When engines roar into life at Vodafone Rally de Portugal (20 - 23 May) on Thursday, that’s how long will have elapsed since they were turned off in Sardinia last October at the end of the FIA World Rally Championship’s previous gravel round.
It’s been a long wait, but Portugal has on many occasions kicked-off the WRC’s dirt road fixtures. The Iberian Peninsula has developed into one of the WRC’s classic locations since Portugal helped launch the championship in 1973.
This year’s route borrows much from the itinerary of the previous visit in 2019 – last year’s rally was cancelled due to Covid-19.
After Thursday night’s start ceremony in Coimbra, the country’s fourth largest city and former capital, the action begins on Friday morning on famous roads clustered around Arganil.
Video: Vodafone Rally de Portugal route
Double passes of Lousã (12.35km), Góis (19.51km) and Arganil (18.82km) are separated by a tyre fitting zone in Arganil itself. The leg ends with a return to Mortágua (18.16km) after a 20-year absence and a spectacular side-by-side super special stage at Lousada rallycross circuit (3.36km).
It adds up to almost 123km of competition and with no service allowed, other than running repairs, until crews return to the Matosinhos service park at 20.00, any mechanical issues could prove costly.
Saturday is daunting. Almost half the rally’s competitive distance is packed into two identical loops of three speed tests in the Cabreira Mountains, north-east of Matosinhos.
Drivers face double runs through Vieira do Minho (20.64km), Cabeceiras de Basto (22.37km) and Amarante (37.92km), the longest test of the weekend. The two loops are split by service and a coastal street stage in Porto Foz (3.30km) closes the leg after more than 165km of action.
Sunday’s itinerary is all about the extraordinary Fafe, its big jump before the finish and its crowds.
Five tests clustered around the town begin with Felgueiras (9.18km), another long-term absentee making a return. Montim (8.75km) and Fafe (11.18km) are next up before second passes through Felgueiras and Fafe, the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage offering all-important bonus points.
The 20 stages cover 337.51km in a route of 1514.07km before Sunday afternoon’s finish in Matosinhos.
• Full coverage from Vodafone Rally de Portugal will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.