Thursday | 27 Mar 2014

Portugal countdown: the stages

This is the seventh time that the WRC has journeyed to the south-coast of Portugal since the rally was reinvented in the Algarve holiday region.

Much will be familiar to the regulars, but the organisers are fond of innovation and there are a few tweaks here and there to keep the crews alert.

Sunday’s Santa Brás de Alportel is the only all-new test compared with 2013, but the roads have been used in previous editions. Saturday’s 31.90km Santana da Serra is tackled in the opposite direction, so that’s effectively another new stage for which the drivers must ensure their pace notes are pin-point accurate.

Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon has become a popular feature in recent seasons. In 2013 the event journeyed north to close the opening leg there, but this year the city is the focus of Thursday’s opening day.

The shakedown is a day earlier than usual on Wednesday and the teams head to the Lisbon area on Thursday for an afternoon start in Estoril’s Casino Gardens. Those with long memories will remember that as the start venue for the rally many years ago.

Lisbon kicks off the action

A short drive takes crews into Lisbon itself where they will recce the opening super special stage in their rally cars. Later in the evening the 2.65km test at Praco do Imperio, in the shadow of the Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, kicks off the action.

Then it’s back to the Algarve for three days of tricky gravel stages in the Baixo Alentejo and Serra do Caldeirão hills, north of Faro.

Friday and Saturday’s route criss-crosses the motorway from Lisbon to the Algarve. Both legs contain three morning stages, which are repeated after service at the rally’s Algarve Stadium base and each day offers 146km of action.

Sunday is much shorter with just three stages closer to Faro, covering less than 44km. Loulé is used twice, the second pass forming the live TV Power Stage with bonus points for the fastest three drivers. The event finishes at the stadium.