Wednesday | 12 May 2021

Ex-soccer boss realistic on Portugal expectations

Former soccer coach André Villas-Boas has acknowledged the ‘big challenge’ that awaits him on his FIA World Rally Championship debut at next week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal (20 - 23 May).

The 43-year-old has coached top-level football players at teams including Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Marseille, but will rub shoulders with the world’s best rally drivers when he drives a Sports and You-prepared Citroën C3 Rally2 in the WRC3 category. 

“We are still learning,” he admitted. “Rallying is different - it’s hard and it goes very quick. It’s a big challenge.”

Villas-Boas has had a lifelong interest in motorsport and has amassed an impressive personal vehicle collection which includes Dakar-winning cars and motorbikes plus a host of classic cars. He says his all-time favourite rally driver was two-time world champion Miki Biasion.

“My first step into official racing was when I stopped coaching in China and went to do the Dakar in 2018. Unfortunately for me, it finished in the first stage because I broke my back when I jumped off a dune, but after that I did the Rally of Morocco and a few rounds of the Portuguese [rally raid] championship,” Villas-Boas told

Vodafone Rally de Portugal: Entry List

Vodafone Rally de Portugal: Entry ...

Ten World Rally Cars feature in a bumper 81-car entry for Vodafone Rally de Portugal (20 - 23 May) released recently.

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“At the end of confinement last year, Sports and You offered me to test drive their Citroën C3 for the first time." 

Before strapping himself into the C3, Villas-Boas first drove the test stage in the Toyota Hilux which he competed in at the Dakar Rally. He was immediately struck by the difference between the rally car and rally raid vehicle. 

“I did the same track with the Toyota that I did the Dakar with first, so when I shifted to the rally car it was extraordinary - lighter, faster and more agile. You see a real difference and the experience was so exciting. 

“We tested once again recently with an eye to do Portugal. The test included a rally - Vieira de Minho. It went quite well for us, so I decided let’s give it a try.”

The former Chelsea manager was impressed by the C3's speed and agility

Portugal will also be a brand-new experience for co-driver and childhood friend Gonçalo Magalhães. Villas-Boas says the pair share plenty of happy memories, sharing a motorsport passion from a young age. 

“When we used to see Formula 1 testing, in this hotel we found a small hole in the ground. We used to go through this hole and go to the paddock without the passes,” he laughed. 

Now, that friendship continues into the car. Villas-Boas admits there is still some work to do on their pace notes, but has been appreciative of the help he has received from fellow Sports and You driver Eric Camilli.

“In our first test in rallying, our pace notes were like, ‘left, right, left, right, right, long right’. Now, with Eric, we found out the system that he uses with the numbers and now we are getting acquainted to it.” 

The WRC3 category for next week’s encounter is one of the strongest ever seen. The 25-car entry features drivers including Yohan Rossel, Kajetan Kajetanowicz, Egon Kaur and Chris Ingram.

Whilst Villas-Boas doesn’t expect to trouble any of the series regulars, he hopes to be posting respectable stage times by the end of the weekend. 

“The problem with me is, because I am into professional sport, I have a competitive nature that forces me to be quick and I don’t want to be last. I know being last is most likely, but I want to do well,” he smiled. 

There is also another motivation behind Villas-Boas entering Vodafone Rally de Portugal, and making it to the end - his Race for Good initiative which he is using to help raise awareness for three charities he is a patron of: APPACDM, the Laureus Sport Foundation and Ace Africa, the latter of which also featured in the livery of Camilli’s similar Citroën at Rallye Monte-Carlo in January.

Charities are expected to feature prominently in the Portuguese driver's livery

“Basically, whenever I race, I drive the car with the decorations of the associations that I am a patron of," he explained, with the charities expected to feature prominently in his livery.  

“Of course, I want to reach the end because that means more awareness and interaction for Race for Good, and that helps as well.

“These cars go really fast and getting a good line and good pace notes is the thing which we have to improve on right now.”

  • 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.

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