The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team is gearing up for Rally de Portugal, the fifth round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship. The team is looking to building on its strong performances so far this season and continue to challenge for the top of the drivers’ championship.
Rally de Portugal is one of the most iconic events on the WRC calendar, known for its fast and technical stages, including the famous Fafe jump and the Lousada super special. The rally will test the drivers' skills and endurance over 19 challenging stages, covering a total competitive distance of over 300km.
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team's drivers are looking forward to the challenge and are determined to put up a strong performance in Portugal following a positive pre-event test last week.
Currently, Estonian driver Ott Tänak sits fourth in the championship, just four points from the top spot in what is expected to be a close battle throughout the year. As the team heads to Europe for its traditional run of gravel events, the battle for the championship is heating up, and Tänak is eager to fight for victory in Portugal and close the gap to the top.
Starting road position is crucial on gravel rallies, and Tänak will be starting from third on the road on Friday, allowing him to capitalize on his rivals at the front who will be combatting a looser and less friendly gravel surface. The team is confident that Tänak's experience and skill will give him an edge on the challenging stages of Rally Portugal.
In addition to the Estonian crew, Pierre-Louis Loubet will be heading to his favoured surface in his Puma Hybrid Rally1. The Frenchman has previously shown strong performances on gravel rallies, he will be looking to build on his experience and push for a top-five result in Portugal.
It’s a big weekend for the Fiesta Rally2, as M-Sport fields a trio of talented hot shots. Adrien Fourmaux, Grégoire Munster, and Robert Virves will be competing in the WRC2 category with all three drivers setting high expectations for the event. Fourmaux recently highlighted the improvements made to the Fiesta Rally2 in Mexico and Croatia with competitive times on both rallies. Robert Virves has already highlighted the pace of the Fiesta Rally2 on the same roads Rally de Portugal will use, taking two stage wins in ERC’s Rally Serras de Fafe and fourth on the power stage earlier this year.
Rich Millener, the Team Principal of M-Sport Ford World Rally Team, expressed his confidence in the team ahead of Rally de Portugal:
"We've had a strong start to the season, but we know that the competition is getting tougher as we head into the middle of the year. Ott has shown incredible pace and consistency so far this season, and we're confident that he'll be able to continue his form in Portugal. We're also excited to see what Pierre-Louis can do on the gravel stages, and we have high expectations for our WRC2 drivers as well."
Millener continued, "The team has been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that we're delivering the best possible performance on the stages. We're constantly improving our cars and developing our strategies, and we're confident that our hard work will pay off in Portugal. We're excited to see what the rally has in store for us and are eager to put on a show for the fans."
Ott Tänak, said,:
“We are going now into gravel season where things are starting to get more serious in terms of championship competition. After our pre-event test we are still a bit behind in a few places, but guys are working hard to find ways for improvements and we still have shakedown to test the final details.
We did see in Mexico that our competitors are strong on gravel and we have some areas where we need to improve over the next few races. Portugal is generally a fast event with quite a sandy surface. Some of the second loops of stages can be very rough and demanding. We are looking to reduce our gap to the fastest guys and let’s give it a go to stay in the championship fight!”
Pierre-Louis Loubet, said:
“I’m very happy to be going to Portugal, it’s my favourite rally where I have better experience, I’ve already done it quite a few times! The target will be to get a good result there, last year this was my first rally on gravel with the team and the speed was there without the experience. I’m sure we can do some great things this year.”
Adrien Fourmaux, WRC2 driver, said:
“This will be my third time in Portugal, but my first in a Rally2 car. It’s a really nice rally, very famous with a lot of spectators coming to watch; I really love the atmosphere of this rally. We will be back out on gravel, which is a good thing because I like the surface and I hope we will see some good pace like we did in Mexico. We’re hoping for a good result and we’re working very hard to achieve it.”
Grégoire Munster, WRC2 driver, said:
“We are heading into a series of events that Louis and I have never done before, Portugal followed by Sardinia and Kenya. So it’ll be a period of discovery and quite interesting. Portugal will be our first WRC2 event on gravel with the Fiesta Rally2, so we’re looking forward to it. We will do a small event in the south of France to prepare this weekend. I’m looking forward to making our first proper outing on gravel, and we hope to enjoy it.”
Robert Virves, WRC2 driver, said:
“I’m excited to do my second rally with M-Sport in the Fiesta Rally2 this season, we set some good groundwork in Sweden and hope to do the same in Portugal. We have some experience here already, competing in the ERC round back in March, so we have the opportunity to set competitive times and develop our learning with the car.”
Published 05 May 2023