MOTORSPORT NEWS Rally

M-SPORT SET SAIL FOR PORTUGAL

HOPES OF ANOTHER STRONG PERFORMANCE

M-Sport will be hoping to continue their strong performance next week when the FIA World Rally Championship returns to Europe for the popular Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

With Sébastien Ogier, Ott Tänak and Elfyn Evans all behind the wheel of the Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta WRC, the team have a strong chance of maintaining their immaculate run of podium finishes and the team are highly motivated to achieve that goal.

Having contested a five-day test in the north of Portugal, the team worked on perfecting set-up configurations as well as confirming a number of findings from last month’s extensive research and development test so as to be best placed for the challenges ahead.

Next week’s event also marks another landmark in the team’s customer programme with the international debut of the Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2. The latest evolution of M-Sport’s most-successful global rally car includes an engine upgrade with redesigns to the cylinder head and exhaust manifold.

Producing additional horsepower, the Fiesta R5 Evo2 will be entrusted to Éric Camilli, Teemu Suninen, Pierre-Louis Loubet, Gus Greensmith and Pedro Heller as they do battle in the highly-competitive WRC 2 category.

RALLY DE PORTUGAL
POPULARITY AND PASSION

Popularity and passion are two words that best describe the Vodafone Rally de Portugal. As the first gravel event on European soil, the Portuguese fixture has become a firm favourite amongst competitors and fans alike – the huge number of spectators mirrored in the impressive entry which the rally receives year after year.

Based in the coastal town of Porto, the crews will tackle 349.17 competitive kilometres across nineteen special stages. The sandy, clay-based terrain means that grip will be at a premium for the early runners. But the soft nature of the roads can also see the stages become more abrasive and hazardous over the second pass.

With deep ruts and the threat of rocks being dragged onto the racing line, survival is a key concern and the team must prepare for the rough conditions.

Tyre selection could also prove pivotal and the crews will need to find the right balance between their soft and hard compounds – the first offering more grip through the soft gravel and the latter proving more durable for the longer loop of stages.

If that weren’t enough, the Portuguese weather can also be somewhat unpredictable. The event has been subject to both glorious sunshine and torrential rain in previous years and the team must be prepared for all conditions.

Whatever the outcome, Rally de Portugal never fails to impress and the closing run through the legendary Fafe stage is a sight to behold with thousands of rally fans lining the hillside.

MALCOLM WILSON
THE TEAM PRINCIPAL

With M-Sport leading both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship standings, Team Principal Malcolm Wilson is keen to see the team continue their strong performance. Rally de Portugal also sees the international launch of the Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2 – and Wilson is equally as eager to see how the latest evolution performs.

Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:

“Rally de Portugal is an event that everyone looks forward to. There is a truly unique atmosphere there and the Portuguese rally fans are some of the most passionate and knowledgeable in the world – with a real enthusiasm for their motorsport.

“It will be a special event for us as we launch the new Ford Fiesta R5 Evo2. The team has been working extremely hard to extract even more from a car that was already very successful and I’m looking forward to seeing what our WRC 2 contenders can do against what will undoubtedly be some of the strongest competition of the year.

“In the top flight, our goal always has to be the podium. With Sébastien, Ott and Elfyn we have a good chance of maintaining our impressive run and the whole team will be working towards that end.

“Sébastien has a fantastic track record at this event, and Ott and Elfyn will be full of confidence following an impressive display in Argentina. The stage is set for a great event and, although the win is anyone’s for the taking, that’s where our eyes will be firmly fixed.”