Rally de Portugal continues to be seen by many as the Best Rally in the World. Undergoing constant innovation and presenting drivers with interesting new challenges like few others, it is a race which shall no doubt continue to do so for many years to come. This year the 50th Anniversary of Rally de Portugal is celebrated!
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With the extensive participation of foreign drivers since its very first edition, the Rally de Portugal has been an event of international renown since its establishment in 1967. Initially held under the title TAP International Rally, the Automobile Club of Portugal’s race began as a regularity competition, with classification achieved through accumulated points and with the pair with the lowest number of points being declared the winner. Another peculiarity of these first editions of the race was the ability for participants to choose the point at which they began the competition from several cities.
It was not until the sixth edition in 1972 that the Rally came to resemble more closely that which we know today, with competitors racing against the clock and victory attributed to the fastest finisher.
In 1973, the race became a part of the first ever World Rally Championship series and, in 1975, the name of the race was changed to Rally de Portugal, coinciding with the first of Marku Allen’s five victories, which would make him the race’s most successful driver of all time. Since then, the Rally was recognised as the “Best Rally of the World” five times and in 2000 was recognised as the “Most Improved Rally of the Year”.
However, the poor weather conditions of the 2001 edition, which due to heavy rain and mud led to the cancellation of 89.25 of the 390.72 km timed in the race, or four qualifiers, contributed to its removal from the World Rally in 2002. Notwithstanding this terrible blow for all lovers of motorsport and the race organisers, the ACP set to work and after only five years brought the WRC back to Portugal in 2007 with a competition taking place in the southern parts of the country, in the Algarve and Baixo Alentejo.
By that time, however, the FIA had introduced programme rotation, which led to the absence of the Rally de Portugal from the WRC in 2008. This absence only lasted 12 months, with the Rally returning to the Championship the following year. It has not been omitted from the series calendar since.
As experience of the Algarve and Baixo Alentejo tracks grew and spectator zones were introduced, the Rally de Portugal attained a new level of prestige and became an example to other events around the world that adopted the same system.