Did you have a rough go of Rally Argentina? Well rejoice, it’s time for Rally de Portugal and damn does it look good this year!
NOTE: I’m currently on the road for Southern Ohio Forests Rally and will be until the 22nd. As a result I may be delayed in compiling everyone’s picks and doing the scoring after the event. Bear with me.
I’m sure I’ve said it before, but if any one word exemplifies this season it’s “unpredictable.” Argentina was a prime example of that. Kris Meeke was the Fantasy Favorite, with a whopping 14 people picking him to win, and an additional 13 putting him in their top 5. Instead, Kris rolled on day 1, got his car fixed, then rolled much, much worse on day 2. Meanwhile the star of the event was Elfyn Evans, who was only on five rosters (and not higher than third pick on any of them) but was leading after almost every stage. In fact the only times Evans wasn’t out front were at the end of the first stage and the end of the last. I doubt anyone could have predicted that the rally would be decided by less than a second, and that one of the Indiana Jones bridges would be the game changer. And while a number of players had Thierry Neuville on their rosters, only one person correctly predicted that Neuville would earn his second win of the season. That player, TurboThomi also earned his own second win of the season.
So there’s a lot of reasons to be excited about this round, and the biggest reason is that, for the first time this year, all four manufacturers have a full dance card. Citroen, for the first time, will have a new-spec car for all three of their full-time entries (as well as Khalid Al-Qassimi), and Toyota will be giving their third driver Esapekka Lappi his WRC debut. Add in Mads Ostberg and we’ve got fourteen 2017-spec cars on the entry list. Th WRC Trophy (the classification for the old spec cars) also has its biggest entry to date with three. So there are a lot of options, but who do you choose?
Ogier has four wins in Portugal, but they all came when the event was run in the south of the country. Since it moved to the north he’s only managed a second and a third. He’ll also have the handicap of road sweeping. His teammates have been less successful, with Tanak scoring a fifth place result in 2015, but failing to earn any points in his other three starts. Evans has run Portugal twice, but has yet to earn a single point. He is running the DMack tires though, and they seem to have a good gravel tire this year.
Portugal hasn’t been a particularly good event for any of the Hyundai drivers. Sordo earned three straight third place finishes here, but that was back in 2007-2010. Since then he’s run five times, retired three, and earned a fourth and a sixth. Paddon meanwhile has a retirement and an eighth place result, and Neuville has three retirements and a best finish of seventh.
In Citroen Kris Meeke has become the dangerman. He has three wins in his last ten starts, second only to Seb Ogier’s five. But he also has six no-scores in those ten starts, third only to Lorenzo Bertelli and Valeriy Gorban. This all-or-nothing style makes it difficult to know when to pick him and when to bench him. To his credit he has won in Portugal before, but that’s what we said about Argentina.
Latvala won Portugal in 2015, and landed on the podium in 2013 and 2011. But half his starts here have resulted in a goose egg. Maybe there’s something about odd number years for him.
Ostberg’s only WRC win came here in 2012, when Mikko Hirvonen failed post-race inspection. Outside that he’s been decent but largely unremarkable here, with a third place finish in 2014 and five point-scoring results outside the top 5. But he does have one of the best finish rates of the field.
And with that, let’s get this party started If you haven’t seen them yet, be sure to read the updated rules (in case you haven’t heard, you can now pick up to two drivers per team!). Here’s the official Entry List, and the current fantasy points spreadsheet. And while you’re at it, you can also look at the driver’s data and statistics here.
M-SPORT WORLD RALLY TEAM - FORD FIESTA RS WRC
Sebastien Ogier (FRA) - Avg last 10 rounds: 20.6 - Avg Portugal: 19.0
Ott Tanak (EST) - Avg last 10 rounds: 9.3 - Avg Portugal: 2.5
Elfyn Evans (GBR) - Avg last 10 rounds: 7.2 - Avg Portugal: 0.0
HYUNDAI MOTORSPORT - HYUNDAI i20 COUPE WRC
Hayden Paddon (NZL) - Avg last 10 rounds: 8.6 - Avg Portugal: 2.0
Theirry Neuville (BEL) - Avg last 10 rounds: 14.3 - Avg Portugal: 2.0
Dani Sordo (ESP) - Avg last 10 rounds: 10.7 - Avg Portugal: 8.1
CITROEN TOTAL ABU DHABI WORLD RALLY TEAM - CITROEN C3 WRC
Kris Meeke (GBR) - Avg last 10 rounds: 8.5 - Avg Portugal: 12.3
Craig Breen (IRL) - Avg last 10 rounds: 6.6 - Avg Portugal: N/A
Stephane Lefebvre (FRA) - Avg last 10 rounds: 2.4 - Avg Portugal: 0.0
TOYOTA GAZOO RACING WRC - TOYOTA YARIS WRC
Jari Matti Latvala (FIN) - Avg last 10 rounds: 9.3 - Avg Portugal: 7.4
Juho Hanninen (FIN) - Avg last 10 rounds: 4.0 - Avg Portugal: 0.0
Esapekka Lappi (FIN) - Avg last 0 rounds: N/A - Avg Portugal: N/A
SINGLE CAR TEAMS AND INDEPENDENTS:
Mads Ostberg (NOR) - FORD - Avg last 10 rounds: 4.6 - Avg Portugal: 7.8
Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE) - Avg last 10 rounds: 0.9 - Avg Portugal: 1.1
*Martin Prokop* (CZE) - FORD - Avg last 10 rounds: 2.2 - Avg Portugal: 5.8
*Valeriy Gorban* (UKR) - MINI - Avg last 10 rounds: 0.1 - Avg Portugal: 0.0
*Jean-Michel Raoux* (FRA) - CITROEN - Avg last 1 rounds: 0.1 - Avg Portugal: N/A