WRC RECORDS STAND TO BE BROKEN IN
MAY’S 52nd VODAFONE RALLY OF PORTUGAL
Two notable WRC records could easily be broken at the 52nd Vodafone Rally of Portugal, the sixth round of the prestigious FIA World Rally Championship, on May 17-20.
Five-time World Champion Sébastien Ogier is the current leader of this year’s Drivers’ Championship after taking victories in Monte-Carlo and México. A sixth victory in Portugal would make the Frenchman the most successful driver in the history of the Portuguese round of the series.
Five of the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver’s 42 WRC wins have come in Portugal (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017). He shares the record of a quintet of victories with the veteran Finnish legend Markku Alén, who guided Fiat 131s to four wins in 1975, 1977, 1978 and 1981 and a Group A Lancia Delta HF Integrale to the top step of the podium in 1987.
Their closest challengers in the Hall of Fame are fellow Finn Hannu Mikkola and Italy’s Mikki Biasion with three WRC wins apiece. Local driver Armindo Araújo has also won in Portugal on three occasions, but the event was not a round of the WRC in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
Even the likes of nine-time WRC champion Sébastien Loeb, multiple champions Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Mäkinen and the world renowned Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae only claimed two wins apiece.
The second record that could easily fall in Portugal - if Ulsterman Kris Meeke can deliver the form that took him to victories in México and Spain last year - is the number of Manufacturer victories on the Matosinhos-based gravel event being organised by the Automóvel Club de Portugal (ACP).
Lancia and Citroën currently have eight wins apiece and success for the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team would push the French team to the top of the all-time Hall of Fame with nine wins, although three of those were earned when the event was not a round of the WRC.
Fiat is currently third on six victories, but Ogier and Elfyn Evans would move the Blue Oval into equal third with victory for Ford at the finish on May 20.
Hyundai has enjoyed two successful spells in the WRC but has never won in Portugal. Victory for Thierry Neuville, Andreas Mikkelsen, Hayden Paddon or Dani Sordo of the four-strong Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team would rewrite that little piece of unwanted history for the Korean manufacturer in May.
The WRC was introduced for the first time in 1973 and the French duo of Jean-Luc Thérier and Jacques Jaubert etched their names on the winners’ trophy in Portugal at the wheel of an Alpine Renault A110, although the rally had run as an ever present in the motor sport calendar since its inauguration in 1967.