This weekend marks the beginning of a new season in the European Rally Championship, with Rally Serras de Fafe hosting round one of 2023.
And what a rally we have in store. With a star-studded entry list and 40 Rally2 cars set to line up for the start, it’s set to be an exciting season opener.
Here’s all the key information you need ahead of the weekend:
Total 56 crews
48 ERC crews
1 ERC3 crew
7 ERC4 crews
It’s anyone’s guess as to who will come out on top in Portugal, with a range of big names taking to the Fafe area, including Hayden Paddon, Craig Breen and Mads Østberg.
Efrén Llarena will be keen to get his championship defense started off with a win in his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, and he’ll be joined in the MRF Tyres team by Pontus Tidemand who makes his international comeback in a Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Georg Linnamäe, Erik Cais and Robert Virves also appear in a bid to up their familiarization with the Portuguese stages ahead of Rally Portugal in the WRC.
But there’ll be plenty of other names in the mix aside from the WRC superstars. Expect the likes of Mārtiņš Sesks, Simon Wagner and Armindo Araújo – competing with Breen for Portuguese championship honors as well – to have their say too.
There will just be one entry in the ERC3 class this weekend, with Jon Armstrong the sole name in the category.
He’ll be driving a Ford Fiesta Rally3 for M-Sport Poland in what will be his first rally since Acropolis Rally Greece.
Armstrong made just one appearance in the ERC last year on Rally Azores, in which he finished 35th.
Five of the seven ERC4 drivers will line up in a Peugeot 208 Rally4, with Tymoteusz Jocz in a Ford Fiesta Rally4 and Hugo Mesquita driving a Renault Clio Rally4.
Roberto Daprà is the only driver who finished in the top five of last year’s ERC4 standings to head to the north of Portugal this weekend.
The drivers face a 112-mile event, featuring 17 stages across a three-day period.
The action gets underway on Friday evening with the Fafe superspecial marking the start of the 2023 season, just as it did last year.
The route remains relatively unchanged from 2022’s outing, with the only noticeable difference being the absence of Montim.
Saturday will feature the longest day of running, with Boticas/Vale do Tâmega opening the day before a further eight stages for the drivers to complete.
The final day of action opens with a first pass of Luílhas, before a nine-mile powerstage on Lameirinha rounds off the weekend.