Replacing the annual Rally Transiberico the Rally TT Vodafone EPM is organized by the Automotive club of Portugal and represents the crux of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies season and one of the longest, most high profile rallies this side of the Dakar. Looking at the previous winners of this event one can see how influential this event has been (Jean-Louis Schlesser, Ari Vatanen, Ginel de Villiers, Carlos Sainz, Luc Alphand, Guerlain Chicherit, and Carlos Sousa).
Its first few stages began today in Portugal and the race will eventually cross into Africa for four days of racing there. All told the event will cover a route of some 3000 kms and some 1800 kms in special (racing) stages (1,100 miles) with much of that distance crossing the desert terrain of Morocco.
With 43 entries in the "auto" class there are a number of world class entries including Felipe Campos in the X-Raid BMW X3, Eric Van Loon in the JMB Stradale Mitsubishi Racing Lancer, and Eric Vigoroux and his American made Chevrolet as well as a host of Nissans.
Day one contained a short "super special stage" of only 3.81 km and then a longer "special stage 2" of 170.88 km. Through the end of SS2 Felipe Campos and his factory supported BMW X3 are in the lead, in front of Eric Van Loon and his Mitsu Lancer by 4:38 and by 5:51 over the top Nissan (in third so far), a Pathfinder of Helder Oliveira while Eric Vigoroux sits in 5th 10:04 back of Campos.
Will have more updates tomorrow...