Many champions and historic cars from the last half century have gathered in Portugal to create the atmosphere of a rally-festival as the current WRC harvest fights for important championship points.
The most successful WRC riders, nine-time champion Sebastian Loeb and eight-time champion Sebastian Ogier, have returned and teamed up with M-Sport and Toyota respectively for the final bout of the rivalry, which flared up again in Monte Carlo.
Loeb seized the booty in the January battle of retired legends after Auger’s puncture in the penultimate stage restored leadership to the M-Sport driver. Both have reduced the chances of a recurrence in Monte Carlo, but are likely to end up in a mix at the sharp end.
Championship leader Calais Ravanpera will face the daunting task of paving the way on Portugal’s challenging dusty gravel stages, while Toyota teammate Elfin Evans will benefit from cleaner roads.
Meanwhile, M-Sport will be the first WRC team to nominate five Rally1 cars, and Loeb will join Craig Brin, Gus Greensmith, Adrian Furmo and Pierre-Louis Lube.
Hyundai is expected to shine on the rough gravel surface alongside Thierry Neville, Otto Tanaka and Dani Sorda, the latter first launched this season in the third i20 N at the rally, where he took five podiums.
After a special gala dinner on Wednesday night, the 50th anniversary celebrations will end with 1980 and 1982 champion Walter Rohrl at his Audi Quattro on the famous Fafe stage on Sunday.
WRC reporter Tom Howard also joins host Martin Lee Motorsport network Content producer Andrew Simmons will discuss the 50th anniversary celebrations and all the key themes before the Portugal Rally.
The first of 21 stages will start on Thursday night.