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GP Week : Issue 39
Rally Portugal 1985 – the great Timo Salonen, Peugeot Rally Portugal – a great heritage RALLY of Portugal has always been a most popular event, right from the late ‘sixties when the event was known as the TAP Rally. The original form was like a mini Monte Carlo Rally, with starts from various European cities, promoting the idea of holiday motoring in the far south west of Europe and attracting endless amateurs as well as professional rally drivers. This year’s Rally of Portugal is just as popular, with an entry list twice as long as the world championship events held earlier in the year. Although Portugal was one of the founder members of the FIA World Rally Championship 48 it has had a varied career in the series. It escaped cancellation in the fuel crisis 1974 series but the event had to be postponed till the hot midsummer in 1975 because of the country’s political upheaval earlier in the year. The event suffered the full brunt of the problems created by the contemporary evolution version Group B, the performances of the cars far outstripping the security measures currently in force in the sport. After a tragic accident earlier in 1986, the official rally team drivers withdrew. The FIA quickly reacted, introducing many new measures and the event continued in the series up till 2001. Meteorologically problems in the north of the country forced the organisers into a series of unilateral course cutting measures which led to conflict with the international sporting authorities and the rally was dropped from the world series for five years. It was a happy occasion when the world championship returned to the country in 2007, at its more weather-friendly base in the south of the country. Rallying is immensely popular in Portugal, a country which has not held a Formula 1 race since 1996. Much of this is the work of one man – the late Cesar Torres. In the ‘70s and ‘80s Torres was one of the group of leading FIA officials who shaped the sport and ran events which demonstrated to the rest of the world how the sport should develop. The form of the Rally of Portugal has changed considerably in the forty odd years it has been running. Nowadays it must be centrally located, even at the loss of highly demanding and popular rally terrain elsewhere in the country. Algarve is a region of Portugal little known by the local drivers and is therefore a level playing field for all the competitors.