Dani Sordo’s not wrong. Next week’s Rally Portugal is indeed the round of the World Rally Championship closest to his Cantabrian birth place. That and the thousands of fans who pour across the border to line the roads and wave their flags for him make it a special week for the Spaniard.
Sordo’s always loved Portugal, even more so when it’s been based in the north, close to Porto. It’s just over 400 miles from the place he once called home in northern Spain (before he moved to Andorra). Porto is just 19 miles closer to Cantabria than Salou, but stand out in the stages and you can feel the absolute passion for this most likable of drivers.
And it’s reciprocated.
“I love this rally,” Sordo tells DirtFish. “Portugal is always a special place for me. You know, you see the fans, this rally is really a part of the history and when you drive the roads, you feel that.”
It’s a place that brings out the best in the three-time world rally winner. Since Rally Portugal’s 2015 move north from Faro back to its Atlantic coast heartland, Sordo has led the event four times in six starts. And he’s scored two podiums, second last time out.
Talking to him three years ago, when a fuel pressure problem ruled him out of a Friday morning lead, the frustration was writ large across his face.
“This one I want to win,” he added, “I really want to win here.”
It’s not often that Sordo shows his emotion behind the wheel, but there’s been more smacking of the steering wheel in Portugal than probably anywhere else.
His former team principal Andrea Adamo has talked of a podium being a good result for Sordo. He’ll share that view, especially with such a good start position on the road for the opening day, where he’ll be at the back of the P1 pack.
But that potentially preferable road position comes at a cost – that cost is his lack of seat time. The Matosinhos-based event will be Sordo’s first time in an i20 N Rally1. The gang around him have all seen action from the inside of the WRC’s first hybrid cars on at least one round.
“I’m excited to drive the car on gravel for the first time,” he said.
“I’m hoping to have a good rhythm with the car and adapt myself quickly to this new challenge. It won’t be easy as the other drivers have done three rallies already so I hope the feeling for the car comes quickly.
“It’s nice that Portugal is my first event with the new car.”