We’ve almost made it to Sunday of Rally Portugal – although the same can’t be said for many of the World Rally Championship’s leading lights.
Six of the 10 World Rally Cars have emerged from the Friday and Saturday stages without having to use SuperRally rules, but any thoughts of a nice, relaxing cruise to the finish will be dashed upon glancing at Sunday’s itinerary.
Five stages lie in wait, including one classic, on a day that could have one final sting in the tail.
Over to WRC2 regular Sean Johnston to take us through the day’s action.
SS16/19 Felgueiras (5.70 miles)
A new stage to the drivers – last run in the late 1990s – and what a gorgeous stage it is! Of all the stages this weekend, this is the one I’m the most excited to watch the crews tackle as my impression from recce was that this will be like driving a rollercoaster.
Mostly medium speed, but a consistent and smooth surface all the way through, what makes this one really special is the amount of dramatic elevation changes and how much positive camber (leaning into the corner) the road is in many places.
SS17 Montim (5.44 miles)
A regular Sunday stage here at Rally Portugal that starts out with many long straights and some small jumps before getting into a nice rhythm through the middle of the stage. Many crests and blind medium-speed corners through here make good notes and precise driving especially important. Lastly, a bit more of a tight and technical descent brings the crews to the finish.
SS18/20 Fafe (6.95 miles)
An absolute classic, easy to recall due to the iconic jump just a few hundred meters from the end! This stage has been run for years which means the crews have all finely tuned sets of pace notes for this one; As a result, the gaps at the end of the stage should be extra tight, so the battle for powerstage points will be hard fought here. It starts out a bit technical in the forest before opening up to a faster, higher commitment section through a rolling open hillside.
A big jump to a very narrow landing requires a precise line to get right and is a good warm up for the even bigger Fafe jump to come at the end of the stage. Before we get there, though, there’s a picturesque short asphalt junction where the cars flick left and right before heading up the hill towards the end of the stage. Last but not least, the crews arrive at the Fafe jump. Commitment is needed to find just the right amount of speed and steering angle over the jump as it’s not entirely straight, and a relatively narrow landing makes for little room for error.