Defending European Rally champion Efrén Llarena tops an impressive entry for Rally Serras de Fafe, the opening round of the ERC season.
The 27-year-old will be looking to improve on the 10th place he scored in Fafe 12 months ago, but it’s not going to be easy on a European opener packed with World Rally Championship stars.
Starting behind the Spaniard’s Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 is Hayden Paddon and Craig Breen, both in Hyundai i20 N Rally2s.
Hyundai Motorsport driver Breen will hit the ground running as he embarks on a Portuguese Championship campaign with Team Hyundai Portugal.
“It’s great,” said Breen on hearing the level of quality in Fafe. “The competition is going to be tough with some big names out there, but that’s why we’re here and why we’re doing it. It’s a special rally in a special place.”
Mads Østberg starts the next chapter of his career aboard an MRF-supported Citroën C3, with former Junior WRC champion Tom Kristensson in a similar car. Defending Junior World Rally champion Robert Virves is also present in a RedGrey-run Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Pontus Tidemand is another Junior champ (as well as WRC2 and Asia Pacific title winner) to start in Portugal. The popular Swede remains loyal to Ford, running a Ford Fiesta Rally2 as a former M-Sport factory driver.
Georg Linnamäe will be looking to emulate his podium third place in Fafe 12 months ago as he starts in his Hyundai.
Other WRC2 drivers on the entry include Erik Cais (Škoda), Josh McErlean (Hyundai) and Miko Marczyk (Škoda).
Frenchman Yoann Bonato makes his first start of the year in another C3, while Finnish champion Mikko Heikkala is run by local expert outfit The Racing Factory in another Škoda.
Portugese fans will be thrilled to see Armindo Araújo (Škoda) and Bernardo Sousa (Citroën) on the list.
M-Sport Poland fields a Ford Fiesta Rally3 for Jon Armstrong, with the two-time JWRC runner-up looking to humble Rally2 opposition in his lower-powered car.
Rally Seras de Fafe runs on March 11/12.