1: Intriguing start order strategies
With Citroen drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb selecting first and second positions on the road for the opening day’s stages and Ford rivals Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala opting for 16th and 17th positions respectively following Wednesday’s Qualifying Stage, an intriguing battle for honours is expected. The Citroen stars face the prospect of having to clean the road of the loose surface gravel, while hanging dust clouds could slow the Ford aces running further back.
2: Night stages
Thursday’s route features three gravel stages run at night. While hanging dust clouds can be a hazard when there is less breeze, recent rain and the use of maintenance vehicles to sprinkle water on the roads should ensure a level playing field for all crews, which should in turn create a thrilling spectacle.
3: WRC Academy season two is go!
Ten of the sport’s most promising young talents will be in action on the opening event of the 2012 FIA WRC Academy season. Drivers compete in identical Ford Fiesta R2s using Pirelli control tyres, putting the onus firmly on driving talent.
4: World Rally Cars back in the capital
World Rally Cars return to the streets of Portugal’s capital city when the Placa Imperio hosts a 3.27-kilometre superspecial stage alongside Lisbon’s Jeronimos Monastery. More than 50,000 fans watched the action unfold last year over tricky Tarmac roads and cobbled passes, which drivers tackle using gravel tyres and set-up.
5: Home hero Araujo in action
Portuguese have their own hero to cheer with Armindo Araujo driving a MINI John Cooper Works WRC. The double Production Car world champion has plenty of experience of the stages around the Algarve region, while his MINI features uprated suspension dampers designed to enhance the car’s performance.