For the third year running, Portugal’s round of the World Rally Championship, where many teams are supplied by BMC, will take teams to the country’s northern city of Porto after being based for more than a decade in the Algarve region.
It will be the first European gravel fixture of the 2017 championship and will feature a variety of landscapes and difficulties, with the stages near Ponte de Lima expected to be the roughest of the weekend. The total length of this year’s route is 1,529.01 km, including 19 stages totalling 349.17 km. Plenty will be new this time round, since only half the event is identical to last year’s format, while more than 90 competitive kilometres will be run in the opposite direction and more than 110 km will be totally new. Thursday afternoon’s start will take place in front of the majestic castle in Guimarães before a runout to a stage around the rallycross track at Lousada. Friday’s action will take crews north to Viano do Castelo, near the Spanish border, and will conclude with two tests in the streets of historic Braga. The longest day will be Saturday’s leg, with a programme of entirely new stages in the Cabreira Hills. Sunday’s programme includes the Fafe super-special which is always a magnet for spectators. The morning’s four tests will all take place in the same region, with two runs over Fafe’s famous jump which counts amongst the most spectacular of the season. This is the cocktail that the Michelin LTX Force H4 and S5 face, not to mention the fact that the Portuguese stages are notorious for cutting up between passes, evolving from dusty first time through before becoming gradually rougher.
The analysis of…
Jacques Morelli, manager of Michelin’s FIA WRC programme.
“Technically, Rally de Portugal is a hard event where tyre strategy can be decisive. To begin with, the sandy surface offers good grip, so the soft compound is theoretically the ideal choice. However, the drivers need to be aware how the conditions can change and be ready to switch to an alternative plan. The emergence of stones and ruts changes everything. That said, out tyres are particularly versatile and we don’t foresee any problems, although the result might be influenced by start orders and the phenomenon of ‘road sweeping’ if the weather is dry. The strategy in WRC2 will differ slightly given the running orders, so our partners will need to think ahead when they choose between the Michelin S80 and the H90”.