The event will see an impressive 14 new-spec World Rally cars compete against each other for the first time in the 2017 season, with Toyota and Citroën both running one more car than at previous events.
Sebastien Ogier has had an interesting start to the 2017 season. The Frenchman has finished on the podium four times (Monte Carlo: 1st, Sweden: 3rd, Mexico: 2nd, Corsica: 2nd) in five events, helping M-Sport achieve their lead in the manufacturer standings. Finishing almost a minute behind teammate Ott Tanak, the defending champion’s streak of podium finished came to an end in Argentina. When asked about this blip in his season, Ogier said “For much of the rally we had a strange feeling with the car and lacked confidence as a result.”
Kris Meeke has also experienced mixed fortunes this season. The Northern Irishman drove to victory in Mexico, bringing Citroën their first podium finish of 2017. However, a horror crash in Argentina saw Meeke’s chances of a second rally victory dashed. Teammate Craig Breen suffered from a gearbox issue after hitting the same compression as Meeke. An oil leak was noticed in Saturday’s morning service, which meant Breen had to sit out for the day.
Thierry Neuville has now become the first driver of the season to win two events. After the first four rallies had been won by four different drivers from four different manufacturers, the Belgian bagged his second consecutive win in Argentina to add to his successful drive in Corsica. Welshman Elfyn Evans was the one to watch throughout Argentina, however Neuville recorded a strong time in the Power Stage, eventually taking the lead from Evans by just 0.7 seconds.
Previous WRC Rally Portugal Podiums:
- 2016: 1st Kris Meeke, 2nd Andreas Mikkelsen, 3rd Sebastien Ogier
- 2015: 1st Jari-Matti Latvala, 2nd Sebastien Ogier, 3rd Andreas Mikkelsen
- 2014: 1st Sebastien Ogier, 2nd Mikko Hirvonen, 3rd Mads Østberg
M-Sport are currently the team to beat, with Hyundai in second, Toyota in third and Citroën fourth. The leaders have two strong drivers, Sebastien Ogier and Ott Tanak, with the former having enjoyed victories here in 2013 and 2014, while also grabbing second and third place in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Mads Østberg won his first and only WRC event to date at Rally Portugal back in 2012, when the Norwegian wasn’t even aware of his victory until hours after the event had finished. Post-event scrutineering resulted in Mikko Hirvonen being excluded due to an issue with the clutch meaning it did not comply with technical regulations. Østberg will compete in Portugal, following a victory at Rally Sørland earlier this month.
Punters are likely to look towards Thierry Neuville for good odds in Portugal, after the Belgian secured two consecutive rally victories in Corsica and Argentina. As Hyundai have yet to land a podium finish at Portugal since they joined the championship in 2014, the oddsmakers might not fancy his chances of taking top place on the podium. However, Ogier has a point to prove after disappointment in Argentina and will be difficult to beat.
- Sports.net Top Tip: Sebastien Ogier to drive to a second 2017 victory in Portugal.
*Please note, odds may fluctuate.