– Iconic Sete Cidades confirmed as closing stage of European championship season opener
– Ponta Delgada street demo run becomes competitive stage for first time
The stage that former event winner Craig Breen said is unrivalled in terms of “spectacle” will decide the FIA European Rally Championship season-opening Azores Rallye next month.
Organisers Grupo Desportivo Comercial have confirmed the iconic Sete Cidades volcano stage, which traditionally ran during the middle day of the Azores Rallye, will now serve as the closing test of the spectacular event on the mid-Atlantic Ocean island of São Miguel.
Breen, who won the Azores Rallye in 2015 and returns to the ERC this season in a Team MRF Tyres Hyundai i20 R5, said: “There’s probably no other spectacle in sport like Sete Cidades. To drive a rally car along the ridge of a volcano is an incredible experience.”
In other exciting changes for the 55th edition of the Azores Rallye, which takes place from 26-28 March, the Ponta Delgada-based, all-asphalt City Show switches from a Wednesday evening demonstration event to a competitive stage on the night of Thursday 26 March under a new name, PDL Stage.
Graminhais and the jungle-style Tronqueira on the east side of São Miguel, will form part of the leg one itinerary on Friday 27 March having previously taken place on the final day. And having been used twice in the past, there will be just one not-to-be-missed visit to the quarry-based Grupo Marques superspecial, which gives fans a grandstand view of the action.
Meanwhile, with drivers not due to complete the reconnaissance until the morning of Thursday 26 March under new regulations for 2020 to contain events within a shorter, four-day period, Free Practice and the Qualifying Stage will move back to early afternoon slots.
Entries open, regulations available
Entries have opened for the Azores Rallye and crews now have until Tuesday 10 March to enter the spectacular event, which also counts for the Azorean and Portuguese championships in addition to the ERC.
Azores Rally 2020 key numbers
Stage distance: 215.17 kilometres
Liaison distance: 439.10 kilometres
Total distance: 652.03 kilometres