It’s 14 years since northern Portugal echoed to the sound of the WRC. After a decade in the south coast Algarve region, Vodafone Rally de Portugal (21 – 24 May) returns to its traditional home amid classic special stages at the top of the country.
And they don’t come much bigger or better than Fafe. It ranks alongside Finland’s Ouninpohja and Argentina’s El Condor as one of the WRC’s iconic locations.
A double run through the test in Sunday’s final leg, including its stomach churning jump, will be a magnet for tens of thousands of passionate fans eager to see the rally ‘coming home’.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Round five of the FIA World Rally Championship starts in Portugal’s founding city of Guimarães on Thursday evening, from where a packed entry heads to Lousada circuit for a short two-at-a-time super special stage.
From there it’s back to the event base in Matosinhos, near Porto, which hosts the single service park for the season’s opening European gravel encounter.
Friday sends competitors north for two loops of three stages near Viana do Castelo, near the Spanish border.
The longest day is Saturday, which covers higher altitude roads in the Serra do Marão mountains near Amarante, east of Matosinhos. Two passes over the 37.67km Fridão test provide the toughest challenge of the day.
And then it’s Fafe. A double run through the 11.15km stage sandwiches the 32.35km Vieira do Minho test, with the second pass comprising the live TV Power Stage, with bonus points for the fastest three drivers.
The 16 stages cover 351.71km in a route of 1526.16km.