55th Azores Rallye - 16-18/09/2021
Starts: 08h30, Friday September 17, Portas do Mar, Ponta Delgada
Finishes: 17h30, Saturday September 18, Praça Gonçalo Velho, Ponta Delgada
Headquarters: Pavilhão do Mar – Portas do Mar, Av. Infante D. Henrique, 9500 Ponta Delgada, Açores
ERC appearances (since 2004 restructuring): 7 (2013-2019)
Stage distance: 201.74kms
Liaison distance: 443.40kms
Total distance: 645.14kms
Free Practice (for priority drivers): 1300-1500, Thursday September 16 (Lagoa, 3.12kms)
Qualifying Stage (for priority drivers): 15h15, Thursday September 16 (Lagoa, 3.12kms)
Shakedown (for all drivers): 16h45-18h15, Thursday September 16 (Lagoa, 3.12kms)
The rally in 100 words: Based on the mid-Atlantic Ocean archipelago’s largest island of São Miguel, the rally turns 55 in 2021 and remains one of the most spectacular events on the international calendar. Stages criss-cross breath-taking scenery and lush countryside and are characterised by their sandy surface and narrow and undulating nature. And because the timed tests are often no wider than the width of a car, there is simply no margin for error, particularly on the Sete Cidades test along the rim of a volcanic crater lake. Changeable weather is also a factor with conditions switching from sunshine to showers and fog patches.
Event eligibility: ERC1, ERC2, ERC3, European Rally Championship for Teams. ERC-MICHELIN Talent Factory incentives available
What’s new for 2021? Postponed from 2020, the 55th Azores Rallye essentially runs to an all-new format with the traditional forestry stages on the east of São Miguel now running on the opening leg rather than the closing leg. It means the westerly stages now take place on the final day with the Sete Cidades volcano stage deciding the outcome of the ERC gravel spectacular. The rally also conforms to the FIA’s requirement to contain events within a four-day window. As a result, the traditional Thursday afternoon stages disappear with all the stage action contained over two days. COVID-19 restrictions mean the City Show on Ponta Delgada’s seafront won’t run this year.
The route in short:
Thursday September 16: Following the completion of reconnaissance on Thursday morning, the focus quickly switches to Free Practice from 13h00 local time (CET -2) and then the Qualifying Stage from 15h18 when the ERC priority drivers will be in action on the 3.12-kilometre Lagoa run east of Ponta Delgada.
Friday September 17: The morning loop takes crews to the far east of São Miguel for the jungle-like Tronqueira stage via the rally’s longest test, Graminhais, which measures 24.03 kilometres in length. There’s a single visit to Lagoa de São Brás on the journey back to mid-leg service in Ponta Delgada. Then it’s returns to Graminhais and Tronqueira in the afternoon with the Grupo Marques two-by-two superspecial north of Ponta Delgada rounding out day one, which covers 111.90 competitive kilometres.
Saturday September 18: Saturday’s deciding leg runs over a timed distance of 89.84 kilometres and begins with a trip north from Ponta Delgada to Coroa da Mata followed by a journey west to Feteiras ahead of the first charge through the iconic Sete Cidades volcano stage. There’s a return to the Grupo Marques superspecial prior to service in the capital, Ponta Delgada. Coroa da Mata and Feteiras are repeated in the afternoon with the rerun of Sete Cidades deciding the outcome of the 55th Azores Rallye from 15h53 local time live on Facebook and YouTube.
2019: Łukasz Habaj/Daniel Dymurski (Škoda Fabia R5)
2018: Alexey Lukyanuk/Alexey Arnautov (Ford Fiesta R5)
2017: Bruno Magalhães/Hugo Magalhães (Škoda Fabia R5)
2016: Ricardo Moura/António Costa (Ford Fiesta R5)
2015: Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Peugeot 208 T16)
1: When it comes to Azores Rallye success look no further than Fernando Peres, the event’s record-holding seven-time winner.
2: While Ricardo Moura has multiple Azorean championship titles to his name, his Azores Rallye triumph in 2016 was his first on his home round of the ERC.
3: Other winners include WRC stars past and present, such as Craig Breen, Kris Meeke, Andreas Mikkelsen, Juha Kankkunen, Markko Märtin and Bruno Thiry.
4: The Azores archipelago is located roughly equidistant between Lisbon and New York and is made up of nine islands. The fertile soil is perfect for a variety of crops and grazing for livestock.
5: A typical Azorean meal is cozido das fumas stew, cooked in the ground using one pot only.