It has taken until round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship for competitors to encounter their first taste of European dirt roads, but where better to do so than Vodafone Rally de Portugal?
The Iberian Peninsula has developed into one of the WRC’s classic locations since Portugal helped launch the championship in 1973, and this year’s route promises much for the sport’s aficionados.
After Thursday night’s start ceremony in Coimbra, the country’s fourth largest city and capital between 1131 and 1255, the action begins on Friday morning with a new-look opening leg.
Famous roads east of the city near Arganil are reintroduced for the first time since 2001. Morning and afternoon passes of Lousã (12.35km), Góis (18.78km) and Arganil (14.44km) are followed by a side-by-side super special stage at Lousada rallycross circuit (3.36km).
Saturday is daunting. More than half the rally’s competitive distance is packed into two identical loops of three speed tests in the Cabreira Mountains, east of the rally base at Matosinhos.
Drivers face double runs through Vieira do Minho (20.53km), Cabeceiras de Basto (22.22km) and Amarante (37.60km), the longest test of the weekend. It adds up to a punishing 160.70km.
An unchanged Sunday itinerary is all about the extraordinary Fafe and its enormous crowds. Five tests clustered around the town include a double pass over the legendary test itself. The second run forms the Wolf Power Stage, with bonus points to the fastest five crews.
The 18 stages cover 306.97km before Sunday afternoon’s finish in Matosinhos.