SWRC preview: Rally de Portugal
"Portugal is always a tough event"
Craig Breen will be looking to capitalise on P-G Andersson’s absence when the FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship resumes in Portugal this week.
Swede Andersson trails Irishman Breen by 18 points after two events but hasn’t nominated the Algarve-based contest as one of his seven scoring rounds due to his participation on the clashing opening event of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship season in New Zealand.
Breen, who won his class on the season-opening Rallye Monte-Carlo but finished second to Andersson in Sweden, said: “Portugal is always a tough event. The introduction of the night stages will be interesting. I got the chance to test at home on a local gravel event at the beginning of the month which included stages in darkness and last weekend I was in Turkey for a gravel test with Castrol Ford Team Turkey so my preparation as gone well.”
Hayden Paddon dominated the Production Car world championship section of Vodafone Rally de Portugal last season. He has labelled this year’s edition as a must-win event following what he considered to be a lacklustre showing on his SWRC debut in Sweden last month.
“This year is not only about winning the championship; it’s also about showcasing our speed - which we did not do in Sweden,” said the New Zealander, whose Skoda Fabia will be armed with an uprated engine in Portugal. “Looking at the event itself, we need to win the SWRC category at minimum.”
In total, five drivers will chase SWRC points in Portugal. In addition to Breen and Paddon, Poland’s Maciej Oleksowicz will be looking to build on his maiden SWRC points in Sweden with another strong result in Portugal in his Fiesta S2000.
Yazeed Al-Rajhi arrives in Portugal on a high following his victory on the Saudi Arabia Ha’il Desert Challenge in a MINI All4 Racing last week. Armed with a Fiesta Regional Rally Car, the Saudi driver has previous experience of competing in Portugal in a Peugeot 207 S2000.
Portuguese Pedro Meireles has secured a wildcard entry and will therefore be eligible for SWRC points in his R4-specification Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
More on WRC