WRC Portugal: why tyres matter
On Rally Portugal, the roads have a hard and rocky base that is covered by soft and sandy gravel, which provides little in the way of grip for those who have to run at the front of the road during the first pass. But come the second pass of each stage, the sand is swept away to expose sharp rocks and deep ruts.
Pirelli's Scorpion tyres are available in hard and soft compounds on each gravel rally, and the conditions in Portugal usually mean the soft is favoured by some to provide grip on the first pass, before the hard takes over as the preferred choice to offer durability for the rougher conditions of the second pass.
However, the weather that blows in from the Atlantic Ocean has the potential to change everything, with the possible conditions ranging from heavy rain to searing heat.
Conditions can also vary from one day to the next irrespective of the weather: Friday's stages are located furthest south, around Arganil, and are considered the roughest of the weekend. Crews have to tackle eight stages over the day before returning to Porto for service, although they do get the chance to change tyres in the middle of the day.
Rally Portugal for dummies
Portugal is among the most popular rallies in the world. It was part of the first ever World Rally Championship season back in 1973, and in the years that followed it would provide the scene for some of the sport's most iconic images when hordes of passionate fans lined the stages. Thankfully, spectators are better controlled nowadays but there remains a great enthusiasm for the event among locals.
After a spell in the south of the country around the Algarve region, the rally has been based around the delightful city of Porto in the north since 2015. And nowhere symbolises the event and its popularity like the famous Fafe jump, where the rally concludes on Sunday and where crowds pack the hillsides to watch the cars fly through the air.
In 2023, Portugal will be the first of seven consecutive events on gravel. But this being the WRC, there will still be plenty of variety in that time: including the flat-out forest roads of Estonia and Finland, and legendarily gruelling tests in Kenya and Greece, as well as a return to Chile. But they will all be tackled with the very same Pirelli Scorpion tyres.