This month’s Rally Portugal will be the first event to encourage spectators to watch the World Rally Championship stage-side since September.
Rally Estonia was the last event where fans were allowed to gather for WRC action. Last month’s Rally Croatia was designated a non-spectator event, but thousands ignored officials requests to stay at home and watch the nation’s maiden WRC round on the internet.
In recent years, Portugal has demonstrated an exemplary approach to spectator management – something which was needed when the rally moved north from the Algarve to its more traditional base in the country’s rallying heartland of Porto.
A spokesman from Rally Portugal has confirmed to DirtFish that fans will be welcomed back to sections of the May 20-23 event.
“Yes,” they said, “we will have spectators with some limitations. Porto [the Saturday evening superspecial] and Exponor [the service park], for local authorities decisions, will not have spectators.”
FIA rally director Yves Matton told DirtFish: “Portugal is looking at a hybrid process where spectators will be allowed in some stages and controlled. There will also be some stages where they are not allowed – a little bit like Estonia was last year.
“For example, from what I understood, in the Fafe stage, the police is confident to be able to control it. In some countries they work to have some zones where they control the numbers. In Portugal they seem confident to manage it.”
The service park remains out of bounds to all but the teams, the FIA and the promoter – and selected media who elect to work only in the service park and not on the stages.
Matton added: “The best thing is that, in a few months, a lot of people will have taken their vaccination. And even if we need to apply code S for a bit of time in the working areas, we can go to allowing public access in some of the stages.”