It is the backbone of the World Rally Championship calendar. But the world’s best rally drivers haven’t raced on gravel for seven months, and their brand new Rally1 hybrid cars… well, they haven’t been competitively tested at all.
Next week’s Rally Portugal will therefore mark a very important point in the season. Not only does it get off to a good start to an intense period of rallies, but it also kicks off the gravel season, which will see seven of the next eight rallies – Portugal, Italy, Kenya, Estonia, Finland, Greece and New Zealand.
The teams have all already driven some test kilometers. Two weeks ago, Hyundai was grounded in Portugal, while M-Sport and Toyota both put their machines to the test last week.
But like at the Monte Carlo Rally in January, no one really knows where they stand until the first leg of Rally Portugal next Friday.