A fado in Faro for the WRC Between a quick chorus of La Cucaracha in Mexico and some tango dancing in Argentina, the World Rally Championship indulges in a little fado this weekend as the Rally de Portugal returns to the WRC fold....
A fado in Faro for the WRC
Between a quick chorus of La Cucaracha in Mexico and some tango dancing in Argentina, the World Rally Championship indulges in a little fado this weekend as the Rally de Portugal returns to the WRC fold. After migrating from Porto to Faro, capital of the Algarve, the new-look event features a compact, all-new route with the Algarve Stadium as its epicentre. Observers will be keen to see whether the Citroen C4 WRC can repeat its Mexican form, whether the Ford Focus is able to take front stage once again and whether the new Subaru Impreza succeeds in confirming its early speed seen in North America.
Famed fado diva Amalia Rodrigues would surely be capable of moving listeners to tears should she choose to relate in song form the Portuguese population's interrupted love affair with rally sport. She would sing of the nation's jealousy regarding certain soulless events drafted into the WRC after the Rally de Portugal was dropped. She would also no doubt recall the event's glorious past and the sorrow felt following its eviction from the calendar after a particularly gloomy Sunday in March 2001, not forgetting its exile from Fafe and Arganil to the bluer skies and sunnier clime of the Algarve.
But however heart-wrenching her tale would be, the pugnacity of the organisers in their bid to retrieve the event's former world class status has been rewarded at last. The 2007 Vodafone Rally de Portugal effectively figures as the fifth round of this year's calendar and will kick off on Thursday March 29 from the Algarve Stadium for three days of furious action in the Faro region in front of what will no doubt be a massive crowd. For the record, the prologue stage of January's Dakar Rally, which also took place in the Algarve, attracted a reported half a million spectators!
"Judging by the welcome given by the Portuguese population to the 2007 Dakar Rally and recent baja events, the Rally de Portugal is sure to be a grand festive occasion," predicts Cedric Valmalle of BFGoodrich Europe's communications department. "BFGoodrich has secured a long list of rally-raid wins in this country which is one of BFGoodrich's major European markets, just as it is for most of the carmakers present in the WRC. The Portuguese market represents some 3 million tyres and BFGoodrich sells more than a quarter of the 4x4 tyres."
Although competitors face new stages, pre-event testing on-site was not permitted for the factory teams and the Rally de Portugal consequently represents an interesting challenge from the tyre point of view. "From what we know, the stages are essentially hard-packed under a top-coating of loose gravel," says BFGoodrich's chief technician Patrick Letort. "The surface is actually quite similar to 'Arganil' which used to be one of the event's classic tests. This rally promises to be tougher than Mexico on tyres. If it's hot, we could see a fair amount of wear on Saturday afternoon's long 76.46km loop. The weather forecasters are predicting rain prior to the start. That could make the going damp, or even muddy, but it will still probably be hard-wearing for the tyres."