lThe route for Rally Portugal 2018 is almost exactly the same as the year before. But let’s still look at the stages, latest incidents and the history of the whole rally.
Last year’s Rally Portugal was extraordinarily interesting with lots of different leaders and stage winners. There were no two consecutive stages won by the same driver. The four first stages alone gave us seven different stage winners, complete with Ott Tänak, Kris Meeke and Crag Breen sharing the fastest time on a 27 km stage.
With an action-packed rally behind, no wonder the route hasn’t changed hardly at all for this year. Like they say, if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. Easy for the drivers and the organizers, a bit boring for me 🙂
There’s two variations on the Rally Portugal 2018 route from last year. The first one is Porto Street Stage, as opposed to the Braga one last year. It’s also changed from 2016. In addition, this year the Montim stage is repeated in Sunday as opposed to being driven just once. But that’s it really, everything else is the same.
The rally starts with the Lousada twin car super special, a classic that has been driven as early as 1991.
Some people advise to go for the first corner of the rally if you want to see crashes, but I wouldn’t expect that to apply to super specials. One to forget last year for the WRC2 driver Hubert Ptaszek.
Caminha was the fastest stage of the rally last year. Stephane Lefebvre rolled his Citroen C3 there, giving him two punctures, but still he was able to continue and finish the rally.
Meanwhile, Ponte de Lima was the slowest proper stage of the rally last year with a winning average speed of 85 km/h whereas most of the rally was between 90 and 100 km/h.
On the second run of Ponte de Lima last year, Latvala rolled his Toyota Yaris. Although, he said the car behaved strangely on the braking and he was also sick with a disease putting him into hospital overnight. Still, he was setting top 5 stage times for most of Saturday and was leading the rally before the roll on Friday.
Ponte de Lima also caused yet another opening day retirement for Kris Meeke, having already led the rally on the stages before that. This time Kris didn’t roll the car, but just hit the rear into the side of the road, breaking the suspension.
A year earlier a more dramatic incident occured on Ponte de Lima as Hayden Paddon went off and his Hyundai started to burn. Only moments later Ott Tänak went off in the same place. Tänak’s Fiesta was saved from the fire but Paddon’s Hyundai burned to the ground.
The longest stage of the rally Amarante contains a tarmac section in the middle of the stage. The grip change surprised Esapekka Lappi last year on his first WRC rally, sliding wide and breaking the suspension of the Yaris. Craig Breen also spun on the same section.
Another broken rear suspension on the 2017 Rally Portugal happened to Ott Tänak, on the first run of Amarante, while leading the rally. He was able to continue, but lost the lead or chances of a podium.
Meanwhile, Elfyn Evans went off the road on Cabeceiras de Basto, but was lucky to survive with only a puncture.
The Fafe stage is one of the best known stages in the WRC. It has been around since the Group B days and the images of the croud-filled jump or the double junction on tarmac are familiar to anyone following the sport for a longer time.
Last year we saw some outrageous jumps on the WRC 2017 cars, not to mention the unlucky one by Quentin Gilbert on an R5 Skoda Fabia, ending with a double somersault.
Of course, the Fafe stage is more than just the jump. Check out this onboard from 2015 to see how the stage looks like
Looking at the earlier editions of Rally Portugal there’s not much change either in the previous three years. The Friday loop was completely reversed to this year from 2015 to 2016. Saturday has always contained Amarante, but in 2015 it was titled Fridao. In 2015 and 2016 Saturday didn’t have Vieira do Minho and Cabeceiras de Basto, instead there were two stages driven south of Amarante, Baião and Marão. Sunday didn’t have Luilhas or Montim, but instead two repeats of Vieira do Minho.
Before 2015 the rally was in a different area for some years. Instead of being up North in Porto, the stages were on the South coast of Portugal, near the city of Faro, sometimes having a Super Special in Lissabon.
If we go further back to the classic years of longer rallies, Rally de Portugal would often start with the classic Sintra area stages near Lissabon with a set of another tarmac stages taking the crews Northwards to Porto. Another loop would have the crews then doing gravel stages in the Porto area, around the current rally location, and coming back South through the classic Arganil area stages, completing the cycle with a finish in Lissabon.
Last one of these classic style rallies was done in 1994. After that the tarmac stages were dropped and in 1998 the start was already in the North. And then when come a full circle in our story in 2007 when the rally made a return in WRC with a Faro-area rally, with no connection to the history at all.
Last year Sebastien Ogier managed to win the rally even though he started first on the road. He was third at the end of the first day with Latvala, Meeke and Paddon retiring infront of him. He actually even said the afternoon loop was worse than the morning loop.
This year Ogier will open the road again, with Thierry Neuville and previous rally winner Ott Tänak following behind. Latvala was strong here last year and has a good starting position at 8th. Also, the comeback makers Paddon and Mads Østberg could also surprise on the first day, starting way back of the pack, but I wouldn’t expect as much of a difference with road position as in Mexico.
Here’s a different kind of mood setter, a vintage onboard of the legendary Colin McRae in the Subaru Impreza WRC in 1998
Cover Image by Richard Simpson