As the first gravel round of the World Rally Championship in over half a year and the scene of the returning two Sébastiens, it’s fair to say there’s lots of excitement ahead of Rally Portugal.
With a packed entry list, some classic stages and an element of the unknown given the new Rally1 cars have never competed on gravel yet, it certainly isn’t one to miss.
Here’s all the information you need to follow this weekend’s classic.
Total 100 crews
12 Priority 1 crews
41 Priority 2 crews (WRC2)
7 Priority 3 crews (WRC3)
40 Non-priority crews
A new record has been set for a Rally1 entry on Rally Portugal as 12 cars will take the start.
None of the teams retain the same lineup from Croatia Rally. M-Sport ups its service park footprint with the addition of a fifth Puma Rally1. Team regulars Craig Breen, Adrien Fourmaux and Gus Greensmith are once again joined by Pierre-Louis Loubet while Monte Carlo winner Sébastien Loeb returns for his second event of the season – scoring points for M-Sport in place of Greensmith.
Sébastien Ogier is back in town for Toyota too, leaving Esapekka Lappi absent this week. Ogier will of course be partnered by Elfyn Evans and world championship leader Kalle Rovanperä, with Takamoto Katsuta driving another GR Yaris Rally1 for the Toyota Next Generation Team.
Hyundai meanwhile has rotated its lineup for the first time in 2022 as Dani Sordo comes in for his first rally of the season, competing alongside Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak. Oliver Solberg will however still compete in Portugal but in WRC2 instead.
We keep raving about the quality in WRC2 these days, but it shouldn’t be overlooked how mega the battle in the category is at present.
Everywhere you look there are victory contenders springing up at you, but reigning champion Andreas Mikkelsen must be considered the favorite after his victories on both the Monte Carlo Rally and Rally Sweden.
But the aforementioned Solberg and Teemu Suninen – preparing for his first rally all year – form a formidable lineup for Hyundai as its WRC2 program begins, while Croatia winner Yohan Rossel, Eric Camilli and Stéphane Lefebvre are all certified contenders in their Citroëns too.
Marco Bulacia is the highest seed in the WRC2 Junior category but will face a stiff battle with the likes of Chris Ingram, Jan Solans and Georg Linnamäe.
For the third time in as many rallies, Junior WRC travels with the WRC this weekend and a huge battle is in store.
After the first two rounds it’s all-even between Sweden winner Jon Armstrong and Croatia victor Lauri Joona, but Robert Virves and 2021 champion Sami Pajari have both shown the pace to win too.
William Creighton, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi and McRae Kimahti complete this weekend’s entry.
Rally Portugal begins on Thursday evening with a brand-new Coimbra superspecial stage, replacing the traditional Lousada test which used to run on Thursday prior to 2019.
Lousada does however remain in this year’s itinerary, running at the end of Friday’s leg which consists of eight stages – eight out in the wilderness – with just a tire fitting zone in between the two loops. The daunting Arganil stage features.
Vieira do Minho and Amarante – the longest stage of the rally – are both run twice on Saturday either side of Cabeceiras de Basto for a three-stage loop repeated in the afternoon. Another superspecial in the form of Porto – Foz concludes the day.
Sunday’s final day comprises five special stages and, as always, ends with the famous Fafe powerstage. Felguieras and Fafe are both run twice while Montim is attempted just once early in the morning.