Friday | 28 Mar 2014

Portugal countdown: Remember these?

The upcoming Rally de Portugal (3-6 April) has been the scene for some memorable WRC moments over the years. Here are three of our favourites:

2001: Makinen’s victory over the mud
The 2001 edition was the last to be run in the north of the country and was memorable for a Tommi Makinen victory in some of the worst conditions imaginable.

The rally was plagued by heavy rain and thick fog, and most stages, already saturated after a wet winter, resembled ploughed fields. Conditions were so treacherous that no two-wheel drive cars finished.

Makinen picked his way through the gloom better than anyone, but had his fair share of slippery moments. He took the lead after a hair-raising stage four, where he crashed his Mitsubishi Lancer into a bank. He emerged from the fog with two punctured tyres, bent suspension and was still fastest by almost half a minute. Carlos Sainz kept the pressure on until the end, but an inspired tyre choice enabled Makinen to grab the top spot.

2007: A welcome return
Following the 2001 event, Portugal was dropped from the WRC calendar in favour of Rally Deutschland. But after a six-year absence it returned with a new format and a new base in the Algarve region, near the southern resort of Faro.

The headquarters and service park were at the Algarve Stadium, which also hosted a spectacular asphalt super special. Thousands flocked to the stadium to watch the action and see Sebastien Loeb take the first victory on the southern rally.

But the 2007 event also proved to be a controversial one. Ford drivers Marcus Gronholm, Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala were each hit with post-rally penalties when the glass in their Ford Focus RS cars was found to be too thin.

2010: Debut WRC win for Ogier
Portugal was where Sebastien Ogier’s WRC career really took off. In 2010, driving a Citroen Junior team C4, he claimed his first victory in a World Rally Car, and did it the hard way – beating team-mate and reigning champion Sebastien Loeb.

Ogier took the lead on day one, making the most of his position of fourth in the start order. Many expected him to lose the place on day two, when he replaced Loeb as road opener. Instead Ogier kept the lead and by the end of day two he was 21 seconds in front.

Team boss Olivier Quesnel declared there would be no team orders and on the final day Ogier fended off a strong challenge from Loeb to take the win by 7.9sec.