Crew return to Portuguese gravel for the first time in five years
It is five years since Paul Nagle and Craig Breen contested Rally Portugal.
This weekend’s fourth round of the World Rally Championship gets underway on Friday morning from Porto and the all-Irish crew arrive there in third place in the championship standings.
Back in 2018 they were both working for Citroen Racing, Nagle was alongside Kris Meeke and Breen was working with British co-driver Scott Martin.
The Kerry/Waterford pairing joined forces at the start of the 2019 season. This led to the team winning the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and a part-time programme with the Hyundai World Rally team.
After three partial seasons with Hyundai they secured a full-time seat with Ford M-Sport for the 2022 season and that journey has brought to Portugal where they will do their utmost to defend their podium position in the WRC.
The highly anticipated event marks the 50th anniversary celebrations of the FIA World Rally Championship; Rally de Portugal featured in the championship’s inaugural season and this year’s event will celebrate half a century of history, with historic cars and figures making appearances over the course of the weekend.
Despite Portugal’s reputation for being particularly rough and physically demanding for both crews and cars alike, the M-Sport team has delivered strong performances on the event over the years with an outright event victory in 2017 and a double podium the following year.
The event hosts some of rallying’s most famous stages, including the iconic Lousada super special stage on Friday and Sunday’s Fafe power stage, which features one of WRC’s most iconic jumps within the 11km final stage.
The FIA Junior WRC Championship also heads into its third round in Portugal, where seven of M-Sport Poland’s entry-level Ford Fiesta Rally3 cars go head-to-head again in one of the feeder category’s closest seasons yet.
“I am looking forward to Portugal, it’s a rally that I haven’t done for several years, I think it was 2018 the last time I did it.
"After the first three rallies, they were all a bit unique in their own way, so looking forward to seeing what the pace of the Ford Puma will be in Portugal,” said Breen.
“We had a good test, I felt good in the car, and we got some good work done. I am looking forward to discovering the rally, there are a lot of new stages and some changes since the last time I was there, so it will be interesting.
"I’d like to have a bit more speed than what we showed in Croatia, so we’ll be working as hard as we can to make that possible.”