The use of technology helps top teams prepare the Rally Portugal, but the new sections of Arganil may reserve surprises, warn former riders.
On 31 May, the Rally of Portugal departs from the Coimbra University Railway Port for two passes through the sections of Lousã (12.35 km), Góis (18.78 km) and Arganil (14.62 km) , all on ground floor, 18 years after the last presence of the competition in the central zone of the country.
“I’m sorry for the qualifiers are so small now,” Carlos Bica, four-time national champion of rally and native of Celavisa, Arganil, of the stretch that came to have 56.5 km and highlighting, in the current, the descent final for the settlement of Alqueve, “always impressive“.
Rui Madeira, a pilot with family roots in Oliveira do Hospital, a world champion of production in 1995 and winner of the Rally Portugal in 1996, anticipates “some risk” for the competitors due to the fires of 2017 that decimated the forest of that region.
“Arganil has a serious problem, which is the very large slopes. I remember that a few years ago [in 1992 on the Arganil / Alqueve section], [Swedish] Kenneth Eriksson fell into a 50-meter hole and there were other pilots who fell, but there were always trees to support them. At this time, it is particularly difficult because the forest has disappeared, “noted Madeira.
While recognizing that today rally teams “work very much the safety aspect” and that today’s cars “walk a lot, more and more, and besides walking a lot are very well prepared and have a lot of traction,” Madeira recalls that Arganil has “very hard sections”.
“My former team-mate Marcus Gronholm [world champion in 2000 and 2002], who had a lot of respect for Arganil, said that he did not especially like Arganil because it was so devastating and quite difficult. It’s true that everything is much more professional now, things have changed, but it is really a pity that the forest component is not the same as in other times, ” he said.
António Gravato, current president of the Mata do Bussaco Foundation and rally driver for more than 20 years, recalls characteristics of the area, “with deep valleys where the fog appears when least expected.” It says to expect a “real crowd” of viewers, which could be a potential security problem.
António Jorge, a native of Lousã and winner of the N group at the Portugal rally in 1996, emphasizes the “very professional” approach of the current teams.
“In the area of Arganil, maybe 70 or 80% of the section is easy or unambiguous. A curve that is deep is really deep, it is evident for everyone, whether for a car of 100 hp or for one of 300 hp. The one that may not be the bottom line is that it can be the problem and make a difference, but today everything is much more professional in approach, ” he said.
One of the tools used by the teams is called Rally Maps and allows to visualize the classifications in the computer, with satellite images, unevenness and other data, making comparisons with previous versions of sections played there.
With the help of Rally Maps, for example, that the new section of Lousã begins to climb between 400 and 637 meters of altitude, passes through a zone of less accentuated slopes until the final descent, which is about four kilometers to the town of Vilarinho and, according to António Jorge, “with very interesting hooks for the public.”
The section of Góis, the longest of the three (18.78 km), has half the route to climb to 860 meters of altitude, descending from there towards the town of Colmeal.
“I especially like the final part of the race, it’s more technical, very beautiful and fast,” said Nuno Rodrigues da Silva, one of the country’s most experienced rally drivers.