Thu 18 May 2023

Talking points from Vodafone Rally de Portugal

As the dust settles after round five, we look back on some of the talking points from Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

Star Drive
Kalle Rovanperä’s commanding victory not only reinvigorated his 2023 campaign, it sent a resounding message to his rivals: he’s back and ready to defend the drivers’ championship crown.

In the early stages of this year the Finn had struggled to find the same level of dominance which propelled him to last year’s title. But Portugal proved to be a turning point as the 22-year-old displayed all the speed and determination which made him the WRC’s youngest-ever champion in the first place.

The question now, is, can Rovanperä sustain this newfound momentum? Rally Italia Sardegna (1 - 4 June) is up next, and it's an event he struggled on last year - finishing fifth overall. Only time will tell.

Most memorable stage
When in Portugal, there can really only be one answer. Fafe.

The moment you step foot in Fafe, you're immersed in a world of excitement. The crowds, the barbecues, the flags, the chain-less chainsaws screaming to within a revolution of their lives.

But it's the world-famous Pedra Sentada jump that truly steals the show. As Rally1 cars soar through the air, the noise of their engines is temporarily silenced by the collective gasp of the crowd.

Fafe embodies the passion and spirit of rallying - making it unforgettable not just in Portugal, but also throughout the entire WRC calendar.

Biggest surprise
Mechanical issues are an unfortunate reality in motorsport, but at WRC level, where cars undergo meticulous preparation before every rally, such failures are relatively rare. That's why Takamoto Katsuta's retirement after completing just two stages on Friday morning came as a surprising twist.

The alternator failure on his Toyota GR Yaris highlighted the unpredictable nature of rallying, where even the most prepared teams can encounter unexpected issues.

Best save
Gus Greensmith pipped Oliver Solberg to the WRC2 win by just 1.2sec. The Briton's event was filled with heart-stopping moments, including a power steering fault on Friday. However, his troubles began even earlier, starting on Friday afternoon.

"It started with a water leak that we couldn’t stop and it took some ingenuity and a lot of help from the Škoda engineers and eventually we managed to plug the hole and continue," he revealed. "We were all fairly certain that we would not get through 37 kilometres [of Amarante] and somehow we did and somehow we made it to the end of the day.

"Then we had another mechanical issue and used ratchet straps to support a fairly important part of the car, shall we say, to keep it together."

You’ll never believe it
Nuno Pinto, who entered a Citroën C3 Rally2 in WRC2, flew straight from the Miami Grand Prix to be on the start line in Portugal.

The 45-year-old has previously worked with current F1 champion Max Verstappen and now forms part of Lance Stroll’s support team, acting as a driver coach to the Canadian.

Number of the rally
224. The number of days Kalle Rovanperä had been waiting to stand back on top of a WRC podium.

FULL ONBOARD - SS13 Sordo: WRC Vodafone Rally de Portugal 2023
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM