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GP Week : Issue 83
For the sixth round of the 2010 WRC we have a genuinely classic event, a rally which was being run in the championship when it started in 1973, which has continually adapted itself to the changing faces of the sport, and the rst such classic event held at WRC level in mainland Europe this year. This year there is a very similar route to last year, with one full stage in the reverse direction to before, but basically keeping the format used each year since the event rst moved down to the Algarve region in 2005. With the event nowadays run wholly in the far south of the country, there is a special treat this year for the fans in the north -- a spectacular 'Road Show' demonstration of rally cars and their drivers will be held in Porto the weekend before the event. Running three weeks after the preceding round in New Zealand, there is a lot of championship team news: n Citroen Total driver Sebastien Loeb is well ahead in the FIA Drivers' championship with a lead of 36 points over his nearest rival, BP Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala. The race for the Manufacturers', however, could hardly be closer, with Citroen Total leading by just ve points. n Ford has been carrying out development work in advance of Bulgaria, the rst asphalt rally of the season, with three days at Millbrook in Britain. n Ken Block is back again in the WRC, this time at the wheel of a very special Focus -- 'SUX' is the car used for the past two years for the bulk of M-Sport's testing and the only events it has done have been two promotional events (Monza Rally and Memorial Bettega) in the hands of Valentino Rossi. The Rally of Portugal boasts the biggest entry of the season for dedicated WRC competitors. Entries nally closed at 75 crews, with towards half of the entry comprising either World Rally Cars (18) or Super 2000 (14) cars. All ve registered manufacturer teams are present together with the Petter Solberg Rally Team. Other interesting entries using World Rally Cars include three ve year-old Peugeot 307 WRC cars, including one for the Cypriot PCWRC driver Spyros Pavlides and one for the French driver Jean-Marie Cuoq. The event counts for several of the support championships. This will be the fth round of the SWRC series. Heading the series is Spaniard Xevi Pons with two wins and a second place in the three events so far contested (68 points). Lying second in the championship standings with a second and two third places so far is fellow Ford driver Martin Prokop (48), but behind them, the championship points are uncertain. Eyvind Brynildsen has 40 points and, provisionally, so does fellow Skoda driver PG Andersson. The FIA has still not nally announced how they propose to handle the 25 points provisionally given to Andersson when he won the category in Sweden as a Guest driver -- and then subsequently o cially entered the series. If he keeps those points he lies equal with Brynildsen. Vitor Pascoal was been nominated as SWRC Guest driver with his Peugeot but a surprise absentee, however, is the Portuguese national champion Bruno Magalhaes who also rallies a Peugeot. There are various non-championship S2000 drivers including Dennis Kuipers, who is again entered by Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team, a tactic which under a new championship rule this year gives him automatic Priority 3 status, with consequent advantages. Big news is that Nasser Al Attiyah has left the Rene Georges Skoda team and has moved back to Autotek, renewing a successful seven-year partnership, to compete in a Fiesta. Michal Kosciuszko, however, changes to the Czech Skoda JM Racing, as replacing the Fiesta crashed in Jordan proved complicated. Works IRC Skoda driver Juho Hanninen drives a Fabia S2000 from the BRR team on this occasion, this being an event BRR's usual driver Patrik Sandell has not nominated to contend. This will be the second event for the ve Pirelli Star Drivers in their Evo X cars but, as on their rst appearance this year in Turkey, they will again not be competing against the WRC Production Car competitors (this event does not qualify for the series). The PSD drivers are run by the Ralliart Italia, which is also running the car for reigning Production Car champion Armindo Araujo, and he will give help and advice to them. The team had a race against time to prepare cars for the PSD after two of them were destroyed on their previous event, in Turkey. Here the PSD drivers expect to 36