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MAY 3, 2024 | By M-Sport Ford World Rally Team

Pumas Prepared To Be Put Through Their Paces On Rally Portugal

Ford Puma Rally1 testing on dirt road

Fast approaching the mid-point of the season, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team is geared up to take on the fifth round of the 2024 World Rally Championship, on the challenging Rally Portugal. With M-Sport frontrunner, Adrien Fourmaux, sitting third in the driver’s championship, the team will push for more strong results in Portugal after two podium results already this season.

With a rich heritage in the WRC and claiming the title of ‘Best Rally in the World’ on five separate occasions, Rally Portugal’s famous stages await M-Sport’s three crews to mark the beginning of the championship’s long run of gravel rallies throughout the summer months. The team will compete two Ford Puma Rally1s with regulars Fourmaux and Grégoire Munster, and a Fiesta Rally2 in the WRC2 category driven by William Creighton.

Balancing high speeds with rough and technical sections, crews will tackle 22 special stages across 337 total competitive kilometres around the city of Porto. The event kicks off with a popular ceremonial start in Coimbra, followed by the iconic Lousada city super special stage. With pairs of cars taking on the stage side-by-side in high-intensity competition, the street stage attracts thousands of fans every year.

Highlights include one of the longest and most gruelling stages of the WRC season, with Saturday’s Amarante stage clocking in at an eyewatering 37 kilometres. Followed by Sunday’s famous Fafe jump, which can see cars launching over 50 metres, Rally Portugal proves itself to be a real spectacle and justifiably one of the most popular events on the calendar.

With a long day ahead of the crews on Friday, with only a tyre-fitting zone separating two loops of four stages, crews will carefully manage their cars and ensure survival to Friday’s evening check-in. High temperatures add an extra level to the challenge of this rally, with crews battling scorching heat inside the cockpit, plus battling to avoid dust from the dry gravel stages into the car.

Adrien Fourmaux heads to Portugal after strong performances on the opening rounds this season. Still sitting third in the driver’s championship, with Tanak only 6 points behind him, Fourmaux will be thinking tactically to protect his position and claim more valuable points. Claiming a strong sixth overall in his first top-level outing in Portugal in 2021, Fourmaux has honed his knowledge of the stages in both Rally1 and Rally2 machinery. Now ready to take on the challenge once again, the Frenchman sets his aim on another impressive finish.Ford Puma Rally1 on dirt road with purple flowers in foreground

With his best finish of the season so far and valuable points scored in Croatia last month, Grégoire Munster hopes to finish Rally Portugal in a similar vein. Making his debut in Portugal only last year, Munster will have a lot to learn about how to best manage the quick and complex stages around Porto for the first time in Rally1 machinery. After showing promising pace in Kenya this season, Munster hopes to be able to show his skill on gravel and maintain a competitive pace to achieve another good result.

William Creighton will be back in the Fiesta Rally2 after showing promising pace in Croatia, despite challenges with punctures and a mistake on Friday putting him off the road. Creighton will face a big challenge in Portugal, as his road position will see him take the worst of the rough conditions. But the Irishman has proved his skill on gravel throughout the Junior World Rally Championship, claiming wins on gravel in the Fiesta Rally3. Adapting well to the increased power of the Fiesta Rally2, Creighton looks to finish with a strong result and match his top-ten WRC2 finish in Croatia.Ford Puma Rally1 on dirt road with large dust trail behind
 
Richard Millener, Team Principal, said:
“Portugal is always a popular event, for good reason. The stages are fast, technical and rough, so it ticks all the boxes of a gravel rally! There’s a lot of jeopardy here, with risk of punctures and damage to the cars on the rough sections very high. It’s always a good one to watch and it’s a fantastic event for the fans.

“Adrien is pretty experienced here, so he has a good knowledge base and knows where you can push and where to respect the road! He’s had a truly fantastic start to the season, and Croatia would have been an equally strong finish had he not had the bad luck on Sunday morning. There’s every reason for him to do well in Portugal.

“Grégoire will have a little bit more work to do, he has less experience here and will need to work hard to stay in step with those who have more knowledge of the stages. But he showed some good pace in the Puma in Kenya, so he can be strong on loose surfaces and just needs to aim for another strong, clean drive. William is in a similar position in the Fiesta, but he performed well on gravel in the Juniors, so he just needs to focus on adapting these skills to the higher performance of the Rally2 and gathering valuable experience before the next few events on gravel.”

Adrien Fourmaux said:
“Rally Portugal is a really famous and spectacular rally! The roads are all in the middle of the mountains, so they’re really technical and we normally have very tough conditions where the temperatures are quite high. It’s really demanding for the cars and the crew.

“It’s going to be my fourth time in Portugal, I really like it as a rally, especially when you finish the Power Stage at Fafe and there are so many fans there watching. I’m looking forward to enjoying the atmosphere and hopefully achieving another good result.”

Grégoire Munster said:
“We had a good pre-event test, with two days of testing last week. Portugal will be a lot like Sardinia, a bit of a tricky one for us because we don’t have a lot of experience compared to our fellow competitors. Thanks to my great idea to roll the car on the first stage of the rally last year, it means we lack the knowledge of the stages, so we will try to grab a lot of experience in both Portugal and Sardinia to move forward into the second part of the season’s gravel rallies with confidence.”

William Creighton said:
“This will be my first gravel rally in the WRC with the Fiesta rally2, and I’m looking forward to it after our podium on BRC’s Severn Valley stages. Rally Portugal is always enjoyable with a good atmosphere but it’s a big challenge; Friday will be difficult with extremely rough stages and no service. It looks like it’s going to be a warm rally too, so it’ll be a proper challenge for the me, Liam and the car!”

Imagery by Joao Pereira