After eight years in the Algarve, Rally Portugal returns to its northern homeland for the fifth round of the 2015 World Rally Championship season.
Sebastien Ogier leads the championship standings by 33 points, but both he and his Volkswagen team had a disastrous rally last time out in Argentina. All three cars experienced technical problems, terminally in Jari-Matti Latvala’s case when his engine expired on the penultimate stage. Andreas Mikkelsen crashed out but Ogier did at least finish the event, albeit in 17th place. Three points for winning the Power Stage was only a small consolation.
It fell to British driver Kris Meeke to assume the lead as the VW’s fell by the wayside. Though the attrition helped, he showed the speed and ability to control a rally from the front that helped him win championships in the past. It was an emotional win, as well. Meeke became the first Brit to win a WRC event since Colin McRae triumphed on the Safari Rally in 2002; McRae, who died in a helicopter crash in 2007, had been Meeke’s mentor early in his career.
Of all the drivers, Ogier has the best record in Portugal, winning four times. But the new location means the form book gets thrown out of the window. Though some of the stages are classics from the old days, none of the current crews will have driven them in anger before. Even so, it’s still hard to see past Ogier, the reigning champion seemingly able to do no wrong.
But anything could happen on the treacherously twisty, jump-strewn road around Matosinhos. The weather forecast looks good, so it should just be a straight fight to find out who can go quickest. Let’s just hope that the organisors can keep the expected massive crowd in check.
Drivers’ Championship standings after 4 events
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 84 points
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/Citroen DS3 WRC — 51
- Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — 47
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 41
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/Citroen DS3 WRC — 35
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 35
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — 30
- Martin Prokop — Jipocar Czech National Team/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 26
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 19
- Ott Tanak — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 12
Manufacturers’ Championship standings after 4 events
- Volkswagen Motorsport — 103 points
- Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 85
- Hyundai Motorsport — 85
- M-Sport World Rally Team — 71
- Jipocar Czech National Team — 32
By Only Motors