ŠKODA and Rally Portugal – this has always been a perfect match. For example six years ago, the ŠKODA FABIA R5 started its impressive success story on the gravel roads of this FIA World Rally Championship classic. In 2019, the successor model ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo celebrated a double victory at its premiere in the hands of factory drivers Kalle Rovanperä and Jan Kopecký. Since then, the Czech rally car, after a change in regulations renamed to ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, has always been the most successful and popular model of its category. At the upcoming Rally Portugal, a total of 42 Rally2 cars from five brands are expected, fighting for victory in categories WRC2 and WRC3. 18 of them are privately entered FABIA.
Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) of ŠKODA Motorsport supported team Toksport WRT had to withdraw his entry on short notice. The WRC2 overall leader was tested COVID-19 positive before his journey to Portugal. “Obviously, I’m devastated for the team. I really wanted to show, that the ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo is the best car on gravel,” Mikkelsen said. “I have gone into self-isolation right away and will do everything to be 100 per cent fit for the upcoming Rally Italia Sardegna.”
Toksport WRT teammate Marco Bulacia currently lies second in the WRC2 drivers’ overall classification. The 20 years old Bolivian and his Argentinean co-driver Marcelo Der Ohannesian clearly feel at home on loose surfaces. “After a long time, I can hardly wait to drive the ŠKODA FABIA in a gravel rally again,” Bulacia emphasizes.
Rally Croatia saw Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (POL/POL) drive a ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo to victory in WRC3 category for private drivers, where Rally2 vehicles are used as well. Also in a ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen (FIN/FIN) came second. Their duel is definitely one to watch on Portuguese gravel.
Rally Portugal kicks off on Thursday evening (20 May) with the ceremonial start in the city centre of Coimbra. During Friday (21 May), the rally leads the teams to the region around Arganil. A total of eight special stages over a distance of around 123 kilometres has to be driven. As in previous years, Saturday (22 May) is the longest day of the event. The leg’s seven special stages, covering more than 165 kilometres, offer a mix of sandy tracks, rough passages with stones and rocks and deep ruts, that increase the challenge especially during the respective second runs of the stages. The right choice of tires will be key to success. A softer compound promises more traction on sandy surfaces, while harder tires guarantee less wear on longer test and rougher roads.
On Sunday (23 May), the iconic stages close to Fafe with their fast and smooth gravel roads including the famous “Fafe Jump” are the highlight of Rally Portugal. All in all, the teams have to tackle 21 stages covering 346.26 kilometres. The winner crosses the finish line in Matosinhos near Porto at around 14h20 local (15h20 CEST) on Sunday.
Did you know,…
…that the ŠKODA FABIA R5 made its FIA World Rally Championship debut during Rally Portugal 2015?
…that Rally Portugal was first held in 1967 and in 1973 was one of the founding events of the then new World Rally Championship?
…that until 1994 the rally started in Estoril close to Lisbon and the first leg was always held on tarmac, before it became an all gravel-event in 1995?
…that from 2007 to 2014, the rally was held in the Algarve region before moving back to the north of the country?
…that in 2012 world champion to be Sébastien Ogier won the class with a ŠKODA FABIA S2000 and finished an impressive 7th overall?
2021 FIA World Rally Championship
Rallye Monte-Carlo 21 – 24 January
Arctic Rally Finland powered by CapitalBox 25 – 28 February
Rally Croatia 22 – 25 April
Vodafone Rally Portugal 20 – 23 May
Rally Italia Sardegna 3 – 6 June
Safari Rally Kenya 24 – 27 June
Rally Estonia 15 – 18 July
Renties Ypres Rally Belgium 13 – 15 August
Acropolis Rally Greece 9 – 12 September
Rally Finland 30 September – 3 October
RallyRACC Rally de España 14 – 17 October
Rally Japan 11 –14 November