A tough time for tyres.
Some of the special stages of the Rally de Portugal are driven on long, sometimes very narrow and winding, gravel tracks. A whole three days of driving takes the rally through the hinterland of the Algarve. Not only a tough time for the drivers – the tyres of the WRC cars take quite a beating, too. No wonder, as tyre wear is 40 per cent higher on the hard and sharp gravel here than at other gravel rallies like the Rally Mexico. A highlight for spectators is the “Super Special Stage” around the Praça do Império in Lisbon that closes the first day of the special stages on Friday. This road circuit offers fans a breathtaking view of the rally drivers’ skills.
Date: 3 till 6 April 2014
There’s a group of people who are often overlooked during a rally, and that’s the co-drivers. They are, of course, unjustly overlooked, because rallying is a team sport, and without a co-driver’s very quick instructions, it would be impossible for a driver to drive a WRC vehicle at high speed. After all, you’re sure to run into trouble if you’re driving at 160 km/h without any idea of whether you need to steer left or right after the next corner.
Mikko Markkula about Rally Portugal.
What’s different about Rally Portugal?
We took part in about a week of the 2013 Fafe Rally Sprint, in the north of Portugal where the WRC rally used to take place. The people there were much more enthusiastic than the spectators in the south, where the rally is now held. It obviously makes more sense logistically speaking to hold the event in the south because there are more hotels and more tourists down there. And the fans in the south were great too. But they weren’t nearly as enthusiastic as the people in the north.
What do you have to pay particular attention to in Portugal?
It’s a very demanding gravel rally, technically speaking. It’s very fast and the track is very hard. There are also lots of hills and bends, which prevent you from seeing what’s up ahead. So you’re really reliant on having good pace notes. An incorrect braking point or taking a corner too late can mean the end of the rally for you. It’s one of the season’s most demanding rallies.
What has been your finest moment in Portugal?
Janne Tuohino and I came second in a Group N Subaru in 2006. We entered as a private team and it was fantastic to be able to compete with the superstars of the rallying scene and then finish in second place too.
And what about your worst moment in Portugal?
Juho Hänninen and I were in the lead in an S2000 Škoda Fabia in 2010 – up to the point where we came off course and damaged one of our rear wheels. We then lined up again the next day, only to come out of the rally with exactly the same problem again, which was incredibly disappointing.