The heritage that makes Fafe so special

It's a town full of rallying heritage and that makes this event incredibly special

Erik Cais

It doesn’t matter how you say it, whether you add the ‘e’ on the end or not. Whether it’s Faff. Or Faffay. It remains one of those must-see places in our world.

The town is lovely, charmingly Portuguese, but it’s the most road out of town that holds the real mystique. Away from the houses and onto the gravel, any question of whether you’re heading in the right direction is dispelled immediately. Enormous boulders sit where they’ve sat for hundreds of years – but now they’re white paint decorated with greats. The names Alén, Ogier, Loeb, Meeke are faded, but still recognisable.

The centrepiece of Fafe is the enormous jump towards the end of the stage. On a cloudy Tuesday morning without a rally car in sight, the gravel road narrows as it rises. The surrounding windfarm has certainly altered the iconic Eighties image, but as you crest the rise, it’s unmistakable.

“When you are coming in this place, you see the crowd, you hear the crowd. Look, now, the hairs on my arm… they are rising.”

Ari Vatanen on that jump. That place.

Fafe is a rally town. Of that there’s no question.

Talking to people in the cafés and bars, one name still resonates above the Finnish legends of Vatanen and Alén.


One of the biggest of the big boulders has a saltire painted across its face. By this weekend, the blue and white will have been touched up to make sure everybody remembers. In case you forget, descending the gravel towards the square left onto the asphalt of the N311, there’s another Scottish flag painted across the road.

Craig Breen’s a lover of every aspect of our sport’s history. Fafe holds a special place for him.

“The road’s nice,” he told DirtFish. “But there’s nothing tremendously special about the stage. Of course, it’s a nice one, but I think it’s more the atmosphere and the feeling of the place.

“There’s so much history in the town and in that stage, so much has happened in our sport down the years. There’s definitely a special feeling about Fafe.”

Renowned WRC photographer Andre Lavadinho knows that feeling. He’s spent his life in it. Born and brought up not far from Fafe, he understands Breen’s thinking.

“I was watching rallies there since I was four years old,” he said. “I got my first pictures published in a magazine when I was eight years old!


“The roads around there are amazing, going through the villages and everywhere you see the rally posters and the stickers and the signs on the road. Everybody in and around Fafe knows the rally and they want to live for this amazing atmosphere the rally brings.

“At night, it’s even more special – when you have people camping and waiting for the rally to come. The tents are coming, the parties are everywhere. Whole families go to Fafe to enjoy the atmosphere as well as the event – in Portugal, for us, it’s like a drug.

“You know, sometimes, when the rally is not there, I will go to Fafe and to this place. I go just to eat something, to sit among the posters on the walls and to feel the passion.

“Really, Fafe is something unique.”

Unique and coming your way courtesy of the European Rally Championship this weekend.