Rally Portugal: Ford preview

Ford plans to prosper in Portugal's abrasive Algarve hills The record-breaking BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team will aim to end the opening half of the FIA World Rally Championship season on a high note in Portugal next week. Victory in New ...

Rally Portugal: Ford preview

Ford plans to prosper in Portugal's abrasive Algarve hills

The record-breaking BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team will aim to end the opening half of the FIA World Rally Championship season on a high note in Portugal next week. Victory in New Zealand earlier this month was Ford's 75th WRC success. Not only did it make the company the most successful manufacturer in the championship's history, but it also moved the squad to within five points of the lead in the 2010 standings.

Rally de Portugal (27 - 30 May) is the last of a cluster of five gravel rounds before the season switches to asphalt in July after the mid-season break. Following their New Zealand win, Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila lie second in the drivers' points table in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. Team-mates and fellow Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are third, eight points behind.

This sixth round of the series has a long history. Traditionally based on the west coast, in 2006 the rally was reborn in the Algarve holiday region in the south, with Faro as the base. The competition takes place in the hills above the town, blending fast, open roads with more technical sections on hard and abrasive tracks. The rally takes place two months later this year, with the prospect of higher temperatures, drier conditions and plenty of slippery loose gravel on the road surface.

This will be Hirvonen's third start in Portugal and the 29-year-old finished second last year. "It's a medium-fast rally and quite technical with plenty of corners over crests, so it's important to be precise with both pace notes and driving lines. Conditions look as if they will be hot and dry and that will be tough for the tyres. The roads have a hard base and on the second pass, once the loose stones have been swept away, the grip will be good, but abrasive, so we'll have to manage our tyres well," he said.

"New Zealand was disappointing for me and I need to rediscover my speed. I'm not even thinking about championship positions at the moment, I just want to go to Portugal and drive at the speed that I know I can. I've thought a lot about why I wasn't as quick as I had hoped in New Zealand and I believe I was simply pushing too hard. My mistakes came through attacking too much, so I plan to be a little less aggressive and try to let my driving flow normally," added Hirvonen.

Latvala is also competing in Portugal for the third time and the 25-year-old is full of confidence after his win in New Zealand. "I've developed a completely different attitude to my driving this season in my job as number two in the team. That role has helped me to understand the sport better. It's not only about being fastest, it's just as important for a driver to be consistent and finish rallies to fight for the title. It's working well, but I'm not 100 per cent there yet and I need to keep working," he said.

Latvala crashed out of the 2009 rally in spectacular fashion, when his Focus RS WRC rolled more than 150 metres down a hillside in an incident which has been viewed nearly 800,000 times on the YouTube video sharing website. "That stage will be used again this year and when I drive through it during the recce I will slow down and take a quick look where we went off. I will be changing my pace notes for that corner! But I've put the crash behind me and I won't treat that stage any differently in the rally itself," he added.

Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr will drive a third Focus RS WRC for the team, returning to the championship for the first time since the opening round in Sweden. "I have been competing for Team Abu Dhabi in all rounds of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship for the last few months, so I am hopeful that the extra time behind the wheel on tough gravel and sand conditions will help give me an edge at Rally de Portugal. Last year Michael and I finished eighth and I am confident that I can either replicate or better that result this time round," said Al Qassimi.

Team News

* Tyre partner Pirelli will provide BP Ford Abu Dhabi with one regulation tyre pattern. The Scorpion gravel tyre will be available in hard compound only. Teams are not allowed to hand-carve additional cuts into the rubber and each car can carry two spare wheels.

* Six other Focus RS WRCs are entered. Henning Solberg / Ilka Minor and Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin are nominated by the Stobart M-Sport Ford team, while Federico Villagra / Jorge Perez Companc will drive for the Munchi's Ford squad. Monster World Rally Team has entered Ken Block / Alex Gelsomino and there are also privately-entered cars for Rene Kuipers / Erwin Berkhof and Laurent Carbonaro / Thierry Leon. The rally is the fifth round of the S-WRC support championship and five registered Ford Fiesta S2000 cars are entered, headed by leaders Xevi Pons / Alex Haro. It is also the second round of the Fiesta SportTrophy International, with six R2 and one ST models due to start. Twenty-four of the 75 entrants are competing in Ford cars, 31 per cent of the entry.

* The team's Focus RS WRCs will carry logos supporting the FIA Foundation's Make Roads Safe campaign. The Foundation is calling for action to stop thousands of preventable deaths and injuries on the world's roads and earlier this year the United Nations approved a Decade of Action for Road Safety from 2011-2020. The logos will remain on the cars for the rest of the WRC season. Information on the campaign can be found at www.makeroadssafe.org

* Hirvonen tested a Focus RS WRC on asphalt for three days in England last week. The development session ahead of the four sealed-surface rounds of the championship in the second half of the season, was based at the Millbrook testing venue, in the south of the country.

* Hirvonen and Lehtinen will attend the UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Inter Milan at Madrid's Bernabeu Stadium tomorrow (Saturday) night. Ford is the longest-serving official partner of Europe's most prestigious club football competition.

-source: ford

shares
comments
Rally Portugal: Rally Route

Previous article

Rally Portugal: Rally Route

Next article

Rally Portugal: Juha Kankkunen with ASM Motorsport preview

Rally Portugal: Juha Kankkunen with ASM Motorsport preview
Load comments
Does Neuville have a point with his WRC Rally1 rant? Prime

Does Neuville have a point with his WRC Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How Rovanpera reached new heights in the Greek mountains Prime

How Rovanpera reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Prime

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Prime

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021
Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit? Prime

Could Spa’s cameo offer the WRC a new avenue to exploit?

OPINION: The Ypres Rally featured a cameo from the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in its final stage, giving WRC teams the chance to experience its iconic corners in rallying machinery. It proved to be an engaging addition to the rally, and could perhaps serve as an example for other events to visit famous circuits

WRC
Aug 24, 2021
Home hero Neuville delivers overdue WRC success for Hyundai in Belgium Prime

Home hero Neuville delivers overdue WRC success for Hyundai in Belgium

With limited recent fortune and pressure starting to mount, Hyundai needed a big result at the Ypres Rally. All the key components came together in Belgium to see home hero Thierry Neuville lead a manufacturer 1-2 and kickstart its World Rally Championship challenge

WRC
Aug 16, 2021
The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree Prime

The new car that can resurrect Ford's WRC winning pedigree

M-Sport has become the first to unveil its new-for-2022 hybrid World Rally Championship challenger, the Puma Rally1. Ford has upped its support in a bid for glory, but can the new machine roll back the years and return the Blue Oval to the top of the WRC tree?

WRC
Aug 12, 2021
The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies Prime

The rookie WRC driver aiming to continue Loeb and Ogier's legacies

French drivers have dominated the World Rally Championship across the past two decades; Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier have racked up the titles in commanding fashion. With Ogier calling it a day on full-time WRC competition from next year, France will pin its long-term hopes on rookie Adrien Fourmaux, who looks to have a bright future.

WRC
Aug 7, 2021