There will once again be a strong ŠKODA presence at the Rally de Portugal, which has seen four FABIA R5s on the podium in the WRC2 category in the last two years and ŠKODA Motorsport’s Pontus Tidemand take victory in the WRC2 standings last year.
Pontus Tidemand and his co-driver Jonas Andersson are back again this year with the other ŠKODA Motorsport car being driven by the crew of Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jæger. And alongside them will be no fewer than seven FABIA R5s being run by customer teams, four of which are entered into the WRC2 championship.
The Mexican driver Benito Guerra jr. and his Spanish co-driver Daniel Cué will be making their first European start of the season in their Motorsport Italia FABIA R5. They currently sit fifth in the WRC2 championship standings after securing third place finishes at both the Rally Guanajuato Mexico and the Rally Argentina so far this year.
It has been a strong start in what is Guerra’s debut season in an R5 car and he will no doubt be looking to continue his form on the gravel roads of Portugal.
The Polish pairing of Hubert Ptaszek / Maciej Szczepaniak will also be taking part in Portugal in their FABIA R5 run by the Hungarian Tagai Racing Technology but in the colours of the Orlen team.
They too have only appeared in Mexico and Argentina so far this season, posting some fast times in both events but also enduring bad luck which saw them retire in both events. Under Rally2 rules, they were able to rejoin the Rally Argentina and did eventually secure some points for a fifth place finish in the WRC2 standings, which gives them a platform to build on here in Portugal.
In last year’s Rally de Portugal, they were forced to retire after co-driver Szczepaniak injured his back in landing on the famous Fafe jump. Both driver and co-driver will be hoping for better luck this time round.
Frenchman Quentin Gilbert and his co-driver Renaud Jamoul from Belgium will also be competing in a FABIA R5 in Portugal. It is the third R5 car Gilbert has entered into the WRC2 championship, and second this season, after finishing fifth at the Rallye de Monte Carlo in another car.
They do have prior experience in the FABIA R5, after finishing fourth overall and first in the R5 class, at the Rallye Terre des Causses earlier this year, in a car run by Tagai Racing Technology. Gilbert undoubtedly has pedigree after winning both the Junior WRC and WRC3 championships in 2015 and he will be hoping the Rally de Portugal is the event he can finally make a mark at WRC2 level.
Of the four Portuguese drivers competing in a FABIA R5 at their home rally, only Miguel Campos and his co-driver António Costa are entered into the WRC2 championship.
Campos finished fifth in the WRC2 standings here last year, but this will be his first event of 2017 as the experienced driver is only taking part in selected events these days. He is a former Portuguese Rally Champion though and is always a strong performer on home soil.
The Rally de Portugal is also the fifth round of the Portuguese Rally Championship (CNR) and this is the focus of the BP Ultimate Vodafone ŠKODA Team pairing of Miguel Barbosa / Miguel Ramalho.
Barbosa is only in his second season of rallying, but finished fourth in the Portuguese championship last season and currently sits fourth again this year. He drove the course car here last year, so while he does have some knowledge of the stages, this will be his competitive debut.
Pedro Meireles / Mário Castro are also only entered into the Portuguese championship. They have made a mixed start to the season, after finishing runners-up in the overall standings last year. A victory at the Rali Serras de Fafe, which was the opening event of 2017 CNR season, and second place in the Portuguese championship standings at the Azores Rally alongside retirements at the Rali de Castelo Branco and Rallye Casino de Espinho see them sitting fifth in the championship standings going into this event.
Whilst this is the first time Meireles has driven a FABIA R5 in this rally, he has enjoyed good results in a FABIA S2000 here, including finishing first in the Portuguese standings in 2014. He will be hoping the FABIA R5 can propel him to another good result this year too.
The final FABIA R5 competing is driven by Diogo Salvi / Carlos Magalhães. Salvi, who usually only enters selected events, has driven in three events in his FABIA R5 so far this year, with his best result being an eight place finish at the Rali Serras de Fafe.
ŠKODA Motorsport will be keeping a close eye on the performance of all the FABIA R5s at the 2017 Rally de Portugal. And you can follow all the drama and excitement too, right here on the ŠKODA Motorsport website as well as on our social media profiles.