Tuesday | 25 May 2021

View from the service park: Portugal

The FIA World Rally Championship visits some very special locations through the season, but only a few can compare with Fafe on a Sunday afternoon.

Down the decades, this same stretch of road has played host to some of the sport’s biggest and best, but on Sunday it was the cast of 2021 that entertained the fans. Yes, the fans.

After some exceptional work by the event organisers, the local government and police, spectators were allowed back to the side of the road.

FIA rally director Yves Matton was one of those out enjoying the chance to see rally cars in action again and wasted no time in thanking all involved.

Matton tweeted: “A true job and genuine pleasure to see the fans back around the Rally de Portugal. I want to thank you all for respecting the rules with the crowd managers. This is a small, yet really important step to have full spectator capacity back in a close future.”

Video: Vodafone Rally de Portugal best of action

Due to ongoing Covid-19 protocols, 30 per cent of the maximum number of fans permitted were allowed in. They made the most of it. The noise and atmosphere generated as Elfyn Evans approached the flying finish in Fafe was extraordinary.

And, what’s even better, is the weather joining the fun. In the recce and in the days leading us into the start of round four, there was plenty of rain around. Those downpours were expected to carry on into the weekend, thankfully they didn’t. Thankfully, the thousands of spectators stayed dry and danced in the sunshine.

If Elfyn Evans was a man who danced, he would have been throwing some shapes on Sunday evening. The Toyota star scored his first win of season in fine style.

And he’s the latest Briton to be taken to the heart of this passionate rallying nation – Colin McRae and Richard Burns both remain legends in these parts. And, once again, the McRae and Burns flags and T-shirts were dusted down and donned with pride.

 

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As the first seaside sojourn of the season (we can’t really count the final day of Rallye Monte-Carlo), Portugal always provides a fabulous opportunity to engage in some serious seafood. And last week was no exception, with grilled sardines front and centre.

And for those not in favour of fish, there’s another Portugese treat – the Pastéis de Nata, a puff pastry cup packed with some of the tastiest custard filling around. This year’s discovery? Try one heated slightly with cinnamon on top.

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