It’s been over 220 days since the World Rally Championship was last held on a gravel stage, but that all changes on Friday with the start of Rally Portugal.
Missing from the calendar last year because of COVID-19, anticipation is high ahead of this year’s event with five different winners for five different automakers here in the last five years. Add to that a pulsating battle in WRC2, and it’s set to be an awesome weekend of rallying.
But what lies in store? We asked Sean Johnston just that, and here’s his guide to Friday’s leg of the event. While Johnston isn’t competing this weekend, he did do the pre-event recce.
SS1/4: Lousã (7.67 miles)
The first stage winds up a mountain and opens up once you reach some elevation to an enjoyable road with good rhythm. The last bit is a long descent which sees the crews tackle a series of switchbacks and hairpins before a relatively short climb to the finish. We had rain during the recce so it will be interesting to see what the conditions are on Friday!
SS2/5: Góis 1 (12.12 miles)
A narrow and twisty climb to start, even more so than stage one, before some longer straights and beautiful fast flowing roads along the top of the ridge. Definitely a big commitment stage and many places with tricky braking over crests. It then descends quickly with a few corners with big exposure in the last section of the stage.
SS3/6: Arganil 1 (11.69 miles)
Almost a mix of the first two stages with elements of both of them throughout! A bit more open with lots of crests and jumps at the beginning which look awesome and fun to drive, followed by some tighter technical bits, some fast-flowing rhythm bits, some switchbacks as well but not as much as the first stage.
SS7: Mortágua (11.28 miles)
A new stage for everyone this year, and it’s a real shame it’s only being run once! Probably my favorite stage of the Friday with a great consistent rhythm throughout and tons of elevation change as well. A tiny asphalt stretch in the middle is a notable difference to the others but is significantly shorter than the Tarmac section seen on the long Saturday stage.
SS8: SSS Lousada (2.08 miles)
A classic of Rally Portugal that always used to be run on Thursday evening. It’s rare to find a superspecial stage in these times but this is quite a cool one around a rallycross track. Obviously, it’s different in nature to the rest of the rally but there are plenty of places to be caught out with grip changes and barriers to hit. Hopefully plenty of fans can make it to create a special atmosphere.