Kris Meeke returns to action as he competes in Portugal

Kris Meeke
Kris Meeke

Kris Meeke returns to the FIA World Rally Championship to take part in the Portuguese round of the series.

The Dungannon driver is only competing in selected rounds this season as he continues an extensive test programme with the new Citroen rally car which will see the works team back in the new look series next season.

The Abu Dhabi Total World Rally team returns with DS 3 World Rally Cars for Meeke, Stephane Lefebvre and Khalid Al Qassimi.

Nineteen World Rally Cars are on the entry list for the Matosinhos-based fifth round of the season, more than any round since Rally Sweden in 2013.

The event also features a full house of support classes, with 25 entries in WRC 2, six in WRC 3, 11 in the Junior WRC and ten more in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.

The defending World Rally Champion and last year’s Portugal runner-up Sebastien Ogier heads the Volkswagen entries along with his team-mate and last year’s Portugal winner Jari-Matti Latvala. Andreas Mikkelsen will drive a third Polo R under the Volkswagen Motorsport II banner..

Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo are the two nominated points-scorers for Hyundai’s works team, while Thierry Neuville and Kevin Abbring represent the second-tier squad with Abbring driving a 2015 spec i20 car.

The M-Sport World Rally Team’s hopes ride again with Fiesta RS drivers Mads Ostberg and Eric Camilli, and there are similar cars for Ott Tanak, Henning Solberg, Martin Prokop Jaroslav Melicharek and Yazeed. 

Fifty-two competitors across WRC 2, Junior WRC, WRC 3 and  DDFT is a record high this season.

The three leading drivers in WRC 2 are on the Portuguese list, while the opening round of the Citroen-powered Junior WRC is sure to mix things up in WRC 3 where the drivers also score points.

Also making their season debut are the ten runners in the Ford Fiesta R2-based DDFT.

On Thursday afternoon there is the usual ceremonial start followed by a Super Special and the action for real gets under way tomorrow with the finish on Sunday.

Meanwhile on the home scene, last year’s rally winner, Damian Toner in his 2.5 litre MK2 Ford Escort headlines the entry of over 60 cars for Saturday’s Rainbow Communications Loughgall Country Park Rally.

The entry includes a number of former winners Keith White and David Armstrong and new to the event, Fintan McGrady and Drew Wylie.

Rally action begins at 9.30am and will include six Special Stages using 100% tarmac roads and will conclude at 5.00pm.