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Portugal - 18-21 May 17

Posted: May 21, 2017 11:10 AM - 3391 Hits

Round 6 - 2017 World Rally Championship

Live Results (Portugal 2017) Also available at: rally-base results
Radio: WRC All Live Audio Stream
News: www.wrc.com
Event Website: Rally de Portugal

First stage each day (Portugal is in the same time zone as Ireland/UK)
Shakedown - Thu - 07:30
SS1 Thu - 19:03
SS2 Fri - 10:09
SS10 Sat - 09:08
SS16 Sun - 09:08

Neuville chases WRC hat-trick in Portugal

Posted: May 19, 2017 4:19 AM

A win for Thierry Neuville in Portugal could move him top of the championship.

The Hyundai Motorsport driver has surged back into FIA World Rally Championship contention after misery on the opening rounds in Monte-Carlo and Sweden when he twice crashed out of the lead.

Having collected just eight points from those two rounds, the Belgian heads to Vodafone Rally de Portugal [18 – 21 May] as the man to beat after a dramatic turnaround in fortunes.

A podium in Mexico was followed by back-to-back wins in Corsica and Argentina, and Neuville, just 18 points behind M-Sport's championship leader Sébastien Ogier, is determined to keep a cool head.

“We are still on a high after the results of Corsica and Argentina. At the same time, we know we have to stay focused and concentrated on our job because the championship is incredibly close,' the i20 Coupe driver said.

"We can take nothing for granted. Rally Portugal in its current format is still a bit of a new one for us, having only been in the north of the country for the last two seasons. It is quite a tricky event, but I am looking forward to it. I am sure that with this new car and with the confidence we have, we can be fast.”

Neuville will have to be fast if he is to beat Ogier on an event the Frenchman has won four times. Another win this weekend would pull Ogier level with Markku Alén who won a record five times.

“Portugal is an event that I look forward to every year. Julien [co-driver Ingrassia] and I have had a lot of success there and it was where we took our first victory so it holds a lot of special memories," Ogier said.

"We will push the limits to challenge for the win. Opening the road on the first day will probably make it harder for us, but we come to Portugal with high objectives and a focus on increasing our championship lead once again."

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, Vodafone Rally de Portugal is based in Matosinhos, near Porto, in the north of the country, and features classic stages on sandy and rocky roads.

The rally begins on Thursday evening and concludes on Sunday afternoon after 19 stages and 349.17 competitive kilometres.

Lappi to make World Rally Car debut on Rally de Portugal in TOYOTA GAZOO Racing testing role

Posted: May 17, 2017 5:35 PM

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team test driver Esapekka Lappi and his co-driver Janne Ferm will make their first appearances at the top level of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) on Rally de Portugal in May.

Lappi will join his team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hanninen in the squad for the May 19-21 event, driving a third Yaris WRC at the start of a limited programme of WRC rounds, which will be selected according to development requirements.

The car has performed well since its debut on Rallye Monte-Carlo, and was driven to victory by Latvala on just its second event in Sweden in February, but TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is continuing to learn during the first season of the WRC project. With the team having collected plenty of data from the previous events, adding a third car when needed will help to accelerate the development of the Yaris WRC.

Lappi, who is one of the brightest prospects in rallying and last year won the WRC 2 title, joined TOYOTA GAZOO Racing prior to the 2017 season and has got to know the Yaris WRC well during testing. Through real competition, the 26-year-old Finn will be able to gain further experience to keep him match-fit.


Tommi Makinen (Team Principal)
"Esapekka is a very young and very hungry driver, this is for sure, but of course he has not had so much time to test the car before his first rally. I know that he will do his best, and the objective for him personally is the same as the objective for the whole team: he needs to finish the rallies and collect as much information as possible. There is still a lot of progress that we can make with our car and he is going to be an important part of that development process. Of course, you learn a lot from testing on your own but you learn even more from real competition against everyone else when that is part of a testing programme, which is why we have made this decision to run Esapekka and Janne on some rallies this year. It is good to give some young boys a chance as well."

Esapekka Lappi (Test Driver)
"This is the moment I have been working for all of my life: it is an amazing opportunity to drive a World Rally Car and I am so happy. I actually first met Tommi and Mr Toyoda together on Rally Finland in 2014, just to say hello, but I had no idea back then that I would end up driving for them now! I have not had a lot of testing with Yaris WRC so I will need to build my experience as it is a very big step up from R5. For Janne too, there will be plenty to get used to, as the pace notes are coming so much faster! But step by step we will all learn together. My goal is to try and get to the finish of the rallies without issues. If you can do that, then you always have a good chance of scoring some points."


Posted: May 17, 2017 5:32 PM

M-Sport will be hoping to continue their strong performance next week when the FIA World Rally Championship returns to Europe for the popular Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

With Sebastien Ogier, Ott Tanak and Elfyn Evans all behind the wheel of the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC, the team have a strong chance of maintaining their immaculate run of podium finishes and the team are highly motivated to achieve that goal.

Having contested a five-day test in the north of Portugal, the team worked on perfecting set-up configurations as well as confirming a number of findings from last month's extensive research and development test so as to be best placed for the challenges ahead.

Next week's event also marks another landmark in the team's customer programme with the international debut of the Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2. The latest evolution of M-Sport's most-successful global rally car includes an engine upgrade with redesigns to the cylinder head and exhaust manifold.

Producing additional horsepower, the Fiesta R5 Evo2 will be entrusted to eric Camilli, Teemu Suninen, Pierre-Louis Loubet, Gus Greensmith and Pedro Heller as they do battle in the highly-competitive WRC 2 category.


Popularity and passion are two words that best describe the Vodafone Rally de Portugal. As the first gravel event on European soil, the Portuguese fixture has become a firm favourite amongst competitors and fans alike – the huge number of spectators mirrored in the impressive entry which the rally receives year after year.

Based in the coastal town of Porto, the crews will tackle 349.17 competitive kilometres across nineteen special stages. The sandy, clay-based terrain means that grip will be at a premium for the early runners. But the soft nature of the roads can also see the stages become more abrasive and hazardous over the second pass.

With deep ruts and the threat of rocks being dragged onto the racing line, survival is a key concern and the team must prepare for the rough conditions.

Tyre selection could also prove pivotal and the crews will need to find the right balance between their soft and hard compounds – the first offering more grip through the soft gravel and the latter proving more durable for the longer loop of stages.

If that weren't enough, the Portuguese weather can also be somewhat unpredictable. The event has been subject to both glorious sunshine and torrential rain in previous years and the team must be prepared for all conditions.

Whatever the outcome, Rally de Portugal never fails to impress and the closing run through the legendary Fafe stage is a sight to behold with thousands of rally fans lining the hillside.


With M-Sport leading both the drivers' and manufacturers' championship standings, Team Principal Malcolm Wilson is keen to see the team continue their strong performance. Rally de Portugal also sees the international launch of the Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2 – and Wilson is equally as eager to see how the latest evolution performs.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

"Rally de Portugal is an event that everyone looks forward to. There is a truly unique atmosphere there and the Portuguese rally fans are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable in the world – with a real enthusiasm for their motorsport.

"It will be a special event for us as we launch the new Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2. The team has been working extremely hard to extract even more from a car that was already very successful and I'm looking forward to seeing what our WRC 2 contenders can do against what will undoubtedly be some of the strongest competition of the year.

"In the top flight, our goal always has to be the podium. With Sebastien, Ott and Elfyn we have a good chance of maintaining our impressive run and the whole team will be working towards that end.

"Sebastien has a fantastic track record at this event, and Ott and Elfyn will be full of confidence following an impressive display in Argentina. The stage is set for a great event and, although the win is anyone's for the taking, that's where our eyes will be firmly fixed."


Rally de Portugal is arguably the spiritual home for Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia. The four-time World Champions secured their first victory at the event in 2010 and have since enjoyed much success on the Portuguese roads.

With four victories to their name, they are just one win away from matching the great Markku Alen who won the event a record five times. As such, the French pairing will be hoping to be in with a chance of challenging for the top-step of the podium next week.

They may find themselves at a disadvantage opening the road through the first day of competition, but the duo can never be discounted and another successful development test in the lead-up to the event sees their confidence back to full force.

Previous starts: 8
Best result: 1st (2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014)

Sebastien Ogier said:
"Rally de Portugal is an event that I look forward to every year. Julien and I have had a lot of success there and it was where we took our first victory so it holds a lot of special memories.

"It's a country with a real passion and enthusiasm for motorsport, and the atmosphere that the fans generate is something quite unique. As a driver, you always want to do well in those conditions, and we will push the limits to challenge for the win.

"The competition is even closer this year and every team has a chance of victory. Opening the road on the first day will probably make it harder for us, but we come to Portugal with high objectives and a focus on increasing our championship lead once again.

"We've done a lot of testing in Portugal over the past couple of months and done some further development work on the car – that's definitely a confidence booster ahead of this rally."


Having secured three podiums so far this year, Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja are enjoying their best ever start to an FIA World Rally Championship.

In what is arguably a break-through year for the Estonians, they now have the ability to challenge for the top results at all loose-surface events to come.

Having made his world-stage debut at Rally de Portugal in 2009, Tanak has contested the event on six previous occasions and always shown good speed at what is traditionally the first European gravel event of the season.

Having further developed their new partnership, Tanak and Jarveoja will be hoping to challenge for a top result next week – and will be keen to add another podium to their ever-growing repertoire.

Previous starts: 6
Best result: 5th (2015)

Ott Tanak said:
"Rally de Portugal starts a series of gravel events that I'm really looking forward to. I've always enjoyed the Portuguese roads and we've shown good speed there in the past.

"I feel as though we've developed a lot recently and should be looking towards the podium at every gravel event to come. That has to be our goal in Portugal and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do.

"The stages are generally quite technical and twisty with a lot of blind corners and crests, but then there are stages like Fafe – a really enjoyable and fast stage where you can really feel the passion of the fans.

"With the competition so close at the moment, we'll need to be fully focused and at the top of our game if we want to deliver another strong result. That's certainly our aim and we'll be giving it our all as always."


After coming so close to a maiden FIA World Rally Championship victory at last month's Rally Argentina, Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt will be aiming for a similarly strong showing at next week's Rally de Portugal.

The pairing missed out on victory by the cruellest of margins – just 0.7 seconds – but came away with renewed confidence which should hold them in good stead next week.

Having contested the Portuguese event on five previous occasions, Evans has good knowledge of the rally but it remains the chink in his armour having never secured a points-scoring finish.

This year the Welshman will be keen to put that right and, if his impressive performance in Argentina is anything to go by, another strong result could well be on the cards.

Previous starts: 5
Best result: 22nd (2014)

Elfyn Evans said:
"We've always had pretty good pace in Portugal, but for various reasons we've not been able to translate that into a strong result. After coming so close to victory in Argentina, our confidence is high and I think we're in a good position to deliver a strong result next week.

"The whole package worked really well in Argentina and the hope will be to continue that in Portugal. A lot will depend on the weather, but the surface isn't too dissimilar and the soft roads have the potential to become quite rough and rutted over the second pass.

"If we're to challenge for another strong result we're going to have to be at the top of our game. We'll need to get into a good rhythm early on and find our confidence through the stages. If we can do that, anything is possible."


M-Sport Client Liaison Manager, Richard Millener, is one of the most valued members of the team. It's his job to ensure that all of our customers are satisfied and well looked-after both on and off events.

At popular events such as Rally de Portugal, Richard works around the clock but took time out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions.

How long have you worked with M-Sport and how did you first become interested in rallying?
I've been at M-Sport for exactly 10 years and one month now and I've always been an avid fan. My dad was interested in cars, and in rallying in particular. I can remember as a child watching the rallying on TV with him and he took me to Wales Rally GB – the year Tommi [Makinen] won after Colin's [McRae] huge crash. From that moment on, I was hooked.

At university, I wrote my dissertation on rallying – heart rate profiles of rally drivers to be exact – and did quite a lot of competing at club level. After completing my degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do. At the same time, there was a job advertised at M-Sport and I thought why not. I applied, and started picking and packing parts for Ford Fiesta STs.

What does your role as M-Sport's Client Liaison Manager involve?
My role as Client Liaison Manager generally falls under two categories – looking after those who buy their own cars to do their own events, and those who choose to rally with us in the FIA World Rally Championship. Whichever category you consider, the main aspect is customer care.

I have a small team of really good people working with me, and we look after each and every customer from the moment they contact us. From the private perspective, they're assisted from the moment they buy the car. We help them out with any issues they might be experiencing, provide engineers when requested and have a full team working to ensure they receive the best after care we can possibly give.

On the WRC side of things, we organise their tests, their liveries, make sure that everything is in the right place at the right time, and that their specific programmes are exactly as they want them to be.

As you can imagine, it's a fairly big job. With the R5s alone we have more than 200 customers and we make it a priority to ensure each one is looked after individually. So far this year, our customers have secured 65 wins across 22 different national championships – and it's statistics like that which give us the most satisfaction.

What makes Rally de Portugal such a popular event for competitors?
It's the first European gravel rally of the year. With Monte and Sweden being quite specialist, it's where most people choose to start their seasons and this year it's also the first of three mandatory rounds of the WRC 2 category.

It's also just a really nice event. The weather is nice, the country is nice, the people are nice, and the stages and organisation is some of the best that we see throughout the year.

How is your time spent on events like Rally de Portugal?
This year I'll head out on Sunday and attend our P2 test on Monday to ensure that all of our customers are happy ahead of the rally. I'll then go out on the recce to keep an eye on things there and ensure that everything is running smoothly and that everyone has everything they need.

Once the rally gets underway, it's up to the drivers and I'll just keep an eye on how they're all getting on. I try to keep an eye on everyone – those in our service area and those running as privateers.

I'll also make sure that I head over to the in-control at least once or twice to spend a couple of hours catching up with everyone. It's important to see how they're getting on and if there is anything we can help with.

It's also a great opportunity to meet with prospective new customers and it's not uncommon for us to sell cars on the events themselves. Last year when Elfyn was running in the WRC 2 category at the Tour de Corse, I had a customer ask if he could buy a car like Elfyn's. I told him he could have that very car and we did the deal there and then – with him taking the car away straight after the rally.

What are you hopes ahead of this year's Rally de Portugal?

For the main team, I hope that we can challenge for the win. We've had a great start to the season and all three of our crews are driving really well at the moment – all of them have a fighting chance of victory.

We're also leading both championships at the moment which is something that I've never experienced before. Hopefully we can strengthen that with a strong result to give us a bigger cushion at the head of the standings.

It would be nice to see a strong result in the WRC 2 category too. There are some really strong competitors out there but we have a good number of cars and a lot of young drivers coming through the ranks. It'll be interesting to see how they get on.

More than anything though, I just hope that all of our customers enjoy their Rally de Portugal and have fun doing it – that's what it's all about.


Pulsar is an international watch brand with a strong reputation and wide retail distribution. Since 2009, they have also been M-Sport's official timing partner and have continuously kept the team on schedule in the time-pressurised environment of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Whatever the conditions, and whatever the challenge, precision performance is what the team demands and that is what Pulsar delivers rally after rally.

Over the past eight years, M-Sport personnel have worn Pulsar's stylish time pieces to keep the operation running like clockwork and a number of our drivers – both past and present – have become strong supporters of the Pulsar brand.

A moment to remember from Pulsar's Susan Boobyer

"For us, the best memories are of the rallies to which we have invited our retail partners. When we see their amazement and excitement at the speed and precision of the M-Sport cars, we know that we are giving them an experience that they will never forget. Thanks to the team's hospitality, every group we have taken to a rally has had a great time and we look forward to more such events this year.

"The M-Sport team has always been a great partner for us. As our relationship has deepened over the years, the team has been unfailingly supportive whenever we have needed their help. We wish Malcolm and everyone at M-Sport the very best in 2017 and thank them for their hard work on our behalf."


Posted: May 17, 2017 5:29 PM

For the sixth round of the World Rally Championship, the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT has entered four C3 WRCs for Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle, Craig Breen/Scott Martin, Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau and Khalid Al Qassimi/Chris Patterson.


Rally de Portugal is set to welcome an outstanding line-up for its fiftieth anniversary, with some fourteen new generation World Rally Cars taking part. Expected, as ever, to flock in large numbers to the Porto region – to which the event returned in 2015 – Portuguese fans are certain to be delighted by the show put on by the stunning new cars.

Like last year, the rally will kick off on Thursday evening in Guimarães, a city often referred to as being the "birthplace of the Portuguese nationality". Following a super special stage held on the Lousada circuit and a night in parc ferme, the action will ramp up a notch on Friday. With adjustments to the route or run in the opposite direction to previous years, the leg's three stages, each contested twice, will provide an initial challenge for the crews. In the evening, the competitors will head for Braga to contest a brand new street stage.

Saturday's leg will be even longer, the highlight set to be the two passes on Amarante (37.55km). Sunday will see the remaining competitors tackle the Fafe stage twice, made famous by the huge jump located just a few hundred metres before the end of the stage. Gathered around this iconic point, tens of thousands of fans will serve up a uniquely impressive atmosphere!


After a frustrating Rally Argentina for the Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT, the Portuguese round is eagerly anticipated. For the first time, the team has entered four Citroen C3 WRCs. Kris Meeke, Craig Breen and Stéphane Lefebvre will be nominated to score points for the Manufacturers' World Championship, whilst Khalid Al Qassimi will be making his competitive debut in a new generation car.

Last year, the event was won by Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle, who had shown their speed and ability to manage a rally throughout the three days of competition. Quick in all conditions and surfaces – they have won stages in Mexico, Corsica and Argentina – the event is undoubtedly within the reach of the two men.

The 2016 rally also provided Stéphane Lefebvre and Gabin Moreau with the opportunity to show what they could do, the pair consistently setting times within 2/10ths per kilometre of their team-mates. Having missed Rally Argentina, the Frenchmen have worked tirelessly in order to prepare for one of their favourite events and try to secure a convincing result.

In contrast, this round will be a leap into the unknown for Craig Breen and Scott Martin. Having been let down by mechanical issues on the opening stage in 2015 and missed the event altogether in 2016, they'll have it all to do as they learn about the stages! Learning will also be theme of the weekend for Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson. It will be the Abu Dhabi driver's first rally since the 2016 Rally de Espana and he will also be making his first competitive outing in the Citroen C3 WRC. Khalid has competed seven times in Portugal, including three points finishes when the event was held in the Algarve.

"After entering three cars at the Tour de Corse, we're taking another step forward here with a fourth Citroen C3 WRC at Rally de Portugal. It's a great achievement, which is largely down to the work of our technical team. For various reasons, results at the last two rallies haven't been as good as expected. At this sixth round, we will be asking our drivers to make it to the end of the rally and we hope to have two C3 WRCs finish in the top five overall."

"The crash suffered by one of our cars in Argentina had no effect on our preparations for Portugal, because we're not using the same chassis. To prepare both for this rally and the following one, our four drivers had a day's testing in Sardinia. We then continued working on the usual development areas: suspension, mapping of the central diff, assessment of the tyres and so on."

"Argentina was wild – nothing went as planned. It happens sometimes, you just have to put it behind you. I feel okay ahead of Portugal, although I can't say I'm overflowing with confidence. I think that the work done in our recent test sessions will help us move in the right direction. I'm pleased to be competing at this rally. Obviously, I have some fond memories of winning here in 2016. And the enthusiasm of the fans here for our sport makes for a very special atmosphere. Quite a lot of changes have been made to the course, so in a lot of cases we'll have to start from scratch with the pace notes. Concentration will therefore be key in recce, as well as in the rally."

Number of appearances at the event: 3
Best result: 1st (2016)

"Just like in Argentina, I'm venturing into something of the unknown here. I did recce here in 2016, but that's no substitute for actual racing experience. I know that I have to improve on this kind of surface, where I'm a little be less at home than on the fast gravel roads you get in Poland or Finland. The testing done this week in Sardinia was positive. We kept working on certain points, taking into account the things we learned in Argentina. The Citroen C3 WRC will be even better in Portugal!"

Number of appearances at the event: 4
Best result: 25th (2009)

"Unlike the previous few rounds, I feel I know this rally pretty well. Having competed once here in an R5 and once in a WRC, I have good experience on these roads. When they are wide and fast, the stages are magnificent. I really like Amarante, the longest stage of the rally. I'm also almost certain to have a good position in the running order on day one and I'm hoping to make the most of it!"

Number of appearances at the event: 3
Best result: 15th (2015)

"After more than six months away from the WRC, I have to prepare very carefully for Rally de Portugal. It will be my first outing in the new Citroen C3 WRC and I know that it is a real step up compared with the cars used in previous seasons. My aim will be to build my confidence gradually, without taking any big risks. I'm delighted to be taking part in what is one of my favourite rallies. The atmosphere is always very special. The Portuguese fans are very loud and enthusiastic, especially next to the Fafe jump!"

Number of appearances at the event: 7
Best result: 8th (2009)

Expanded TOYOTA GAZOO Racing squad prepared for popular Portugal

Posted: May 17, 2017 5:28 PM

The TOYOTA GAZOO Racing World Rally Team heads to Rally de Portugal (May 18-21) with hopes of accelerating the development of the Yaris WRC in its debut FIA World Rally Championship season. Thanks to some challenging and technical stages, Portugal will as usual be an extremely tough rally, but the Toyota squad will use it to learn more about what is needed to compete at the top and improve the Yaris WRC further, as has been the case on every event up to now. For the first time, a third car will be entered for testing purposes with Esapekka Lappi behind the wheel, joining Jari-Matti Latvala and Juho Hanninen in action on the gravel event, which serves as round six of the 2017 season.

Rally de Portugal is based in Matosinhos near Porto in the north of the country, and features classic stages on sandy and rocky roads. Grip can be difficult to find on the soft roads during the first pass through the stages, while rocks can be exposed and deep ruts can form during the second pass, often forcing teams to raise the ride height of the cars. Tyre choice is frequently a difficult compromise.

The rally begins with a superspecial at the Lousada rallycross circuit on Thursday evening, while Friday ends with two runs of a new stage through the streets of Braga, following two loops of three gravel stages. Saturday provides the longest day at 154.56 kilometres, including two passes of the 37.55-kilometre Amarante stage and the new Cabeceiras de Basto test. Luilhas and Montim are also new additions on Sunday, with each of those stages run once between two passes over the classic Fafe, famed for its big jump. Fafe is also the rally-ending Power Stage, forming an unforgettable climax.

Latvala, who continues to hold second in the drivers' standings, was the winner in Portugal in 2015. Hanninen has not competed on the event since the year before, 2014, but back then it was based in the south of Portugal: so the northern stages are all new to him. Lappi will be embarking on his first event at the top level of the WRC, but Portugal was the scene of his first win in the WRC2 category in 2013, before going onto claim the WRC2 title last year.


Tommi Makinen (Team Principal)
"We had a few new things to test for Portugal, with the suspension as well as some other components, but the weather was really bad so it's hard to know how realistic our results were. Portugal is a tough event with some very technical stages but this is what makes it a classic event too. Although there are still a lot of unknowns – especially with the conditions – we hope to make another step forwards on gravel, improving the car step by step as we have been doing all year. For this we will be helped by our third test car in Portugal with Esapekka and Janne, which will definitely bring us some extra information."

Jari-Matti Latvala (Driver car 10)
"What I learned in Argentina is that the first day is very important; you really want to try and be in the top five so that you can have a good road position for the following day. So that will be my objective in Portugal, and if the weather is bad on the first day, my position of second on the road could actually help me – as the road conditions behind might deteriorate. Before the rally, we tested a few things, trying out some dampers and also experimenting with the ride height, so that we can perform to the maximum of our potential in rough conditions as well."

Juho Hanninen (Driver car 11)
"I tested when the weather was still OK: it was quite warm, and we were able to try a few new things with suspension and differentials. Although I've done Rally Portugal before, this is actually my first time on the stages in the north. I like these stages, but from what I can see there could be a lot of road cleaning, so hopefully my road position might help me. Portugal is a bit like Argentina, only not as rough, so I think we can use many of the lessons that we learned there to make more progress. The second run through the stages might be a bit tricky, so we will need to be careful."

Esapekka Lappi (Driver car 12)
"I've been able to test before the rally in Portugal, which has given me a good taste of some future development directions, but these may not be the conditions we experience when it comes to the actual competition. It's obviously very exciting for me to be starting my first rally in the Yaris WRC: the opportunity I've been waiting for all of my life. But this is team effort, and my role is to collect as much data as possible for the team to develop the car further. The most important thing is to finish: never easy on such a challenging event like Portugal. For my own experience too, I need to make sure that I do all the stages, so we're going to take a very calm and focussed approach to the rally."

Hyundai Motorsport prepares for podium push in Portugal

Posted: May 17, 2017 5:26 PM

Hyundai Motorsport is aiming to score its first ever Rally de Portugal podium at next weekend's sixth round of the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).

Having claimed back-to-back rally wins for the first time in its history in Corsica and Argentina, the team is confident that it can challenge at the front again as the Championship prepares for the first European gravel event of the year.

With the season's midpoint fast approaching, Hyundai Motorsport has strengthened its position in both Drivers' and Manufacturers' Championships thanks to its recent victories. All three drivers – Hayden Paddon, Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo - will look to build upon the team's recent performances to make further advancements in the classification.

Rocky roads

Rally de Portugal, first held in 1967, was one of the founding events in the inaugural 1973 World Rally Championship. Contested across sandy passes as well as hazardous rocky tracks, teams and crews will be challenged with selecting the best tyres while adapting ride heights as stages become increasingly rutted.

There have been some changes made to the event's itinerary from last year, in which Hyundai Motorsport registered its best Portuguese finish to date, fourth-place for Sordo and co-driver Marc Marti.

The twice-run street stage in Porto has been moved to Braga for 2017, taking place on Friday evening. In addition, three brand new stages have been added to the schedule, with a double assault through Cabaceiras de Basto on Saturday and single runs through Luihas and Montim on Sunday.

Preparing for Portugal

In preparation for this year's Rally de Portugal, all three Hyundai Motorsport crews have tested in the region. Neuville and Sordo took part in a three-day test at the end of April, during which the team also obtained valuable feedback from Andreas Mikkelsen who joined the test as a one-off. Paddon has also enjoyed time behind the wheel of the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC in Portugal back in March.

There will be a change to the crew in the #4 car for this event with Seb Marshall stepping in as co-driver for Hayden Paddon. John Kennard has been advised to rest on doctor's orders after the rough Argentinian stages aggravated an existing hip condition. Kennard will be present in Portugal with the team, and everyone at Hyundai Motorsport sends him best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Team Principal Michel Nandan said: "We've had a good run of results recently, which has given the whole team a real morale boost, but it would be wrong of us to get complacent. There is still plenty of room for improvement with the performance of our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC across all three of our crews. Competition is immensely close this season so we can't afford to rest on our laurels. To this end, we carried out testing in Portugal to prepare for this rally, which will be the first European gravel of the season. We have never scored a podium in Portugal, so that has to be our first target. Of course, having won two rallies in a row, we'd love to continue that streak, but we know that it will be another big fight. The recent wins have allowed us to reduce the gap to M-Sport in the Championship but there's a long way to go – and lots more we need to achieve."

Crew Notes: Paddon/Marshall (#4 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Paddon showed signs of promise in Argentina but was ultimately hampered by bad luck. The Kiwi was still able to pick up his first stage wins of the season in tough circumstances. Alongside his stand-in co-driver Seb Marshall, tackling his first WRC event with the team since Spain last season, Paddon will be aiming to translate that potential into a tangible result in Portugal.

Paddon commented: "It's not been the season that we expected or wanted to have so far. Argentina was a bit of a low, especially when contrasted with our win there last season, so I hope Portugal will be the place where fortunes change. Unfortunately, John will not be co-driving at this event after aggravating an existing hip condition but it's good he will still be present in Portugal with the team. Thanks to Seb for stepping in at an event he knows from last season. It's a rally with a special atmosphere. There are a lot of passionate people there who love rallying. For us to be able to go out there and compete in front of those crowds is an incredible sensation. We'll work hard to get a good result and kick-start my season."

Crew Notes: Neuville/Gilsoul (#5 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul are the men of the moment in WRC having taken two wins in a row. Their victory over Elfyn Evans in Argentina by just 0.7s represented a distance of 19.1 metres after 357km of stages! The Belgians will be hoping to close the Championship gap even further in Portugal.

Neuville said: "We are still on a high after the results of Corsica and Argentina. At the same time, we know we have to stay focused and concentrated on our job because the Championship is incredibly close. We saw with the margin to Elfyn in Argentina, one of the smallest in WRC history, that we can take nothing for granted. Rally Portugal in its current format is still a bit of a new one for us, having only been in the north of the country for the last two seasons. It is quite a tricky event, but I am looking forward to it. I am sure that with this new car and with the confidence we have, we can be fast."

Crew Notes: Sordo/Marti (#6 Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)

Spaniards Sordo and Marti receive huge support from local Portuguese fans and those travelling from their home country to follow the rally. It will definitely give the crew an important lift after a punishing Rally Argentina, as they seek a return to podium form.

Sordo said: "Portugal is always a really special event for me because it takes place so close to Spain. There is a lot of support from the crowds, which gives us a real boost. There are a lot of Portuguese people on the team as well, so it's a really great rally for us all. We really can feel that crowd cheering us on, especially through famous sections like the Fafe jump. Hopefully we will be able to give them something extra special to cheer about by Sunday. After the disappointment of Argentina, I am determined to get back onto podium-challenging pace and to get the full potential out of our Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC on these fun stages."

Rally Portugal 2017 at a glance v
Taking place across 19 stages that encompass a total distance of 349.17km, Rally Portugal serves as the second of five consecutive gravel tests for the crews.

Based out of the service park Matosinhos, the rally's action will kick off on Thursday with a Super Special Stage at the Lousada rallycross circuit.

The first full day sees crews head north and towards the Spanish border for runs of the reconfigured stages around Viana do Castelo and culminates with two tests in Braga's historic streets.

Saturday will be the longest leg of the rally at 154.56km, as the driver teams journey east to tackle the demanding roads of the Cabreira Mountains.

Sunday is all about Fafe, with its famously large jump and even larger crowds. All four final stages are in the municipality, including a double pass over the legendary jump itself.

Entry List

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Rally Guide / Details / Website

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