WRC Vodafone Rally de Portugal: Burning Questions

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Red Bull Content Pool

Vodafone Rally de Portugal has been a part of the FIA World Rally Championship for almost its entire existence, serving as the third round of the inaugural season and only spending five of the past 40-plus years off of the calendar. It’s seen some of the sport’s biggest names on the top step of the podium, including two drivers tied with five wins apiece: Markku Alén, the Finnish legend who won over 800 stages in his career, and Sebastien Ogier, the defending WRC driver’s champion.

88 different teams will contest this weekend’s event, including 45 as part of the three WRC classes and 14 of those at the sport’s highest level. It’s those top-tier WRC teams that we focus on with our biggest questions of the weekend—be sure to let us know what you think:

Will Sebastien Ogier go back-to-back in Portugal and extend his points lead this weekend?

Argentina has never been kind to Ogier, but Portugal is the site of his first-ever WRC victory and five of his 43 wins overall. So while he lost seven points in South America to Thierry Neuville, the M-Sport Ford WRT driver may not have much to worry about if he can just get back to business as usual in as the series returns to Europe. He’ll be the de facto favorite, as he not only enters the weekend as the defending champion, but his three wins in five starts this year also lead the series.

How will the Paddon/Sordo showdown at Hyundai shape the team’s 2019 driver lineup?

Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen have Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT’s first two seats locked down, but the squad faced a logjam for its third car when bringing Mikkelsen in for this year. Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo were each downgraded to seven-race programs from last year’s full-time status, with Portugal chosen as the event that both drivers run (the season is only 13 rounds). Could this head-to-head matchup affect next year’s plans by identifying a weaker link?

How long can the manufacturer’s championship stay this close?

With Citroen only operating its third car in a handful of events so far, it’s the obvious fourth place in the team standings. But aside from that, this year’s battle of the brands has been exceptional so far. Hyundai leads the standings with 144 points, with Ford only 15 back and Toyota just 20 adrift. Only in Sweden has the winning driver seen a teammate stand on the podium with him, when Neuville and Mikkelsen placed first and third for Hyundai. What happens from here is anybody’s guess.

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