29 Mar - 01 Apr 12
Categories:WRC, SWRC, WRC Academy
Three night stages are among the main changes to the route of Vodafone Rally de Portugal, which maintains its hub in the Algarve region of the country.
Following the superspecial stage around the Praca do Imperia in the capital Lisbon on the afternoon of Thursday 29 March, crews will now tackle three tests - all run at night and in quick succession - during the 300-kilometre journey back to the event’s base at Faro’s Algarve stadium, a venue for the Euro 2004 football tournament.
The night stages have an average distance of 12 kilometres, which has resulted in the rally’s overall competitive route rising from 385.31 kilometres in 2011 to 434.77 kilometres for 2012.
After a slightly delayed start owing to the late finish on Thursday, competitors will head to the Tavira municipality for the first time since 2007 for three repeated stages on Friday.
Saturday’s format is unchanged from 2011 with the same three stages run twice, although the Power Stage on Sunday has been trimmed significantly in length to increase the spectacle for fans watching the live television coverage.
Drivers will fight for the right to select their road position for the opening day of the event by tackling the 4.96-kilometre Vale do Judeu qualifying stage on the morning of Wednesday 28 March.
Running order on gravel rallies is crucial and with three stages on day one run at night - where hanging dust clouds caused by less wind can create a major obstacle - drivers are expected to push flat out in an effort to secure a favourable starting slot.
Portugal’s stages, which include a mixture of open roads and technical and narrow sections, are characterised by their abrasive surface. This puts the onus on tyre wear although the late March date means this might not be as apparent as in 2010 when tyre wear rates were reported as being 40 per cent higher than on other gravel rallies.
Vodafone Rally de Portugal will once again form the opening round of the six-event FIA WRC Academy Cup.