The Algarve-based round marks the first European gravel event of the new season and the first time that Volkswagen will field a trio of Polo R WRCs with Andreas Mikkelsen joining Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier in a third entry.
“Nobody will really know for sure how the car is until then,” said Kankkunen, who drove for Volkswagen on the Dakar Rally with the Race Touareg. “Monte is a bit of a lottery, which always comes down to tyre choice, luck and weather, Sweden is very specialised, and while I don’t really know Rally Mexico it’s a long way away and at high altitude. Portugal is the first normal gravel rally and there will be three cars: I think that is when you can see the real pace of the Polo compared to everyone else.”
Having said all of that, Kankkunen added that he certainly wouldn’t rule out a shock victory for the Polo R WRC on its Rallye Monte-Carlo debut from 15-20 January.
“Monte Carlo is a rally where absolutely anything can happen, so why not?” he pointed out. “If things go right for you, you can suddenly find yourself with an advantage of seven minutes or something crazy like that: it’s one of the things that’s fun about Monte. I’ve always liked it anyway. But even if you’re quick in Monte, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be quick everywhere else. That’s why I think Portugal will be the real test.”