As we dust ourselves off from three days of racing through the mountains of remote, central Portugal, we can proudly say that this year’s Tour of Portugal Rally was indeed, bigger and better than ever.

A bit of Everything!

Riders covered a total of 666km (some a little more), which included 38 special stages.  We really had it all in this edition.  Not only was there the diversity of the terrain – flat out fast wide open tracks, loose rocky hill climbs, forested single tracks, and everything in between, but we were also hit with a thunderstorm on day two, with riders navigating through showers through the first part of the day.  Thankfully for them, there was a holding point midway through the day to condense the pack of riders who had become very spread out.  Gois motoring club were generous enough to open their doors and allow all of the riders inside to enjoy a rest around the roaring fire and a chance to dry their kit out.  The rains then cleared, leaving the tracks grippy as anything for the second part of the day, which immediately included the WRC high speed stage outside of Gois.
For day three the skies cleared again, allowing the competitors to finish the event in glorious sunshine as they enjoyed a 192km day of brand new tracks, never before ridden in the tour of Portugal.

Pure Class

Interestingly, there was a significantly greater uptake in Rally class entrants compared to Adventure Class.  The level of riding, especially amongst those who attended last year, had also noticeably improved.  Several riders including Rob Gawthorpe, Steven Stewart, Robert Greaves and Michael Lelieveld returned for the second time to the event, this time with several other rally raids under their belts, each aboard smaller bikes, and possessing more competitive outlook on rallying in general.
Rob Gawthorpe, for instance, who rode in Adventure Class in 2023 on his KTM890, placed 3rd in Rally Class on his 450 EXC!  A testament to his passion for rallying and his commitment to improving his skills.
The star of the event, however, was new-on-the-scene, young gun Jack Brazier on his KTM 450RR.  Jack arrived in Portugal for his first ever international rally, having developed his roadbook skills at several RallyMoto events, with the ambition to complete the entire event with no speeding penalties (Kielder 500 was a learning curve in that respect).  Not only did he rank in 1st place on day one and day two, but even after some significant navigation errors on day three, he still managed to achieve first place overall in Rally Class, and with no speeding penalties!  An admirable achievement, given his ability to hold a solid pace in stage.
It was neck to neck with fellow fresh faced Nick Tucker, a second time attendee of the Tour of Portugal, who unfortunately crashed out on day two, leaving his bike a bit bent up but still rideable.  Thankfully it happened out of a timed stage, so he still pulled off a respectable 2nd place in Rally Class overall.
Both Nick and Jack have big rally plans for the future, including Hellas and Dinaric this year. We’ll be rooting for you both!

A great Adventure

Kudos to those who entered into Adventure Class at this year’s event. The category was mostly made up of first time Tour of Portugal-ers and if they were expecting an easy ride well, let’s just say this event is a big step up in terms of terrain and time off road, compared to our regular Adventure Rallies in the UK.
The Adventure routes this year were the same length as Rally Class, with just a few diversions around particularly tricky sections. The Adv Class riders still got to experience the ups and downs, twists and turns, and high percentage of off-road tracks, making for a challenging, yet incredibly scenic and enjoyable day in the saddle.
Congratulations to Richard Braddock who took first place in Adventure Class, and to Jon Billings and Steve Bottomly who placed second and third, respectively.

Never give up, Never Surrender

Special mentions go out to Steve Stewart and his ‘never give up’ attitude.  After suffering from a couple of broken ribs from an off on day two, Steve completed day three, using his legs as suspension to damped the discomfort of his injury.
Gary Aylmer kicked a few rocks on the first day of riding, resulting in a couple of broken toes, yet still completed the entire event!  Put your feet up and heal well Gary!
The only “lemon amongst the oranges”, a Suzuki DRZ400 ridden by Gregorz Szastak, unfortunately didn’t quite live up to its reliable reputation, although it’s rider didn’t succumb to it’s battery charging issues he faced on Day one.  He got it going again and completed day three, but a third day was too much for the Zook, and Greg’s rally ended in a cloud of white smoke and a ride back to base in the recovery truck. Great effort Greg, and top points for maintaining such an exuberant demeanour throughout the event.

Riders from Far and Wide

It was a great pleasure to have attracted a couple of international entrants at this year’s Tour of Portugal. We were very happy to welcome Marcus, who traveled over from Germany and rallied on his KTM990 in Rally Class and did not stop smiling the entire event, as well as Eric from the Netherlands on his Husky 501.
The course openers were a pair of very accomplished Portuguese riders, Enrique and Mario, who are friends of Rui Matias of Portugal Offroad. Mario Patrao has completed the Dakar rally multiple times and in fact raced in it earlier this year, so it was an honour to have him opening the event for us. Big thanks to both riders for being involved!

Thank you all!

Huge thanks to everyone involved in making the Tour of Portugal happen: the support crew, the logistics managers, the number crunchers, the route writers, the marvellous medics, the course openers and sweepers, the recovery drivers, the local principality of Pampilhosa da Serra, our partners at Portugal Offroad, and most of all, to everyone who entered into the Tour of Portugal for your continued support and for enabling us to make it all happen!

Until next time, 3 – 2 – 1 – GOOOOO!