Today in the championship it was announced that the first gravel event of the season (May 19-22) will host many events to celebrate its half-century, after its inaugural event in Monte Carlo in 1973.
Organizers have confirmed that former champions Walter Rohrl (1980, 1982), Ari Vatanen (1981), Mickey Biassion (1988, 1989), Carlos Sains (1990, 1992), Marcus Gronholm (2000, 2002) and Peter Solberg (2003) will be in the presence.
They will join nine-time champion Sebastian Loeb, eight-time winner Sebastian Auger and 2019 champion From Tanakwho will participate in the event for M-Sport Ford, Toyota and Hyundai respectively.
FIA Vice President Robert Reed and former 2001 co-driver Richard Burns will top the list of the most iconic co-drivers of the championship, including longtime co-pilot Science Louis Moya and Derek Ringer, who was a partner of the late Colin McRae in the 1995 title. Also present will be Christian Heistdorfer, Titian Civier, Timo Rautjainen and David Richards.
Michelle Mouton, the only woman to have won the WRC competition, will lead a group of the most famous competitors of the championship, including WRC Women’s Cup winners Louise Aitken-Walker and Isolde Holderid.
Many historic cars will be on display at the Exponor Rally Portugal service park, and fans will get a rare chance to see many full demonstration races on special stages over the weekend.
These include the Alpine A110, which won the first round of the WRC in Monte Carlo at the hands of Jean-Claude Andrew, many Group B monsters from Audi and Lancia, all the way to Group A cars of the 1990s such as the Toyota Corolla.
The festivities, which will be the 619th round of the WRC, will begin with a gala dinner attended by newly appointed FIA President Mohamed Ben Sulay on Wednesday night.
Walter Rohrl, Christian Heistdorfer, Audi Sport Quattro E2
Photo: Drawings of motorsport
Historic cars will then complete demonstration rides on the opening stage on Thursday night in downtown Coimbra, south of Porto. Further screenings and parades will take place in Lusada on Friday night and Saturday night on the Porta Foz street stage.
Two-time champion Rohrl is also set to lead a group of historical technicians who will perform at Sunday’s infamous rally stage.
“Everyone has their own memories of the WRC’s thrills, impressions and excitement, and it’s a great one-off opportunity for those who helped make the championship so special,” said Jonah Sibel, managing director of WRC Promoter.
“The list of great WRC grandees coming to Portugal, both human and mechanical, is appetizing and reminds us of what a wonderful sport we are very fortunate to play.
“But it’s also for the fans. The spectacle and the sounds of the beautiful cars of the past passing through the scenes evoke in those who look at the road, memories that sting the spine.”
FIA President Mohamed Ben Sulayem added: “As the championship marks its 50th anniversary, it is time to reflect on these remarkable achievements, celebrate past and present champions and look to a bright future.
“I look forward to the upcoming celebrations at the Rally of Portugal, where the legends will reunite.”