When it comes to rallying, there are few places in the world where the fans are as enthusiastic as in Portugal. Demanding gravel roads and tricky stages are the ultimate challenge to the skills of all the drivers. Watching this test unfold is a real treat for any motorsport fan – and Portugal is home to hundreds of thousands of such fans.
Rally fans were given a taste of what they can expect on the 22 special stages of the Rally Portugal at last weekend's traditional Rally Sprint in Fafe, a small town in the north of Portugal. Over one hundred thousand rally-mad fans packed the 6.34-kilometre route, which formed part of the Rally Portugal until 2001.
Only a few WRC drivers turned down the chance to enjoy this show event. Spectacular drifts and breath-taking jumps are honoured with thunderous applause and appreciative ooohs and ahhhs. The drivers' pulses are pushed to the limit as the adrenalin flows at full speed. Fafe serves as a great warm-up for drivers and fans alike ahead of the Rally Portugal, which is equally spectacular from the word go.
The Rally Portugal kicks off with the "Lisboa" super special stage (find all Rally Portugal hotspots here). Early on Thursday afternoon, the drivers will tear around a 3.27-kilometre asphalt circuit in the heart of the city. Tens of thousands of enthusiastic rally fans are once again expected in the centre of Lisbon. The curtain-raiser may produce the first leader, but a further 20 stages stand between him and overall victory at the end of the Power Stage finale on Sunday afternoon. Most of the stages are held on rugged mountain roads and demand maximum concentration. Carelessness can result in punctures, which in turn cost valuable time. Big mistakes can easily result in an early end to the rally.
One man who is particularly looking forward to the Rally Portugal is Armindo Araujo of WRC Team MINI Portugal. "I can't wait to get started," says Armindo, who lives near Fafe and won the hearts of the fans at the show event. "I want to make the Portuguese people proud, because they have always been very supportive of me and now are totally behind the WRC Team MINI Portugal." Armindo is also keen to show the fans the full potential of his MINI John Cooper Works WRC, having lined up with the S2000 version last season.
Armindo is joined in Portugal by team-mate Paulo Nobre, as well as Dani Sordo and Patrick Sandell of the Prodrive WRC Team. Because Dani and Patrick did not compete at the recent Rally Mexico, Portugal will be their first outing on gravel this season. "I am really looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the MINI," says Dani, who has his sites set on another podium finish. "I have been on the podium the last three times I have been at Portugal and I will be fighting hard to get MINI a first podium on a gravel event."
The drivers will be faced by exactly 434.77 kilometres against the clock – that is about 50 timed kilometres more than at last year's event. Furthermore, some of the 22 stages are uncharted territory for the drivers, which makes it all the more exciting for the crowds. The first stage begins at 15:30 CET (14:30 local time) on Thursday. Find updates from Portugal on Twitter.com/MINImotorsport.
After a difficult start to the second day of the Rally Spain, Dani Sordo delivers a spectacular show for his fans with the MINI WRC.
The MINI Motorsport family is large and embraces the whole world. Find out more about the MINI Stars worldwide.
On the first day in Spain all teams fought off difficult weather conditions and challenging stages. While virtually every stage was marked by retirements, one MINI WRC driver kept his nerve.
Ultimate cornering, breathtaking acceleration.
Qualifying stage, autograph session, media conference, starting order draw and ceremonial start: The preliminaries for the Rallye Spain are over; all five MINI WRC Crews are raring to start the WRC finale.
A car built for victory. The MINI John Cooper Works Challenge races across the track at 240 km/h.
Experience MINI John Cooper Works.