The event marks the first of three compulsory events for all those looking to fight for the WRC 2 championship and M-Sport will debut five new upgrades with Fiesta R5 Evo2s for Camilli, Suninen, Loubet, Greensmith and Heller.
Éric Camilli said: “Rally de Portugal holds a lot of special memories for me. It’s where I secured my best WRC result and where I really got to grips with gravel. We know from the previous events that we have the speed to challenge for the top results, and I’m really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the new Fiesta R5 Evo2. The team have worked really hard to extract even more from a car which was already giving us the performance to challenge for the highest positions – and next week we want to pull everything together to deliver a strong result. The full force of the WRC 2 championship will be in action, and everyone will want to show what they are capable of. The competition will be extremely tough, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Teemu Suninen said: It will be a tough battle in Portugal as all of the serious contenders will be competing. It’s nice to be back on gravel, but I think that we still need to take a cautious start as this will be my first gravel action of the year. I get to drive the Fiesta R5 Evo2 for the first time on Monday, and that will be a big day. It’s really important that I find a good set-up on gravel so that we can be confident for the rally.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet said: “Rally de Portugal will be my first gravel event with the Fiesta R5, and this time it’s an Evo2 so there will be a lot of new experiences. I’m still feeling quite confident though. I’ve always had good sensations on gravel and we have been watching a lot of onboards to be in the best possible position ahead of next week. I made my debut at this event when we finished on the Junior WRC podium. It remains a wonderful memory and I always look forward to coming back to Portugal. I think it’s one of my favourite events. The stages are amazing – especially Fafe – and there is a really special atmosphere. My goal will be to give my best through every stage so as to take the best possible result. I’ll have to be patient at times as I adapt to the new surroundings, but the hope is always to deliver a good rally and a good result.”
Gus Greensmith said: “We’ve not been in competition since Sweden, but we’ve done all of the recces which has been really important for my experience. I have to admit though, it’s the worst feeling in the world going home before the rally has even begun! To say I’m exciting about getting back to competition is an understatement! And it’s even more exciting to think that I’ll be behind the wheel of the new Fiesta R5 Evo2. I had a one-day differential test with the car up at M-Sport and I can say that it looks really promising. Portugal has always felt like my spiritual home in rallying. I love the people, the city, the scenery and most of all the stages. The characteristics of the stages do vary, but I would say that they are some of the most enjoyable of the year – Viana do Castello, Amarante and Fafe especially. Because I enjoy this rally so much, and feel so comfortable in Portugal, the quality of my performances there seems to have followed suit and we’ll be aiming to keep that trend going next week. That said, this is my learning year in WRC 2 so we’ll stick to a pace that we feel comfortable with. We won’t be driving slowly, but we won’t be taking any risks and there will be more to come in the future.”
Max Vatanen said: “I haven’t been rallying since last year and I can tell you that it has been far too long! I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel and it’s a big step in the right direction for me to be driving a Fiesta R5 in the WRC 2 category for the first time. It’s an opportunity that I want to make the most of. Rally de Portugal is an event that I really enjoy – and Portugal is a country that I love! When you are competing in Portugal, there is a very special atmosphere created by all the passionate rally fans. I made my world-stage debut there with M-Sport in 2014, and now I’m happy to be making my WRC 2 debut there with M-Sport too! It’s surprising to think that this will already by my fourth time at this event. The roads are quite different from day to day. On Friday we’ll see quite high grip on rough roads by the sea, then on Sunday we move to the faster, more flowing stages with thousands of spectators. I enjoy every variation and it provides a great challenge every year. As this is my first rally in WRC 2, the biggest aim is to learn and get valuable experience. That said, we will give the best of ourselves and myself and JJ [Renucci, co-driver] are ready for the challenge!”
Pedro Heller said: “This will be my first event in Europe and I’m really looking forward to experiencing what I’ve heard is a fantastic event at Rally de Portugal. The competition will be very strong with all of the championship contenders in action, but we’ll focus on our own rally and on continuing to develop our skills at this level.”
Press release M-Sport