornicki from Poland, Nil Solans and ‘Crazy’ Leo Urlichich all had mixed events but benefitted from the WRC experience. Nicolas Amiouni from Lebanon retired early in the rally after a heavy crash on stage two. The Trophy resumes with Lotos Rally Poland on 27-29 June.

Final Classification
1. Sander Pärn / James Morgan 4h 14m 19.8s
2. Tom Cave / Craig Parry 4h 14m 40.6s
3. Ghislain de Mevius / Johan Jalet 4h 17m 58.9s
4. José Suárez / Pablo Marcos 4h 18m 01.4s
5. Yeray Lemes / Rogelio Penate 4h 18m 07.9s
6. Szymon Kornicki / Przemyslaw Mazur 4h 19m 20.8s
7. Marius Aasen / Marlene Engan 4h 22m 20.8s
8. Leo Urlichich / Andrew Roughead 4h 33m 42.2s

ON THE PACE: HIRVONEN TAKES SECOND IN PORTUGAL

Posted: May 25, 2014 4:11 PM

M-Sport World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were back on form at this weekend’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Fighting for the lead, the pairing finished in a strong second place – their best performance of the season to date.

Straight on the pace, Hirvonen took an early lead with an inspired tyre choice through the first full day of competition. Despite falling victim to a revived Sebastien Ogier, the Finn looked at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Finding himself outside of the top-three on only four of the 15 speed tests, the Finn produced a highly competitive and consistent performance.

Tyre choice was a tricky call for the final day. Having selected the prime option for each of the earlier legs, Hirvonen was at a disadvantage for the final loop with just a selection of well-worn soft compounds in his arsenal. Opting for a configuration of worn-soft and fresh-hard tyres, Michelin’s resilient rubber held up to the challenge and the Finn was even able to post a second fastest time through S. Brás de Alportel (SS15).

Growing in confidence with each new kilometre, the M-Sport driver commented on how natural he felt behind the wheel of his reacquainted charge. Able to fight risk-free at the head of the field, this weekend’s result provides the perfect platform for a resurgent Hirvonen to make his mark on the championship.

Speaking of comebacks, Elfyn Evans came back fighting after a disappointing retirement on Friday’s opening leg. Rather than holding back, the Welshman was encouraged to continue the pace he was setting at the beginning of the rally. The youngster didn’t disappoint and rewarded his team of expert mechanics – who had worked throughout Friday night to provide him with a perfect Fiesta RS WRC – by posting a fourth fastest time on SS12 and continuing his development at the WRC’s highest level.

Regularly around half a second a kilometre off the pace of the leaders, Evans and co-driver Daniel Barritt are making real progress whilst displaying all the potential for future success.

Following a successful weekend for the M-Sport team with 42 Ford Fiestas appearing on the entry list – the highest number of M-Sport cars to have ever appeared at a single WRC event – the team prepares for Rally Argentina with what looks set to be one of its highest entry percentages. The rally organisers have released a provisional entry list, and of the 22 cars entered to date, 55 per cent carry the Blue Oval. Entries for the South American fixture close this Tuesday.

Mikko Hirvonen (2nd) said:
“I’m really happy with this result. We came here wanting a good, clean rally and that is what we have done. The car has been absolutely perfect – and really competitive – all weekend so a big thanks to the boys for the top job they’ve done.

“We knew that we had the pace, it was just a case of bringing everything together and I think that we did that this weekend. We’ll keep developing and learning, so hopefully we can fight even harder in the coming rallies.

“We’ve been another step closer this weekend, and it’s really good for the whole team. I’m sure this result will boost everyone and that we can continue to challenge at the head of the field.”

Elfyn Evans (22nd) said:
“After the mishap on Friday, the rally has been quite good to us. I need to say a huge thanks to the mechanics who worked through the night to provide us with a perfect car from Saturday onwards. After the state we left it in, I really wasn’t expecting it to be perfect! They did a brilliant job and I hope that we’ve done them proud over the past two days.

“We had a chance to learn a lot about the car and the driving so it’s been a great learning experience and another good step forward. Obviously we have another new rally next, so we might see a slightly different approach there, but I’m pleased with the way things are going so far.”

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I cannot tell you how satisfying it is to see Mikko [Hirvonen] fighting for wins again. We all knew that he had the speed and the determination to do it and to see it all coming together now is fantastic. He had the perfect strategy for the opening phases – taking an early lead – and then controlled it brilliantly to bring home a season-best second place.

“I was also very impressed with how strongly Elfyn [Evans] came back after Friday’s disappointment. He continued to run at the same pace and set some very encouraging times. He’s making some really good progress and we’ll be sure to see more from him as the season continues.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS

Never giving anything less than 100 per cent as he piloted his Ford Fiesta RS WRC through Rally de Portugal’s tricky speed tests, Henning Solberg secured an impressive fifth place overall. The charismatic Norwegian set a string of highly competitive splits and was able to challenge the WRC regulars on what has been his first gravel event in a World Rally Car for more than two years.

In the WRC 2 category, M-Sport continued their dominant display with another victory. A range of M-Sport cars occupied the top eight places with Nasser Al-Attiyah’s Ford Fiesta RRC securing the win ahead of the Ford Fiesta R5s of Jari Ketomaa and Pontus Tidemand. The Ford Fiesta S2000 of Karl Kruuda finished in fourth place – proving that M-Sport’s product range remains competitive at every level.

Being run by the M-Sport team, Tidemand’s podium was a fantastic result on what is the Swede’s first outing with the Fiesta R5. The reigning FIA Junior World Rally champion put in a composed, managed and progressive drive. When his podium position came under threat, he posted the fastest time on SS15 – some 7.7 seconds quicker than anybody else – to underline his speed and potential. Continuing to develop, Tidemand’s next outing in the WRC’s premier support series will be at Rally Italia Sardegna in June.

Henning Solberg (5th) said:

“I am very satisfied with the job we have done this weekend. This is my first time in a world rally car on gravel in more than two years and I was really very pleased with the pace we were able to set.

“I can go faster, I am sure of that. I’m an old guy, but I am very motivated. Give me a couple of days testing and I’ll be beating these young guys again, I can tell you that!”

Pontus Tidemand (3rd in WRC2) said:
“I am very pleased with the job we have done this weekend. We were able to make some really good progress and, when we came under pressure, we were able to show some really good speed too. It’s been a very controlled rally and I’m really pleased with the result.

“The car has been perfect all weekend so a big thanks to the team for that. It’s such a comfortable car to drive, and I’m really looking forward to the next events to see what we can do.”

M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“Henning Solberg, is there really much more that you can say? It’s always a pleasure to have Henning in the service park, and to see him performing so well here this weekend – more than two years after his last outing in a world rally car on gravel – is something very special. A very competitive performance from him and Ilka [Minor, co-driver] and if we see them back this year, I’m sure he’ll be challenging the young guys once again.

“It’s also been another very encouraging weekend for our Fiestas in the WRC 2 category with another clean-sweep of the podium. The [Ford] Fiesta RRC, R5 and S2000 were all represented in the top-four and I think that just goes to show what a competitive product range we have developed with Ford.

“I was also very impressed with Pontus’ [Tidemand] drive. This was his first outing in the Fiesta R5 and he controlled his debut brilliantly. He didn’t take any unnecessary risks and managed the entire rally with some very encouraging progress. Then, when his podium position came under threat, he posted an absolutely sensational time [on SS15]. This has been a very good event for him, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do as he gets more accustomed with the car.”

SOLBERG STARS FOR PIRELLI IN PORTUGA

Posted: May 25, 2014 4:10 PM

Norwegian driver Henning Solberg has equalled his best-ever result on the Rally de Portugal, round four of the World Rally Championship, and claimed the best overall result for Pirelli in its comeback year by finishing fifth. This year Pirelli is focussing on customer competition, and just as he was on his last rally in Sweden, Solberg was the top privateer home in Portugal, co driven by Ilka Minor in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The Norwegian beat four factory cars that had mechanical problems or were forced to re-start, underlining the safety and performance of the all-new Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyre on its debut appearance fitted to a World Rally Car.

Not just that, but Solberg experienced considerably less tyre wear than his rivals. As a result, he was able to save a fresh set of soft tyres for the final day, unlike other drivers who had to rely on used tyres. At one point Solberg climbed as high as fourth overall, before dropping back on the penultimate stage.

The 42-year-old Solberg is only contesting a selected programme of rallies this year but nonetheless he was able to fight with the frontrunners. As usual, the rough gravel roads of Portugal proved to be extremely demanding but the unique tread pattern of the new Scorpion XR ensured that Solberg was able to stay on the road and keep tyre wear firmly under control. This was despite only trying the tyres for the first time in the shakedown.

"I am very satisfied. It is my first time in the car on gravel, and my last rally before that was Sweden, so for this position I am very, very happy,” said Solberg. “I will go faster in the future. I am older but I have five more years of driving and I am motivated for it. I am 100 per cent sure that I can beat the young drivers; I just need to get two days of testing. I am very fast; I just have to improve a bit more physically."

Pirelli's other competitors in the lower WRC2 class were affected by various mechanical misfortunes, which meant that they were not able to perform to their full potential. Nonetheless, they also showed promise on the challenging roads around Faro.

Pirelli’s senior tyre engineer Matteo Braga commented: “To come here and score this result with Henning is extremely encouraging. It’s not just the performance of the new Scorpion tyre that we were pleased with, but also the wear rate: a key part of Henning’s success as it enabled him to conserve some of the allocation of his soft tyres. Portugal is one of the hardest events of the year, as the rate of attrition showed, but the design of the tyre provided all the grip that was needed, enabling a privateer driver such as Henning to be challenging for the top places. Our priority was also to minimise wear, in order to make one set last for as long as possible.”

PODIUM PLUS FOR MADS ØSTBERG IN PORTUGAL

Posted: May 25, 2014 4:09 PM

Thanks to the work put in since the start of Rally de Portugal, Mads Østberg was able to tackle this morning’s stages with three new soft tyres out of the set of five he took with him.

Third overall as he set off on SS14, over three minutes ahead of his closest rival, the Norwegian treated himself to a stage win on SS15 before tackling the Power Stage.

Committed and sharp, he grabbed third place in this final test, adding a bonus point to the fifteen he claimed for finishing third overall in the rally.

Khalid Al Qassimi continued to work with the technical team to find the right balance for the remaining technically challenging stages, still partially covered in mud. The Abu Dhabi made it to the finish in thirteenth position.

With the sixteen points he collected this weekend, Mads Østberg consolidated his third place in the Driver’s World Rally Championship. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team remains second in the Manufacturers’ standings. The next round of the WRC will be held in Argentina on 8-11 May.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

Mads Østberg:
“This second podium finish of the season, the first on gravel, has been earned through the hard work done by the entire team since the start of the year. We are making progress at every rally and in each test session. This third place is an excellent result and the point from the Power Stage is a bonus. That was our aim before the start. We didn’t take too many risks during the rally. It augurs well for the rest of the season. We’ll be able to aim even higher in future.”

Khalid Al Qassimi:
“We worked hard throughout the rally to find the right set-up. This rally is a very specific test. I was looking to find the right set-up in order to have a well-balanced car. I’m pleased with what we managed to do at such a difficult rally. I am now going to turn my attention to the upcoming rounds of the Middle East Rally Championship.”

Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal):
“Mads Østberg’s third place demonstrates the ability of the team to compete with the leaders. We have all worked hard to improve and to try and achieve strong results. This podium finish is another good step forward in the first third of the season. We hope we can keep improving. I would also like to congratulate the crews that took part in the FIA Junior WRC this weekend. They proved themselves to be competitive and consistent and there was a good atmosphere in the service park. Congratulations to Stéphane Lefebvre for his brilliant win in the Citroën DS3 R3.”

World Championship lead extended – Ogier wins in Portugal for Volkswagen

Posted: May 25, 2014 4:05 PM

Volkswagen claimed a hard-fought win at the toughest rally of the year. In difficult, variable conditions, defending champions Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) secured the fourth victory of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship for the Polo R WRC – the eighth in a row for Volkswagen including the events at the end of last season. The duo’s 19th triumph was far from a walk in the park – the Rally Portugal featured three different manufacturers on the podium, duels that came down to tenths of a second, and three different leaders over the course of the rally. The Volkswagen pairing of Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) ended the rally fourth overall. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) fought back after a crash on Friday. In doing so, they picked up valuable points in the Manufacturers’ Championship and finished runner-up behind Sébastien Ogier on the closing Power Stage, on which bonus points were up for grabs for the fastest three drivers.

“The Rally Portugal was just as we expected – difficult for the team and drivers, but ultimately successful,” said a delighted Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, Volkswagen Board Member for Technical Development. “Our duo of Ogier/Ingrassia once again showed their class in difficult conditions. But the team also did another fantastic job. The way they managed to get Jari-Matti Latvala’s back up and running within the allotted time after his crash was mighty impressive. Another reason this trip to Portugal has been so worthwhile for me is that it is great to experience the enthusiasm of the many fans lining the route and cheering our drivers on so magnificently.”

“Recce”, tyres, rally action – the stories from the Rally Portugal

The rally in Portugal soon developed into an eventful and successful week for the Volkswagen team. The prologue to the success story came courtesy of Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, who won the “Fafe Rally Spring” show event in front of 140,000 spectators. Persistent heavy rain then made for particularly difficult conditions at the Rally Portugal: the “Recce” had to be delayed at times, and special stages were shortened due to soft ground on the saturated route. Despite the return of the sunshine, the Friday of the rally was dominated by the tricky issue of tyre selection – Michelin’s softer compound emerged as the ideal choice over the course of the rally. With only 16 soft tyres available, pacing the tyres was top priority by Sunday.

From Australia to Portugal – a winning run to go down in WRC history

Victory for Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia marked the eighth consecutive triumph for the Polo R WRC. This sees Volkswagen equal the longest winning run in the history of the World Rally Championship. The team won in Australia, France, Spain and Great Britain in 2013, and has since added victories in Monte Carlo, Sweden, Mexico and Portugal this season. The record was previously held by WRC rival Citroën, who achieved the same feat in 2011. After just 17 outings for the Polo R WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg has now equalled that record.

Anniversaries and celebratory arias: the numbers behind the victory in Portugal

Volkswagen celebrated another milestone in the history of the Polo R WRC at the Rally Portugal. The 315-hp four wheel-drive powerhouse contested its 300th special stage on Friday. Just as it had on its previous anniversaries – 50, 100, 150 and 250 – the Polo R WRC celebrated its latest achievement with another stage win. Seven special stages later it had brought up another milestone: the 200th stage win since making its debut in 2013. By the end of the Rally Portugal, Volkswagen had won 204 of the 312 special stages it has contested since the start of last season – a success rate of 65 per cent. Of 850 possible top-three times, 459 have gone to the Polo R WRC. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia’s victory marked the 24th podium and 14th win in 17 rallies since 2013 for Volkswagen.

The #2 Polo R WRC returns from the dead – a super-human (Portuguese) effort

A truly energetic performance was behind the return of Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila to the Rally Portugal. Minor mistake, major consequences – running second and challenging for the lead at the time, the Finnish duo’s Friday came to a premature end. Within the three hours allotted, head mechanic Jose Azevedo and his predominantly Portuguese crew had the Polo R WRC back up and running at his home event. It was an effort worth its weight in gold, for both Latvala/Anttila and for the Volkswagen team: the team went on to pick up a further four valuable points in the Manufacturers’ Championship. Latvala/Anttila repaid their crew’s show of strength with two stage wins. At the end of the rally, the Finnish pair finished runner-up on the Power Stage to pick up two bonus points for the driver and co-driver competitions.

Fourth place: damage limitation for Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula

Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula endured a testing weekend in the third Polo R WRC. Making their second start at the Rally Portugal with the World Rally Car from Wolfsburg, they decided ahead of the event to create a new set of pace notes. However, the strong rain and resulting poor visibility during the “Recce” meant their pace notes were less detailed than desired. The Norwegian/Finnish duo set about a damage limitation exercise without taking too many risks. Unlike in Sweden and Mexico, the times were not on a par with their team-mates. However, fourth place in Portugal represented a decent result at a rally, at which all the competitors struggled to come to terms with tough and difficult conditions.

Out front in all three competitions – blue and white dominate the WRC standings

The successful Rally Portugal sees Volkswagen extend its leads in the Drivers’, Co-Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ Championships. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have 91 points to their name – 29 more than their team-mates and closest rivals in the World Championship Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula are currently fourth overall. In the Manufacturers’ Championship, Volkswagen increased its lead over rival Citroën by 14 points to 69.

Quotes after day three of the Rally Portugal

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Four wins in five years. It is no exaggeration: the Rally Portugal is one of my very favourites! The whole week has been fantastic for Julien and me. First the fantastic show in front of more than 100,000 fans at the ‘Fafe Rally Sprint’, and now the icing on the cake with our title defence at the Rally Portugal on the Algarve. The encouragement and support of the fans is rather special here. We only took as many risks as needed on soft tyres on the final day. Despite this, our goal was obviously to pick up the three points on the Power Stage, although Jari-Matti did not make it easy for me. The lead in the World Championship is now a bit larger, but the opposition is not sleeping – Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Østberg showed that. I heard that Markku Alén is the uncrowned king with five wins in Portugal. We can achieve that too next year. That is our goal.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“The Rally Portugal has shown once again that it is deservedly seen as one of the most difficult rallies in the world. Our pace was very good, so we had the opportunity to finish on the podium. Unfortunately, however, an avoidable little mistake on Friday had pretty big consequences. That was very disappointing and put paid to any chances of a good result. We then altered our strategy and targeted the Power Stage. We kept some soft tyres back, in order to be mount an assault on the bonus points – and that paid off, as we finished runner-up. The gap to our team-mates at the top of the championship has grown, but there is still a long way to go this season. We can be confident about our performance going into the event in Argentina, and will hopefully challenge for victory again there.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“All in all the Rally Portugal did not go as I had hoped, although the eventual result was not so bad. We decided to write some new pace notes. However, the heavy raid during the ‘Recce’ made visibility so poor that I could not really put any faith in the new pace notes. The variable conditions at the start of the rally also made me a bit cautious. I lost a lot of time, but the last thing I wanted to do was to take too many risks. That paid off, in terms of the result at least: fourth place is the best we could really have hoped for as it turns out. I was happy with my own performance again on Sunday. The rhythm was good. I am looking forward to the coming rally in Argentina.”

Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“The fourth success of the season, a host of new milestones, and a fantastic winning run – what the entire Volkswagen team achieved this weekend, despite the difficult conditions, is simply outstanding. I am incredibly proud of everyone involved. Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia were in a league of their own, put their foot down at exactly the right moments, and fully deserved to win. Andreas Mikkelsen and Mikko Markkula made the best of a difficult situation, showing great maturity in the process. The same goes for Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. Despite their crash on Friday, they managed to limit the damage, score valuable points for us in the Manufacturers’ Championship, and pick up points for themselves on the Power Stage. They can be grateful to the Volkswagen mechanics, without whose energetic efforts none of that would have been possible. As Motorsport Director, I can only be one thing about all that: proud.”

And then there was ...

... the “French Connection”. At the Rally Portugal, the winning pairing of Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia formed a unique liaison with Francois-Xavier „FX“ Demaison, Technical Project Leader for the WRC at Volkswagen. The “father of the Polo R WRC” was acting as car engineer at the fourth rally of the season, while Gerard-Jan de Jongh was at the birth of his second child. “FX” had stepped into the same role for Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila when their race engineer Fabrice van Ertvelde took a brief “paternity leave”.

And then there was also ...

... Sébastien Ogier’s 19th victory in the World Rally Championship. A special win for two reasons: Ogier drew level with Markku Alén in the all-time list. With five wins to his name, Alén is the uncrowned king of Portugal and was on the Algarve to watch this year’s event. Ogier now has four victories in Portugal to his name, and is hot on Alén’s heels. Win number 19 also had a practical advantage: Ogier was presented with his weight in olive oil at the presentation ceremony – a gift from the organisers.

Results

Posted: May 25, 2014 3:58 PM

1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen 3h 33m 20.4s
2. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN/FIN), Ford + 43.2s
3. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson (N/S), Citroën + 1m 12.4s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN), Volkswagen + 4m 50.5s
5. Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor (N/A), Ford + 5m 10.2s
6. Martin Prokop/Jan Tománek (CZ/CZ), Ford + 8m 27.2s
7. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai + 8m 32.3s
8. Juho Hänninen/Tomi Tuominen (FIN/FIN), Hyundai + 8m 51.6s
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Giovanni Bernacchini (Q/I), Ford + 10m 14.7s
10. Jari Ketomaa/Kaj Lindström (FIN/FIN), Ford + 10m 36.3s

Stern test for Volkswagen: Polo R WRC given tough workout in Portugal

Posted: March 31, 2014 3:38 PM

The elite of the rallying world taking on the most abrasive special stages of the year – the Rally Portugal (03–06 April) poses one of the biggest challenges to drivers and technology on the WRC calendar. The three Volkswagen works duos will be faced with rough, course gravel on a hard surface at the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), as well as technically demanding passages with poor visibility due to the countless crests and corners. As championship leaders, defending champions and last year’s winners Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) have the honour of opening the route, in accordance with the new regulations. They will be followed by team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) in the second World Rally Car out onto the route. Fourth to go: Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula (N/FIN) in the third Polo R WRC.

“The Rally Portugal is the first real indicator of the season,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “It is the first gravel rally of the year to be held in spring temperatures and just above sea level. As such, it is similar to the coming rounds in Argentina, Italy and Poland. Here, you can see how you really compare to the opposition. I don’t think we need to be afraid of this comparison. We won here last year and have come out on top at the first three rallies of this season. However, we also know that we will have to do a flawless job to overcome the unfavourable starting positions and get the maximum out of this rally.”

Typical Portugal: anything but your everyday rally

After facing the “unpredictable” at the Rally Monte Carlo, the only snow rally of the year in Sweden and the dizzy heights of Mexico, it is back to everyday business for the teams in the World Rally Championship. However, the Rally Portugal is anything but an everyday rally: it puts both man and machine to the test like no other rally on the WRC calendar. The narrow roads mean that any driving error is punished mercilessly, while the rough gravel consistently jolts the World Rally Cars about from the first to the last of the 339.46 kilometres of special stage. The Rally Portugal played an important role in the further development of the Polo R WRC last season. The knowledge that the Volkswagen engineers gained here, more than anywhere, were incorporated into the dimensions and design of the modified suspension components for 2014. The extreme demands of the Rally Portugal are largely responsible for the Polo R WRC arriving in Portugal even stronger than it was a year ago.

Re-acclimatised: five test days for Volkswagen in southern Portugal

Volkswagen prepared for the specific conditions it will face at the Rally Portugal with five days of testing. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila and Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia both spent two days carrying out intensive tests with the Polo R WRC around Almodóvar in southern Portugal, while Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula was on hand for a further day of testing. Following the Rally Mexico, the Volkswagen team used the tests to ease its way back into “normal” conditions at roughly sea level and in temperatures around the 20-degree mark. The three Polo R WRC chassis to be used in Portugal still have some re-acclimatising to do. Their last outing was back at the Rally Sweden – in freezing temperatures and on snow and slush.

Play it again, Séb: three wins in Portugal in three different World Rally Cars

World Rally Champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have particularly fond memories of the Rally Portugal. It was there in 2010 that they claimed their maiden WRC victory in the Citroën C4 WRC. They repeated the feat one year later in the Citroën DS3 WRC. And the French duo’s third victory at the Rally Portugal came last year in the Polo R WRC. Only one other man – Markku Alén – has ever claimed three wins in three different World Rally Cars at the Rally Portugal. With five victories to his name in Portugal, Alén is also the only WRC driver to have tasted success more often than Sébastien Ogier and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia in the country on the Iberian Peninsula. The Rally Portugal is currently the only WRC event that Ogier/Ingrassia have won three times.

Play it again, Jari: first for Latvala in the Polo R WRC twelve months ago

Last year’s Rally Portugal produced another first for Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, as they claimed their maiden podium finish with the Polo R WRC on the Algarve. In total, the Finnish duo has now picked up nine podiums from 16 rallies in Volkswagen colours. The last seven rallies have yielded six visits to the podium, including victory in Sweden. Coming into the Rally Portugal, the Finns find themselves second in the overall standings, just three points behind fellow Volkswagen drivers Ogier/Ingrassia.

Play it again, “Mikkel”: second Rally Portugal with Volkswagen

The Rally Portugal heralds a new era with Volkswagen for Ogier and Latvala’s team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen. The fourth round of the season sees the Norwegian return for a second crack at a rally with the Polo R WRC for the first time. While the previous twelve outings with Volkswagen and the 315-hp World Rally Car from Wolfsburg had been uncharted waters for Mikkelsen and co-driver Mikko Markkula, they are able to call upon past experience for the first time in Portugal. Mikkelsen, known by his friends as “Mikkel”, will benefit from the fact that about 71 per cent of the 2014 special stages are similar to those he encountered last year. Approximately 19 per cent will be tackled in the opposite direction, whilst only ten per cent of the rally will take place on completely new special stages.

On the verge of making history: the longest winning run in WRC history

A look at the World Rally Championship record books will give Volkswagen an extra boost of motivation. Victory in Portugal would see the team from Wolfsburg equal a record currently held by WRC rival Citroën. The longest winning run by any manufacturer in the World Rally Championship dates back to 2011, when record World Champion Sébastien Loeb and his team-mate at the time Sébastien Ogier were unbeatable from Mexico through to Germany: eight victories in a row. Volkswagen is proud to be second in the list of winning runs, with seven consecutive triumphs. In 2013, the winners’ trophies from Australia, France, Spain and Great Britain all went to the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer. They were immediately followed by victories at the opening three rounds of the 2014 season, in Monte Carlo, Sweden and Mexico. Having contested just 16 WRC rallies with the Polo R WRC, Volkswagen already has 23 podiums to its name.

Quotes ahead of the Rally Portugal

Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #1
“Portugal is definitely one of my favourite rallies on the calendar. It was here that I claimed my maiden win in the WRC in 2010, and Julien and I have won here three times in the last four years. With that in mind, we arrive at the fourth round of the World Championship full of confidence. The Rally Portugal certainly has two faces: when it is dry, the surface is very hard and offers a lot of grip. When it rains, however, the ground becomes very soft and muddy, giving you very little traction. I normally much prefer it when it is dry. However, we are first onto the route this time, so a little rain on the first day would not be bad for us.”

Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #2
“I have never made such a good start to a season – 60 points from three rallies and just three points behind the World Championship leader, my team-mate Sébastien Ogier. Last year I finished third at the Rally Portugal to claim my first podium with Volkswagen. In the past it has been a difficult rally for me. However, that 2013 result has given me a lot of confidence. I am looking forward to the rally and have a good feeling about it. We spent two days testing near to the special stages in Portugal. The conditions were typical for Portugal: dry, about 20 degrees Celsius, and on gravel roads with corners that are hard to see. I hope it will remain that way during the rally. It is usually dry in Portugal, but we have also had a few rainy events in the past. I have a completely different feel for the Polo R WRC this year. We have a well-oiled basic set-up and it is just a matter of making detailed improvements. As has so often been the case over the last ten years, my birthday falls on a rally weekend. As such, I am used to not partying too hard. Instead, it is a time for working hard. However, I am really looking forward to it, and would like to give myself a present in the form of a top-three finish.”

Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9
“Last year Portugal was my first rally with the Polo R WRC, and sixth place was a good result for Mikko and me. It is nice to return here with Volkswagen. The Rally Portugal is known for its corners, which are often hard to see. On top of that, it is constantly uphill and downhill. That makes it a very attractive rally, but also a very difficult one for the drivers. For this reason, the Recce will be very important, in order to acclimatise to the layout. There is one completely new special stage compared to last year. Other sections have just been altered a little or are run in the opposite direction to 2013. We have taken a step forward since last season. We now have the speed to mix it with the front-runners. However, it is important for me to work on my consistency. The goal for the coming events is to pick up some more podiums.”

Did you know …

… the 2013 Rally Portugal marked the first time in the history of the WRC that two Volkswagen drivers had stood side by side on the podium? Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F) were victorious, while Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) took third place.

… the third Polo R WRC, with Andreas Mikkelsen/Mikko Markkula in the cockpit (N/FIN), lined up for the first time at last year’s Rally Portugal? The duo was more than happy with its sixth place.

… the most successful driver in the history of the Rally Portugal comes from Finland? Markku Alén won the rally on five occasions (1975, 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1987). By the way: 13 of the 34 winners of the Rally Portugal were Finns.

… the rally moved location in 2007? After five years away from the World Rally Championship, the rally moved from the north of Portugal to the south – from Porto to the area around Faro, the capital of the Algarve region.

… the Rally Portugal used to consist of a mixture of asphalt and gravel stages? Since it moved to the Faro region in 2007, the event has been an all-gravel rally.

… Volkswagen Motorsport Ambassador Luís Moya (E) won the Rally Portugal twice in his career? He triumphed in 1991 as the co-driver in a Toyota Celica and in 1995 in the passenger seat of a Subaru Impreza. The driver on both occasions was Carlos Sainz (E), who won the Rally Dakar with Volkswagen in 2010.

… the Polo R WRC was not the first Volkswagen Motorsport rally car to finish in the top three at the Rally Portugal? Kenneth Eriksson/Peter Diekmann (S/D) finished third in a Golf GTI 16V in 1987.

… Volkswagen’s subsidiary Audi claimed a hat-trick of Rally Portugal wins in the 1980s? Michèle Mouton/Fabrizia Pons (F/I) were victorious for the Ingolstadt-based manufacturer in 1982, while Hannu Mikkola/Arne Hertz (FIN/S) triumphed in 1983 and 1984.

… the Rally Portugal has been named “Best Rally in the World” five times in the past?

The number for the Rally Portugal: 74.8

Sébastien Ogier generated a top braking pressure of 74.8 bar in the Polo R WRC at the recent Rally Mexico. That is the equivalent of the kind of atmospheric pressure you would experience at 748 metres underwater – too much for the design of most modern submarines.

A FAMILIAR FIXTURE: KUBICA POISED FOR PORTUGAL

Posted: March 31, 2014 3:28 PM

RK M-Sport World Rally Team’s Robert Kubica and Maciej Szczepaniak will be on more familiar ground next week as the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to Europe for the Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

The loose-surface stages through the Baixo Alentejo and Serra do Caldeirão hills north of Faro are the first that the Pole has already driven as part of the WRC and Kubica will be looking for a turn of fortune as he tackles the more familiar speed tests.

Based in the popular Algarve region, the rally has become a firm favourite amongst competitors and spectators alike, but the gravel tracks offer no easy task. Renowned as one of the championship’s most technical events, the unpredictable weather brings a constant risk of rain and the unforgiving stages are littered with obstacles that make precision pacenotes a must.

Incorporating a mix of open roads, hidden crests and narrow, more technically challenging sections, crews have to have their wits about them and the Polish pairing will have experience on their side for the first time this year.

Robert is determined to make the most of his return to Portugal and will be looking to secure a strong result on what is only his fifth WRC appearance behind the wheel of a world rally car.
In an impressive rise to the WRC’s highest league, Kubica made his championship debut during last season’s Rally de Portugal. One year on, he returns with the Ford Fiesta RS WRC - determined to secure more valuable experience whilst translating his proven speed into a solid points haul.

Robert Kubica said:
“Since my return to professional motorsport, this is the first event that I have contested before so I know more or less what to expect. Of course there are some different stages and some changes of direction compared to last year. In fact close to 50 per cent of the rally will again be new to me, but we know what to expect in terms of the nature and character of the stages.

“A lot has changed in the past 12 months. Last year Portugal was my first rally on gravel – with zero experience of the surface – in a different, smaller RRC [Regional Rally Car]. To be honest, I think next week will be a bit easier as I have a better idea of what to expect – both from the stages and from the car.

“From what I remember, Rally de Portugal is a very demanding and difficult event and I do not expect it to be any different this year. We need to approach it as if it were another new rally.

“All of the WRC events are tricky for me, especially gravel rallies where my experience is limited and I am discovering everything from zero. I remember from last year that this event is especially tricky as there are many crests which are quite demanding. Of course it is a relatively short rally [when compared to the previous outing in Mexico] so it may be a little easier in that respect.

“After a difficult start to the season, I would like to get through this event without any mistakes. As I said, it will not be easy and it will be another new lesson for me. We will have to wait and see if past experience will help, but the goal is definitely to stay on the road and drive a nice smooth rally.”

M-SPORT LOOK TO PROGRESS IN PORTUGAL

Posted: March 31, 2014 3:25 PM

As the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) returns to Europe, the M-Sport World Rally Team will be looking to make further progress at next week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal. With both Mikko Hirvonen and Elfyn Evans growing in confidence, the team will be chasing a strong result.

Based in the Baixo Alentejo and Serra do Caldeirão hills north of Faro, Rally de Portugal is renowned as one of the most unpredictable and technically challenging events of the year.

The stages may not be as long as in previous years, but they are no less demanding. The gravel tracks incorporate everything from wide, open roads to narrow, twisty sections and the route is littered with hidden crests which make accurate pacenotes of vital importance.

Finding a consistent rhythm is paramount and the stages hide a multitude of hazards – concealed corners, tricky tree-lined bends and a constant risk of showers given the Algarve’s changeable weather.

The event is a challenge for any driver, but that has never stood in the way of Hirvonen and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen securing a good result. Having contested the event on seven previous occasions, the Finns have never finished outside of the top-five – with the exception of 2012 when their winning car was excluded on technical grounds.

At the previous outing in Mexico, Hirvonen looked at one behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC – fighting for the top positions before a technical issue put paid to his efforts – and is determined to come back fighting.
Following some forward steps with the gravel set-up and a week-long research and development test in the UK, the M-Sport driver is full of confidence and will be aiming to fight for the podium on what has historically been one of his strongest WRC events.

In a change from the norm, next week’s fixture will mark the first familiar event of the year for Hirvonen’s younger teammate. Showcasing Ford and M-Sport’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ at its best, Evans has contested the event on two previous occasions – with the Ford Fiesta R2 in 2012, the Ford Fiesta RRC in 2013 – and will step-up to the Fiesta RS WRC next week.

Following a career-best fourth place in Mexico, Evans is showing real promise in what is a development year at the WRC’s highest level. Focused on the job in hand, the Welshman is determined to make it through all of the stages unscathed as he and co-driver Daniel Barritt look to reduce the gap to the leaders with another strong performance.

Mikko Hirvonen said:
“I would say that this is an event that I enjoy. It’s quite similar to Mexico in places. The route is really technical and there are a lot of corners over crests so precise pacenotes are really important. Of course a good note system is important everywhere, but it is even more so in Portugal. The stages are very unforgiving. The smallest of mistakes can be extremely costly so your lines have to be absolutely perfect.

“The weather can also play a big role here. Some years it is dry and dusty and really hard on the tyres, and other years it can be the muddiest event of the year! Personally, I hope it stays relatively dry so that we can make the most of our road position and really attack through the first day.

“The feeling with the Fiesta [RS WRC] is getting better and better so I hope that we can have a clean run and continue where we left off in Mexico. We want to be in the fight for the top positions, and that’s what we’ll be aiming for next week.”

Elfyn Evans said:
“This is the first familiar event of the year for me which definitely helps. We have a good proportion of the notes from previous years, and although there will still be some new sections, the majority of the recce will involve amending the existing notes which have evolved in the past 12 months.

“Some of the stages vary in character and are quite technical in places so accurate pacenotes are extremely important. There are a lot of corners on crests which can be really tricky, so it is encouraging to know that we go there with two years’ experience under our belts.

“I think our approach will remain largely unchanged. We’ll certainly be a lot more comfortable on the stages and our familiarity of the event will make things easier, but we need to remember that this year is all about developing our skills at this level.

“Our main goal will be to get consistently closer to the guys at the head of the field. We’ve made good progress so far this year, and Portugal will provide us with the perfect opportunity to work on reducing that gap further.”

ADDITIONAL M-SPORT DRIVERS

M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta rally cars make up 49 per cent of this year’s Rally de Portugal. Forty-two Fiestas have been entered including six Ford Fiesta RS WRCs, five Ford Fiesta RRCs, two Ford Fiesta S2000s, 14 Ford Fiesta R5s and 15 Ford Fiesta R2s. M-Sport cars also make up 40 per cent of the WRC field and an impressive 80 per cent of the WRC 2 category.

Ott Tänak is back behind the wheel of a Fiesta RS WRC. This will be the Estonian’s fourth outing at the event, and he will be one to watch on what has been an impressive comeback to the WRC’s highest league. Also making a welcome return is Henning Solberg in a similar Fiesta RS WRC.

Following in Evans’ footsteps, Pontus Tidemand joins the M-Sport fold as he claims his prize for winning the 2013 FIA Junior World Rally Championship. Taking to the wheel of a Fiesta R5 for the first time in competition, the young Swede has good form in Portugal. Having contested the rally as part of the FIA WRC Academy and Junior WRC for the previous two years, Tidemand can boast a third and first place finish in the WRC support category and will be looking to challenge at the top of the WRC 2 rankings.

WRC 2 leader, Yuriy Protasov, is also back behind the wheel of the Fiesta R5. Following two victories in Monte-Carlo and Mexico, the Ukrainian has a strong lead in the championship standings and will be looking to hold onto that next week.

Also making a welcome return to the WRC 2 category – in M-Sport prepared Fiesta RRCs – are Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and Subhan Aksa.

ØSTBERG, MEEKE AND AL QASSIMI ALL IN DS3 WRCS AT PORTUGAL

Posted: March 31, 2014 3:05 PM

Like in Sweden, three Citroën DS3 WRCs have been entered by the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team for Rally de Portugal.

Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson, winners here in 2012, and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle will be eligible to score points towards the Manufacturers’ standings.

Currently second in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship, Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson will be taking part in the second of the four WRC rounds that make up their 2014 programme.

CITROËN AND RALLY DE PORTUGAL: FROM THE DS21 TO THE DS3 WRC…

In 1969, the World Rally Championship had yet to be formed. However, the top drivers of the time were already competing in Portugal. In a Citroën DS21, Francisco Romaozinho and ‘Jocames’ were the first of five local crews to win on home soil.

Since 2003, Citroën has racked up six wins. Initially, success came in the national championship with Armindo Araujo and Miguel Ramalho (Saxo kit car) and then in the WRC, with Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena (C4 WRC) and Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (DS3 WRC).

Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson, at the time rivals of the Citroën crews, also won in Portugal in 2012. They prevailed after Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen were disqualified in their Citroën DS3 WRC, despite leading from the first stage to the last.

THE CHALLENGE OF FLAWLESS OPERATING

In 2007, Rally de Portugal returned to the World Championship calendar. Relocated to the Algarve, it is now one of the most controlled events for the various teams.

Over the years, the route has changed very little. Didier Clément, Chief Operations Engineer for the DS3 WRCs, explained:
“It’s pretty standard for the gravel rallies in the championship. A car that is quick on gravel will inevitably be competitive in Portugal.”

However, one specific factor can change everything, the weather:
“Depending on the conditions, the level of grip can go from one extreme to the other. If it rains, the gravel turns to mud and the surface becomes very slippery. Being first on the road then becomes an advantage. If it stays dry, it is very hard on the tyres because wear is a very important aspect. And in that case, it is preferable to set off last.”

The new rules mean that the running order is fixed for the first leg. Mads Østberg will be running in third position and Kris Meeke will be seventh on the road.

“We can no longer choose our strategy like we could before with the qualifying stage,” added Didier. “We will therefore need to make the most of the data provided so that our drivers can express themselves fully. If you make a mistake on tyre choice, it’s not unusual to lose a full minute on a loop. If there is heavy rain or hot sunshine, it can be all over very quickly. But when conditions lie somewhere between these two extremes, it’s a lot more complicated.”

“Each part of the ground reacts differently to any water. And as the road surface is not uniform, you have to be able to adapt. We’ll use all our experience, and that of the drivers, the recce in which the engineers take part, information from Michelin and the weather data that we have when choosing the tyres. It’s a real team effort, which should ensure our drivers enjoy the best solution on the stages.”

MADS ØSTBERG, FORMER WINNER…

In 2012, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson won their first WRC rally in Portugal. The Faro-based event is therefore somewhat special for the Norwegian and the Swede.
“There are many events I like in the WRC, but Portugal is one of my favourites,” confirmed Mads. “In 2012, we were awarded the win after the finish. To be honest, it was a little disappointing to be declared as the winner of a rally after the podium. Now I really want to win so that, finally, I can climb onto the top step.”

“I always have a good feeling on these roads. Last year, I was leading at the start of the rally before going off. I feel capable of fighting at the front. But the conditions are often very difficult here. You have to think about a lot of factors. It is one of the roughest gravel rallies now that the Acropolis Rally is no longer on the calendar. You have to look after the car and monitor tyre wear. The type of roads here also provides difficulties with plenty of blind corners, lots of changes in ground level and very few visual landmarks. You need to take very accurate pace notes.”

Third in the World Championship standings and having won five stages in Mexico, Mads Østberg is setting his sights high:
“We have shown that we are quick in the Citroën DS3 WRC. That was confirmed in our recent tests. Mentally, I’m ready to fight at the front.”

ANOTHER NEW RALLY FOR KRIS MEEKE

Although he has already taken part in 43 World Championship events, Kris Meeke will be making his first appearance at Rally de Portugal. Like in Sweden and Mexico, the Northern Irishman is aiming to add to his experience.

“Yet more new stages for me!” smiled Kris. “It looks like it will be a very interesting rally. After Mexico, driving the Citroën DS3 WRC in testing helped to boost my confidence. At sea level, the car has significantly more power and there is a lot more grip on this type of road surface.”

Quick in Mexico, Kris Meeke showed he was capable of matching the pace of the leaders on gravel:
“After speaking with the team, I know that this rally can be particularly complicated. For my first appearance here, it won’t be easy. I feel a little bit frustrated after Mexico. I need to rack up more miles in the car and that will be my main objective in Portugal. If I can keep out of trouble then inevitably, the result will look after itself. What I need is to be consistent. Our last test sessions went really very well and I felt very comfortable in the Citroën DS3 WRC.”

KHALID AL QASSIMI RETURNS IN THE THIRD CITROËN DS3 WRC

Having finished on the podium in the first two rounds of the Middle East Rally Championship, Khalid Al Qassimi is back in the Citroën DS3 WRC in Portugal. The Abu Dhabi driver has already competed at this event four times, finishing in the top 10 on three occasions.

“I can’t wait to start my first gravel rally in the WRC this season,” emphasized Sheikh Khalid. “We’ll have to try and keep out of trouble throughout the rally, whilst also paying particular attention to the tyres. I feel good in the Citroën DS3 WRC. I hope that our pre-rally tests will enable us to find the right set-up so that we can set some good times.”

FAFE RALLY SPRINT: THE PERFECT APPETIZER

A few days before recce starts, many of the leading contenders in the World Championship will be taking part in a separate event. The Fafe Rally Sprint, held on roads formerly used to stage Rally de Portugal, will give many tens of thousands of spectators the chance to see the WRCs in action in the north of the country. Mads Østberg and Kris Meeke will share a Citroën DS3 WRC this Saturday, 29 March during this non-championship event.

FROM ESTORIL TO FARO

Estoril returns this year to the route of Rally de Portugal. The city, the starting point of the rally 39 years ago and equally a former F1 Grand Prix venue, will this year host the start of the rally on Thursday, 3 April at 3pm.

After the ceremonial start, the crews will travel the twenty kilometres or so to reach the capital, Lisbon, where a 3.27 kilometre super special stage will be held in the evening. A long 288 kilometre road section is then scheduled before the cars enter parc ferme at Algarve Stadium.

On Friday morning, the drivers will set off in the same order as the World Championship standings for a loop of three stages, each run twice, split by a thirty-minute service period starting at 1.30pm.

The stages are already familiar to the majority of the drivers. Silves (21.50km), Ourique (25.04km) and Almodovar (26.48km) will determine the standings on day one.

On Saturday, the WRC crews will run in reverse order, according to their position in the overall standings. Like the day before, the crews will complete two runs on the three stages, with a pause for the midday service.

After Santa Clara (19.09km), the longest stage of the rally, Santana da Serra (31.90km) will be run in the opposite direction to previous years. The loop will conclude with Malhao (22.15km) before the cars head back to Algarve Stadium.

The final leg will be made up of three stages, covering only 43.87 kilometres of timed sections. At 8.50am, the crews will set off from Loulé (13.83km), then tackle Sao Bras de Alportel (16.21km) before the final test on Loulé which will also serve as the Power Stage.

The rally is scheduled to finish on Sunday, 6 April at Algarve Stadium from 12.25pm local time.

CITROËN RACING SUPPORTS THE CHAMPIONS OF THE FUTURE

Posted: March 31, 2014 2:56 PM

Since it first entered the World Rally Championship, Citroën Racing has always been on the lookout for talented young drivers. In 2001, the Brand played a key role in finding and developing Sébastien Loeb, who claimed the Junior World Championship in a Citroën Saxo Super 1600.

Over the years, Citroën has enabled several drivers to cut their teeth on the WRC stages. Dani Solà (2002), Dani Sordo (2005), Sébastien Ogier (2008) and Martin Prokop (2009) all won the Junior title in a Citroën.

After switching to a one-make series in 2011, the Junior WRC is now about to enter a new era with Citroën Racing. Open to drivers aged 28 or under competing in Citroën DS3 R3s, the championship begins its six-round calendar at Rally de Portugal.

Fourteen crews have entered this year. Among them, some will be able to take advantage of their knowledge of the Citroën DS3 R3, acquired in national trophies or in the WRC3. The French pair of Quentin Giordano and Sylvain Michel, the German Christian Riedemann, the Australian Molly Taylor, the Swiss Federico Della Casa, the Northern Irishman Alastair Fisher, the Czech Jan Cerny and the Italian Simone Campedelli have all shown off their skills in the leading two-wheel drive rally car.

Experience of competing in one or more rounds of the World Rally Championship may also be an advantage for the Italian Simone Tempestini, the Pole Aron Domzala, the Czech Martin Koci and the Frenchman Stéphane Lefebvre.

The year’s opening rally, held between Lisbon and Faro, will provide the gravel specialists with the opportunity to get their season off to a good start. All of the drivers will also be able to score points in the WRC3 championship.

In addition to the Drivers’ title, Co-drivers’ title and the Nations Trophy awarded at the end of the season, the WRC Junior champion will earn the chance to compete in six rounds of the 2015 WRC2 in a Citroën DS3 R5. He or she will therefore follow in the footsteps of Sébastien Chardonnet, winner of the 2013 Citroën Top Driver series, who is enjoying similar support this season.

THE FOURTEEN CREWS ENTERED

52 – Simone Tempestini (ITA) / Dorin Pulpea (ROU)
Driver date of birth: 12 August, 1994
Team: Napoca Rally Team

One of the leading Production class drivers in the ERC last year, Simone Tempestini is the reigning Romanian Junior Champion. He took part in Rally Finland and Wales GB Rally in 2013.

53 – Aron Domzala (POL) / Zawada Przemyslaw (POL)
Date of birth: 1 August, 1989
Team: Creative Rally Solutions

After competing for several seasons in Poland, Aron Domzala took part in his first world rally in 2012 at the Spanish round of the WRC Academy. In 2013, he varied his programme, taking part in rallies in Lithuania and Estonia.

54 – Christian Riedemann (DEU) / Lara Vanneste (BEL)
Date of birth: 27 August, 1987
Team: MY Racing

Fourth in last year’s WRC3 and the 2013 Citroën Top Driver with one win in Italy and a podium finish in Germany, Christian Riedemann is one of the most experienced drivers in the field. He made his competitive debut in 2006 and has competed in the World Championship since 2010.

55 – Quentin Giordano (FRA) / Guillaume Duval (FRA)
Date of birth: 10 June, 1986
Team: PH Sport

A regular in Promotional Formulas in France, Quentin Giordano finished fourth in the 2013 Citroën Racing Trophy. His only experience in the World Championship involves competing at the Rallye de France in the last three years.

56 – Martin Koci (CZE) / Lukas Kostka (SVK)
Date of birth: 5 April, 1993
Team: Gekon Racing

After competing in rally sprint events having turned 16, Martin Koci made his competitive rallying debut in 2011 in a Citroën C2-R2 Max. He competed in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Austria before taking part in the WRC in 2012. Last year, he finished sixth in the Junior WRC.

57 – Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA) / Thomas Dubois (FRA)
Date of birth: 16 March, 1992
Team: PH Sport

Following the French driver development programme, Stéphane Lefebvre began his rallying career in the promotional formulas. He won a Junior title which earned him an ERC programme in 2013. He was part of the FFSA French Rally team.

58 – Molly Taylor (AUS) / Coral Taylor (AUS)
Date of birth: 6 May, 1988
Team: D Max Rally Team

With a mother competing as a co-driver, Molly Taylor quickly found herself behind the wheel of a rally car. First spotted in Australia, she began competing in Europe in 2009, where she claimed her first race wins. After winning a driver detection competition, she was awarded a scholarship in the WRC Academy in 2011 (11th). She is also a driver representative on the FIA’s Women in Motorsport Commission.

59 – Panikos Polykarpou (CYP) / Gerald Winter (AUT)
Date of birth: 27 January, 1991
Team: Team Jaga

Cypriot Rally Champion in 2011, Panikos Polykarpou has set himself a new challenge this season. After testing the Citroën DS3 R3 at the Cyprus Rally, one of the rounds in the 2012 Middle East Rally Championship, he is making his WRC debut this year.

60 – Sylvain Michel (FRA) / Gwenola Marie (FRA)
Date of birth: 27 October, 1991
Team: Accro Race

Winner of the C2 R2 Citroën Trophy in 2012 and the Swiss Citroën Racing Trophy in 2013, winning every round, the Frenchman Sylvain Michel is set to get his first experience of the World Rally Championship in the FIA Junior WRC.

61 – Federico Della Casa (CHE) / Domenico Pozzi (ITA)
Date of birth: 17 July, 1991
Team: D Max Rally Team


After cutting his teeth on the roads of Switzerland, France and Italy, and during his first appearance at the Monte-Carlo Rally, Federico Della Casa competed in the Citroën Top Driver series last year, finishing in tenth place.

62 – Alastair Fisher (GBR) / Gordon Noble (GBR)
Date of birth: 30 July, 1988
Team: DGM

Spotted at a very young age on the roads of the British Isles, Alastair Fisher made his WRC Academy debut in 2011, finishing third overall and claiming a category win at the Rallye de France. Sixth in his second season with a win in Portugal, he finished eighth in the 2013 Citroën Top Driver series and fourth in the UK Citroën Racing Trophy.

63 – Kornel Lukacs (HUN) / Mark Mesterhazi (HUN)
Date of birth: 5 September, 1991
Team: Wurmbrandt Racing

Mainly competing in Hungary and then throughout Central Europe until 2012, Kornel Lukacs produced some fine performances last season in the European Championship, finishing second in the Two-Wheel Driver class. He is making his World Championship debut this season.

64 – Jan Cerny (CZE) / Pavel Kohout (CZE)
Date of birth: 6 June, 1990
Team: Cerny Auto SRL

After making his competitive debut at 16, Jan Cerny began racing at international level in 2009 when he finished sixth in the ERC. Seventh in the WRC Academy in 2011, he returns to the WRC this season.

65 – Simone Campedelli (ITA) / Danilo Fappani (ITA)
Date of birth: 26 July, 1986
Team: Procar

Simone Campedelli is one of the oldest drivers taking part, with over ten years rallying experience under his belt. Supported by Citroën Italy in 2011 and 2012, he won the Italian Junior Championship and won then the Two-Wheel Drive Cup two years running. In 2013, he finished sixth in the Citroën Top Driver series.

Unpredictable Portugal Provides Tough Tyre Test

Posted: March 28, 2014 12:35 PM

Following on from the success of Rally Mexico, 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 across the entire season and can see tyre wear increased by up to 30%. The hard bedrock surfaces punish tyres to the limit and demand high levels of durability.

DMACK comes to the event off the back of a positive performance in Mexico where Ott Tänak set a string of fastest WRC 2 times using DMACK’s DMG+2 tyre in the nominated S3 hard compound. And that tyre will equip Jari Ketomaa’s Autotek-run Ford Fiesta R5 when the Drive DMACK World Rally Team tackles the tough terrain in Portugal.

Ketomaa and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom will be aiming for a strong result this weekend to build on their second place on Rally Sweden. But they face huge competition with a total of 20 WRC 2 entries lining up to take on Portugal.

Ketomaa will be joined by Fredrik Ahlin, Nicolas Fuchs, Robert Barrable and Rashid Al Ketbi as DMACK aims for success in WRC 2 with five Fiesta R5 runners.

The gravel stages are a real mix of tough conditions. There are fast, open roads with blind crests and hard bedrock surfaces mixed with narrow, sandy tracks and DMACK’s tyre must deliver a good mix of traction, durability and puncture resistance. Crews must also cleverly manage their tyre allocation across the weekend to achieve the best performance.

However, the early spring calendar date means the Portuguese weather is an unknown. In recent years torrential rain has turned roads into a muddy mess with crews struggling to stay on the road. In the event of wet weather, DMACK will also have its soft and successful S6 on offer to competitors as an alternative compound. The maximum tyre allocation for the three-day event is 24 of which 16 alternative compound tyres are permitted.

To prepare for the challenge, Jari Ketomaa and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom will race on this weekend’s Fafe Rally Sprint – the hugely popular event attracting tens of thousands of exuberant rally fans close to Porto.

Event Details

In a switch to last year, crews will travel to Lisbon for a ceremonial start at Estoril on Thursday evening followed by a quick blast through the Lisbon super-special street stage.

While the rally could be complicated, the rest of the itinerary is simple. Both Friday and Saturday feature two loops of three stages totaling 73km, run in the morning and repeated in the afternoon. The final day action on Sunday comprises three stages including the 13.83km Loulé power stage before the finish back at the Algarve Stadium – home to Rally HQ and the service park.

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:
“The abrasive nature of the roads combined with the length of stage loops will ensure this is 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. However, if it rains then I think the DMACK runners will have a strong advantage as we’ve proven already that our soft compound tyre is extremely competitive.”

Jari Ketomaa said:
“Portugal is one of those difficult rallies and with the large entry here it’s certainly going to be a tough event. The stages are a real challenge with lots of surface changes and differing grip levels so it’s easy for things to go wrong. We need a strong result in WRC 2 so the aim is for a clean rally.”

Hankook and TigerRisk award Marty the chance of a lifetime

Posted: March 28, 2014 12:10 PM

Marty McCormack has waited a long time for this moment; the world awaits the Northern Irishman. The World Rally Championship that is.

The Draperstown driver will realise a lifetime ambition next week, when he starts his first ever World Rally Championship programme. McCormack and his co-driver David Moynihan are contesting the WRC 2 series in a Ford Fiesta R5 backed by Korean tyre giant Hankook and innovative insurance expert TigerRisk.

McCormack’s talent is already widely recognised. Just four years after he started in the sport, he was crowned British Junior Rally Champion – a title he won for the second time in 2011. McCormack underlined his position at the top of British rallying by taking his first outright British Rally Championship event in in 2011.

That immediate success led to an invitation from 2003 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg to drive for his team in Corsica in 2012. Closer to home, Jimmy McRae (a five-time British Champion and father to rally legend Colin) awarded Marty the prestigious Colin McRae Flat Out Trophy after a stunning drive on the 2012 Circuit of Ireland.

But now, Marty’s career is ready to take off on the international stage. He will contest six rounds of the World Rally Championship, starting with next week’s Rally of Portugal. His programme then takes him to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia for Rally d’Italia. The likeable and super-quick Northern Irishman is ready to make the most of this gilt-edged opportunity as the name Marty goes global.

The Ford Fiesta R5 is built by two-time world champions M-Sport and run by the Italian A-Style team. McCormack and Moynihan travel to Portugal this weekend in readiness for a ceremonial start in Estoril on Thursday (April 3). Over the ramp, tens of thousands of fans will cheer McCormack through the streets of Lisbon on a spectator-pleasing first stage.

From Friday (April 4) morning, this classic world championship counter shows its teeth as the crews move onto the notoriously tricky gravel roads inland from the Algarve. And that’s where the event remains until the finish at the Algarve Stadium on Sunday (April 6) afternoon.

McCormack will face the toughest competition of his life as he takes on a 20-strong WRC 2 field packed with high-calibre opposition hoping to shine in the World Rally Championship’s feeder series.

For McCormack, reaching the start of his first ever World Rally Championship programme is the realisation of a dream. But he knows the hard work lies ahead as he attempts to take his title-winning talent to rallying’s highest level.

Marty McCormack said:
“I’m absolutely thrilled and very excited to be given this opportunity to compete in the WRC 2 category of the World Rally Championship. I’ve been working hard throughout my rallying career to reach this level and it’s still sinking in that I’ve finally made it. I now need to use this opportunity to gain experience. I have to thank both Hankook Tyres and TigerRisk Management for their support. And I’m really looking forward to working with the A-Style team this season.”

David Moynihan said:
“To have the opportunity to compete alongside Marty in WRC 2 is amazing. Marty has proven to me over the years that he has the ability, motivation and dedication to progress to the top of the sport. He has never given up despite numerous setbacks and that he’s now secured a programme of this calibre – with a professional team in the most competitive car available – is proof of this. The first event will be difficult given that we will be driving the car for the first time on the shakedown. But Marty is a very adaptable driver with a very good understanding of the complex nature of these cars. That, coupled with the knowledge of the A-Style team and M-Sport engineers, will help us tremendously. From my part, I can only prepare as best as possible to ensure a smooth and efficient recce and then take every stage as it comes. I relish the challenge and feel that WRC 2 is stronger this year then ever. And it’s the ideal place to showcase our ability to the factory teams.”

Robert Barrable makes first WRC return at Rally Portugal

Posted: March 28, 2014 12:08 PM

Robert Barrable made his FIA World Rally Championship debut 12 months ago on the 2013 Rally of Portugal – so for the first time in his career, the 26-year old Dublin driver will be returning to familiar territory next weekend and, armed with experience, will be looking for another strong points-scoring result in his Tunnock’s World Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5.

Robert finished an excellent 2nd in WRC-2 and 11th overall in Portugal last year – driving a hired Fiesta S2000, having just sold his trusty ŠKODA Fabia S2000. It led on to his first WRC rally programme with the brand new Fiesta R5, with another excellent podium finish in Spain and solid points-scoring finishes in Finland and France to follow.

After his first full season in the CA1 Sport-run Tunnock’s Fiesta R5, Robert and co-driver Stuart Loudon now return to Portugal, having already scored WRC-2 points this year with 3rd on Rallye Monte Carlo.

And, for the first time, Robert has personal reference to some of the stages he’s most looking forward to returning to – like the tight and twisty Santana de Serra (a stage Robert remembers well, as he passed the stranded Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans in there last year) and the Almodôvar test (which this year runs as two separate stages, not the one long 32.5 mile / 52.3km stage Robert enjoyed the most). Existing pace notes will be of an advantage, as the Portuguese roads switch between fast and open to narrow and twisty, with many blind crests making it extremely difficult to find a rhythm.

Twenty WRC-2 cars have been entered for Rally Portugal – 16 are Ford Fiestas, and include drivers such as Fredrik Åhlin, Pontus Tidemand, Nasser Al-Attiyah, Jari Ketomaa, Yuriy Protasov, Karl Kruuda and Marty McCormack. There are three Mitsubishi Lancers (driven by Massimiliano Rendina, Marco Vallario and Juan Carlos Alonso) and a Mini driven by Valeriy Gorban.

Robert:
“This year’s Rally Portugal will be the first time I’ve ever returned to a round of the World Rally Championship, so I’m hoping that the general rule that it’s easier to contest an event for the second time actually comes true! Although we started off a little nervously last year, we got into our stride well, really enjoyed the stages and ended up with a good result. We’ve got a bit of a feel for the Portuguese terrain, and with much of the stages the same as before, it will be a rare opportunity to fine tune the pace notes we already have, rather than do what we normally have to do on a WRC recce and start writing them on a clean piece of paper.

“The WRC-2 entry list this year is spectacular, so it’s going to be a very difficult event to score a good result on. We’ll be keen to reach the end without too many problems, as we have the Circuit of Ireland less than two weeks later, but we’ll certainly be going to Portugal and giving it our best shot. If we can mix it with the top WRC-2 runners and score more championship points, then we’ll be happy enough.”

Stuart:
“In Portugal we have twenty crews entered in WRC-2 and the strength in depth is incredible. However, we will go there with the same head as we used last year; settle into our own pace, don’t move away from being neat and tidy and the result will come. Portugal is such a technical event with so many hazards at the side of the road that can break suspension or steering you really need to be tidy. This is where having done the rally last year will help. On the recce we can double-check the amendments we made twelve months ago and ensure whether we really do need to caution that area, or perhaps we can tackle it a bit quicker. We have to be careful as we really don’t want to end up having to use Rally2 to get a finish.

“The strength in depth in the WRC-2 field in Portugal has not been seen before. If we could get into the top five that would be a great result, but we saw last year that the stages are unforgiving to any errors and maybe we can come away from this my third time at the rally with a top three. No matter what, we will be trying our hardest come the start.”

This year’s Rally Portugal is once again based in Faro, with the centralised service park located at the Algarve Stadium. The event starts to the north in Estoril on Thursday 3 April, with the opening stage held at Praco do Imperio, in the shadow of the Jerónimos Monastery (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Thereafter the fourth round of the WRC follows a more familiar format, with three days of competition held on technically demanding gravel roads in the Baixo Alentejo and Serra do Caldeirão hills north of Faro. SS16 is the concluding Power Stage on Sunday (6 April), before the Stadium finish ceremony just after midday.

NEW PIRELLI SCORPION TYRE MAKES WORLD RALLY CAR DEBUT

Posted: March 28, 2014 12:07 PM

Pirelli’s latest Scorpion tyre for gravel will make its debut on a World Rally Car at the Rally Portugal next weekend, from April 3-6.

The Scorpion name has not been seen at the very top level of rallying since Pirelli ended its exclusive supply contract with the World Rally Championship in 2010. Now, the brand new Scorpion tyre will be seen on the privately-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC of Henning Solberg. The Norwegian previously used Pirelli’s Sottozero tyre to win a stage on Rally Sweden with the same car in February – on only the second event of Pirelli’s comeback.

The challenge on round four of the world championship, held on gravel roads close to Faro, is very different – but following Solberg’s outing on snow and ice in Sweden, this will still be only the second appearance for a Pirelli tyre on a World Rally Car this year.

Pirelli drivers in Portugal

As well as Henning Solberg in a World Rally Car, Pirelli is well-represented in the WRC2 category. The other Pirelli drivers are:

    33 Max Rendina/Mario Pizzuti (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10)
    43 Bernardo Sousa/Hugo Magalhaes (Ford Fiesta RRC)
    44 Julien Maurin/Nicolas Klinger (Ford Fiesta RRC)
    37 Lorenzo Bertelli/Mitia Dotta (Ford Fiesta R5)
    75 Rui Madeira/Nuno da Silva (Ford Fiesta R5)
    76 Joao Barros/Jorge Henriques (Ford Fiesta R5)
The tyres available

For the rough gravel surfaces, Pirelli will bring the hard compound Scorpion XR5 tyre and the soft compound XR7.

The XR pattern is designed for particularly abrasive and aggressive surfaces. The internal structure means that the tyre is resistant to rocks and other impacts, while the sidewall is also reinforced to protect against punctures. The new XR is a symmetrical (non-directional) tyre, which makes each tyre interchangeable on either side of the car: a key advantage when it comes to strategy.

The rules

Just one prime compound is nominated per gravel event (the hard compound in Portugal) with limited quantities of a softer option compound also available in case of unexpected weather.
Drivers of WRC1 cars are allowed to use 25 tyres for the event, plus four for the shakedown, making 29 tyres in total. The WRC2 drivers have an allocation of 20 tyres for the event (plus four for the shakedown) making 24 tyres in total.
The XR5 is the prime nomination, with the softer XR7 compound, suitable for use in cooler conditions, available as the option.

Quotes

Henning Solberg, Pirelli driver:
“I was very impressed with the performance of the Pirelli tyres in Sweden, where we were competitive from start to finish, and although the gravel of Portugal is a completely different surface, I’m hoping that these tyres will give us an advantage once more. I’ve got very good memories of driving the previous version of the Scorpion from years ago, but I have to be realistic as well: our car is a private entry and I’m not doing any testing before the rally. Instead, we’re straight into the shakedown. In a situation like that, you hope that the tyres can help to make the difference.”

Matteo Braga, Pirelli senior engineer:
“Our aim in rallying this year is to supply tyres for customers, so we are delighted to welcome Henning back in his private Fiesta, after a strong performance in Sweden. Our Scorpion tyre has been completely redesigned since it was last seen on a World Rally Car in 2010 to provide an even better compromise between performance and durability, while answering the demands of the latest tyre regulations, which strictly limit use.”

Tom Cave relishing start of Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy season

Posted: March 28, 2014 11:10 AM

Welsh rally driver Tom Cave is eager to begin his 2014 rally campaign next week, as the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy heads for its first round, the Vodafone Rally of Portugal. While it has been more than four months since his last competitive outing, he has spent the time wisely, carrying out as much preparation as possible ready for the start of the season.

Tom's last event was Wales Rally GB in November 2013 and while that is several months ago, he has been busy over the winter period. He has been studying on-board footage from previous editions of the rally, including the 2009 edition, in which he competed in his Group N Ford Fiesta ST.

He has also been studying the DVD provided by the Rally Portugal organisers, from a car driven over the stages. While he is not using this to make initial pace notes, Tom is able to supplement his existing knowledge of the event with further experience of the overall nature of the stages and begin to build a picture of which areas are rough and smooth and where he might be able to push and where to take things easy.

And while Rally GB saw him drive a Ford Fiesta R5 and his last two seasons in the MSA British Rally Championship saw him at the wheel of his Citroen DS3 R3, he did contest the first round of the 2012 BRC in a Fiesta R2, so has some experience of the car.

To further learn the R2 Fiesta that he will be driving in the 2014 DDFT, he carried out a day's testing in the UK using a rented car. This proved extremely useful, with a significant distance racked up to get a feel for the car and it's behaviour on both the twisty stages and the more open, faster ones which make up the first round, based in the Algarve.

Even more beneficial was the support of Elfyn Evans, the latest British driver to make it to the FIA World Rally Championship as a works driver. Elfyn used the R2 Fiesta to clinch the FIA Academy in 2012 en route to his M-Sports works drive and discussed various aspects of the event with Tom.

Commenting, Tom said; "Two weeks ago, I was quite apprehensive about the start of the season, even though I've done the event in Portugal and have driven a Fiesta R2 before. However, now that I've had a solid day testing the car, have viewed the roads on the DVD and the internet and had a chance to have a good chat with Elfyn, I really feel ready for the start of the season.

"I think it's going to be very competitive - there are some very quick drivers in the series and because we're all in identical cars, the emphasis is squarely on the driver and co-driver. Also the drivers will be on the same DMACK tyres and as we have seen in the past, the Portuguese stages can be very abrasive so it may be necessary during the event to think about managing tyres as well, adding some strategy into the mix.

"I have very fond memories of the rally in Portugal, even though we didn't have a very good event there in 2009 [Tom's car retired with engine failure]. The stages are fantastic and a real mixture of tight and twisty and fast and flowing. If it's dry, dust could be an issue and if it's wet, it becomes very slippery.

"But we will be in the same boat as everyone else. And because it's a five round series and every score counts, it will be crucial to be on the pace from the outset but make sure that we avoid any mistakes."

There will be even more support for Tom, as his sponsor and partner, Morris Lubricants, has been adopted as official lubricants supplier to the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.

The 2014 Vodafone Rally de Portugal begins for the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy with a short test on the afternoon of Wednesday 2 April, before the crews transport to Lisbon for the ceremonial start on Thursday 3 April, at the Casino in Estoril before tackling the now-famous Superspecial stage around the Placa do Imperio in the centre of Lisbon.

Friday 4 April sees six stages, run as two loops of three either side of a single service halt in the Algarve region with a similar program on Saturday 5 April. The event finishes on Sunday 6 April, after three stages in a single loop in the morning, including the 13.8Km Loule Power Stage.

Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy Blasts Off In Portugal

Posted: March 28, 2014 9:03 AM

Boasting a line-up of 24 eager competitors from 10 different countries, the inaugural and highly anticipated Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy will burst into action at next week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

The cost-effective series was launched to provide an affordable option for upcoming drivers to taste action in the FIA World Rally Championship. After receiving registrations from 25 drivers, 12 were chosen to tackle the series which is played out over five European rounds of the world championship.

Not only does the series provide a platform for WRC action and global exposure, crews are battling for the huge prize of a full season in the 2015 WRC 2 championship at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta R5 in the Drive DMACK team. Drivers will use DMACK control tyres and race in identical Fiesta R2 cars, built and maintained by M-Sport.

The series, however, kick starts with one of the most technically demanding gravel rounds on the calendar. The special stages are a mix of fast, open roads with a hard base and softer, narrow tracks – with the blend of speeds and surfaces sometimes making it hard to find a rhythm.

Throw some blind crests into the mix and you get a rally where accurate pacenotes are vital – and that’s going to be a tough start for drivers who haven’t competed here before.

The Drive DMACK Fiesta crews have a diverse mix of experience. For four of the 12 drivers, next week’s event will be their first ever world rally. In stark contrast it will be co-driver Carlos del Barrio’s 83rd WRC event – he’s a previous overall rally winner with Dani Sordo in Germany last year and has also finished fifth overall alongside Jesús Puras on the 1996 Rally de Portugal. There are also four of the top-five drivers from last year’s Junior WRC series – Yeray Lemes, José Suárez, Sander Pärn and Marius Aasen who finished second, third, fourth and fifth.

This year the action once again takes places high in the Baixo Alentejo and Serra do Caldeiro hills above Faro in the Algarve region. The rally kicks off with a 3.27km blast through the streets of Lisbon following the ceremonial start at Estoril on Thursday evening. Then on Friday morning it’s straight into the rugged hills to tackle the tough gravel roads.

Competitors face two loops containing 73km of special stages on both Friday and Saturday with three shorter stages on Sunday rounding off the action before they reach the finish ramp at the Algarve Stadium after completing 339.46km of tests.

Make no mistake, the early spring conditions in Portugal are always demanding. If it’s hot and dry then dust and ultra-abrasive stages with hard bedrock will test the DMACK tyres to the limit. But, in recent years, torrential rain has turned the roads to slippery mud tracks with cars struggling to just stay on the road.

Competitors will have a maximum of 20 DMACK DMG2 gravel tyres in a newly-developed G42 medium compound for the entire event. They will get their first taste of action on Wednesday afternoon at a special test before meeting the world’s media at an exclusive champagne reception when the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy is officially launched on Wednesday evening in the service park.

To kick off the season with a little fun the competitors will be taking part in the DMACK Selfie Saturday – where they will be tweeting self-taken photos of themselves at various points during the rallying day.

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said:
“After an exciting build-up to the season, it’s great that we are finally set for the first round. It’s a tough rally with abrasive surfaces that really test tyre durability – so there’s a lot for the drivers to think about regarding tyre management. I’m proud that we’ve reached this stage. The DMACK brand has been founded on high-level competition at an affordable price and this series epitomizes just that. We’ve managed to offer a superb prize so I expect competition to be fierce all year.”

Malcolm Wilson OBE, M-Sport Managing Director, said:
“It is great to see the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy start so strongly with such a promising array of drivers. Having met many of them at the briefing earlier this month, they are all extremely determined individuals and I am sure that will translate on the stages with some very close-fought competition. There is such a variety of experience and I think that goes to show how popular the series has been. It is a real shame that we were restricted to a limited number of cars, but the field we have produced looks set to yield a highly competitive and exciting championship.”

Driver Quotes

Marius Aasen:
“I have been watching some of our in-car-videos from last year, just to refresh my mind about how things are working in Portugal. I know that some of the stages are very rough, so my biggest challenge will be to try and have a clean run through the whole rally without any problems. I am simply looking forward to starting on the first stage and getting back into the Ford Fiesta R2. I really wanted to take part in the Trophy and finally the first rally is just around the corner.”

Nicolas Amiouni:
“For me this rally will be a big challenge. It will be my first ever round of a proper WRC event and the main focus is to get the 300km of experience from the rally – so it will be important to try and complete all the stages. We had a test in Spain and it felt good and now I’m excited to make the start. I’m very lucky to have Carlos del Barrio with me to keep me on the right track.”

Tom Cave:
“I have been talking to Elfyn Evans to get advice on the preparation and strategy for the rally. With the abrasive surface in Portugal, a big challenge will be to maximise the tyre allocation over the three days and set up a good tyre strategy after the recce. My aim is to score maximum points, but also be disciplined and consistent. Craig and I are prepared and we are ready to show what we can do. In 2009 I only reached day two so it would be nice to finish the rally and with a good result to set our championship off on a positive start.”

Quentin Gilbert:
“I participated last year so I have some experience of the conditions. I have prepared physically to try and be in great shape for the rally and to remain well focused. I think the hardest part of this event are the stones which emerge after the four-wheel-drive cars, so you need good pacenotes and also to find the right pace to reach the finish without making mistakes. Our objective is to finish on the highest step of the podium. We really want, like all drivers, to win this championship and take the superb prize of a WRC 2 campaign in 2015.”

Yeray Lemes:
“We have been here three times in the last four years and been preparing by watching the video from past years. We can’t wait to start the championship and love the challenge of a tough event like this. It will be very competitive this year because of the high level of the drivers and certainly a big challenge to try and win the title. For this rally it will be important to have a clean run with no problems and punctures.”

Szymon Kornicki:
“This is my first WRC rally so it will be a big challenge for me. I have been doing physical and mental training and of course some driving – we have completed around 300km testing in the Fiesta on gravel. The biggest challenge will be to make good pacenotes and bring the car to the finish in one piece. My aim is to learn as much as possible, have a lot of fun from each kilometre of my driving, and try to avoid mistakes.”

Ghislain de Mévius:
“It’s my first world rally and first time in Rally Portugal. I did some gravel testing in the south of France which was very useful. The big challenge on this rally will be to try and be fast but not damage the car and of course try and make it to the finish – that’s the main aim. Getting the experience from this event will really help us in the future. I am very happy and excited to be starting this Trophy as it’s a big step forward for me in my rally career.”

Sander Pärn:
“I'm glad that we can use the experience we gained last year. Our first plan was to continue in 2014 in JWRC but it was difficult to find the sponsorship and the budget. This solution from DMACK and M-Sport is a good alternative and a cost-effective series for us. The Ford Fiesta R2 is the same as I used last year so I have that experience. The prize is great and one that will make all the drivers work hard during the season.”

Nil Solans:
“I have never competed on Rally Portugal before but we did a gravel rally in the Spanish national championship and were fastest in two-wheel-drive. We will try to be fast throughout all the days but without making mistakes – that will be important. My aim is to learn a lot and have a fast but safe drive. After all the preparation I’m excited to see the times after the first stage and to start this new adventure in my life.”

José Suárez:
“This will be my fourth time at Rally Portugal and I’ve always driven with the Fiesta R2. I have prepared well physically and I've worked with my own onboard videos of the last three editions of this rally. I feel up to speed as we won the Rally de Tierra de Lorca last weekend by just one second. I know the rally in Portugal well and I’m sure DMACK has worked hard to give us a good tyre. I hope to be in the top positions and fighting for the win. This Trophy is the best way for young drivers to progress in WRC and the final prize is amazing.”

Leo Urlichich:
“It has been a busy period since February when we were selected to drive in this series. Portugal will be my first WRC rally and I had never competed in a front-wheel-drive car at the start of this year. We did a course at the Team O’Neil Rally School in the US and then a test and a rally in Spain. It will be really difficult to get the pacenotes right and I also need to remember that I must get the experience of the WRC stages in order to become faster.”

Max Vatanen:
“It has been a big preparation for the first round and for the beginning of the DMACK Trophy. I’m planning a test this weekend and am really looking forward to drive again on the gravel and to drive for the first time with DMACK. The first challenge of the rally will be to have accurate pacenotes. The roads are very different from what I am used to in Finland and it’s a pretty rough event so finishing the rally with no problems will be a challenge. I’m really excited about my first ever stage in the WRC.”

Entry List

Posted: March 18, 2014 11:29 AM

Hyundai Motorsport to field three Hyundai i20 WRCs at Rally de Portugal

Posted: February 21, 2014 6:09 PM

Eager to accelerate its learning curve in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Hyundai Motorsport has today announced that three Hyundai i20 WRC cars will enter into Rally de Portugal, round four of the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship, in April.

The team’s lead driver Thierry Neuville will continue his role behind the wheel of the #7 car, whilst Finn Juho Hänninen will drive the #8 Hyundai i20 WRC after a promising performance at Rally Sweden earlier this month.

After the debut for the team at Monte-Carlo back in January, Spaniard Dani Sordo will join the Portuguese event by driving the Hyundai i20 WRC #20.

The Alzenau-based team has also announced its participation in the Fafe Rally Sprint, a traditional event organized as a precursor to Rally de Portugal. The one-day event will be held on Saturday 29th , March at the iconic Fafe-Lameirinha stage – which was part of the classic Rally de Portugal – and will attract hundreds and thousands of spectators each year.

Team Principal Michel Nandan commented:
“Having three cars at Rally de Portugal will be very positive for us and it will allow us to continue our data collection and to accumulate more mileage in our debut WRC season. I think we have a good line-up for Portugal with Thierry, Juho and Dani – each of them will bring their experience and will give us their own unique feedback which will help us in the continuous development of the Hyundai i20 WRC. Thierry’s level of performance combined with Juho’s skills on gravel and Dani’s experience and excellent track record at Rally de Portugal make them a very good choice for the event” he said.

“We are also very happy to take part in the Fafe Rally Sprint the weekend before Rally de Portugal. Of course, this will be a very warm-up for the event but it’s also a fantastic occasion for hundreds of thousands fans gather to see their WRC heroes in action on one of most famed stages in the history of the World Rally Championship” he concluded.

Event Website / Details / Rally Guide

Posted: January 23, 2014 12:49 PM

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