Wed 08 May 2024

Preview: Vodafone Rally de Portugal

Fireworks are guaranteed at Vodafone Rally de Portugal this week (9 – 12 May) as FIA World Rally Championship superstars Kalle Rovanperä and Sébastien Ogier go head-to-head for the first time this season.

The title-winning team-mates form part of a four-strong Toyota Gazoo Racing line-up for round five of 2024, which is based close to the city of Porto and kicks off a run of seven gravel-based fixtures in a row.

Eight-time title holder Ogier, who received the Legion of Honour medal from French President Emmanuel Macron last week, is a Rally de Portugal expert and tops the event’s roll of honour with five victories to his name. But Rovanperä, the reigning world champion for two years running, is aiming to catch up to his colleague and has claimed victory in the rally's past two editions.

They join Elfyn Evans, currently second in the points, and Takamoto Katsuta in identical GR Yaris Rally cars, eager to extend Toyota’s seven-point lead in the manufacturers’ standings. Katsuta will score points for the drivers' championship only.

“I’m excited to be returning to Portugal after a year away,” Ogier said. “The atmosphere is always great there and I look forward to that.”

“Of course, our aim will be to try and win again this year, but it’s never easy,” added Rovanperä. “All of the top drivers know the stages quite well, so the pace is usually pretty high and it can be quite a close fight there.”

At the top of the championship and leading Friday’s running order is Thierry Neuville, currently six points clear of Welshman Evans. The Belgian is hoping for a wet start to the rally, as dry weather will mean he is tasked with sweeping a cleaner and faster line for those following his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 onto the stages.

“Road conditions and position will make a huge difference to how we perform,” he explained. “Whenever it’s raining we will be fast, but when it’s dry we will struggle more because everyone knows the stages well.”

Neuville is joined in the team by 2019 WRC champion Ott Tänak plus Spain’s Dani Sordo, who starts his first rally of the season and the 190th of his career.

Adrien Fourmaux is looking to utilise the confidence he gained from his maiden Wolf Power Stage win in Croatia last month to fuel his performance on the Portuguese stages, which are characterised by roads that vary from soft and sandy to rutted and rocky. He teams up with fellow youngster Grégoire Munster, hailing from Luxembourg.

The rally starts on Thursday and coincides with the Beyond Rally Forum on 9 May, during which WRC Promoter will present an in-depth exploration of its Sustainability Roadbook. This roadmap sets out actionable steps for sustainability initiatives as the championship strives towards a sustainable future.

Competitors tackle 22 stages spanning nearly 340km before reaching the finish on Sunday afternoon.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM