After a five-week break, the WRC is set to roar back into action in Portugal.
Round four of the FIA World Rally Championship, Vodafone Rally de Portugal is hosted in the Algarve and is the second of six consecutive gravel events on the calendar.
After the treacherous rock-strewn stages of the last round in Mexico, Portugal is seen as the first ‘traditional’ loose surface event of the year, and the first decent opportunity for the teams to benchmark themselves against the competition.
Portugal’s stages, which include a mixture of open roads and technical and narrow sections, are characterised by their abrasive surface. As with all gravel rallies, running order is crucial and drivers are expected to push flat out in the pre-rally qualifying test in an effort to secure a favourable starting slot.
This year the event starts in Vilamoura but once again returns to the capital city of Lisbon on Friday for a street stage around the Praça do Império.
The majority of the 2013 Rally de Portugal route remains the same as last year. However, while part of the Ourique stage now runs in reverse, the entire 22.78 kilometre Loulé stage runs in the opposite direction. And, adding to the challenge, Almodovar - which also runs as the Power Stage on Sunday - has been increased by nearly 17 kilometres, resulting in a demanding 52.30 kilometre test.
The competitive action kicks off on Thursday 11 April at 1040hrs when drivers will fight for the right to select their road position for Friday by tackling the 4km Vale do Judeu qualifying stage in Loule.
As well as hosting the WRC crews, Rally de Portugal has attracted a healthy number of contenders in the WRC 3 and WRC 2 categories in an impressive entry list of 72 competitors.
This event will also form the opening round of the FIA Junior WRC Championship, the category for young drivers competing in identically-prepared Ford Fiesta R2s.
For more information about the event, visit the Rally De Portugal website.
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