Bruno Magalhães has on SATA Rallye Açores twice, and the Portuguese star believes his victory in 2010 was the most important of his career. This year he returns in a Peugeot 208 T16 – a car he feels has the potential to carry him to a hat-trick of wins. What better driver to ask then about his home round of the FIA European Rally Championship.
What makes Rallye Açores such a special event?
“It’s a fantastic event with a great history in motorsport, one of the most beautiful rallies in the world due to the quality of the stages and the beautiful scenery. It’s a different event in which all drivers love to take part, as they are always impressed when they drive these roads for the first time.”
What is the key to success on Rallye Açores?
“This rally is difficult for those who participate in it for the first time, because the roads are quite narrow in some places and very slippery. It’s a rally where the sections are not so long, so it is always done at maximum attack, and a small mistake can ruin everything because it is harder to recover. Usually the differences between the drivers is small, so the key to success is to do all the rally attacking and not make mistakes.”
You have won Rallye Açores twice before, can you make it three wins this year?
“The most important victory of my career was in 2010 in the IRC. It was a rally to the tenth of a second, against fantastic drivers like Kris Meeke, Juho Hänninen, Andreas Mikkelsen and Jan Kopecký, all with very similar cars in terms of competitiveness, so to win was a dream come true. I would love to be able to win for the third time and I feel that this year I have a better chance than in previous years because I have a more competitive and current car. So for the first time in three or four years, I feel that I can return to fight for the top position. But winning will be really difficult, because there are many very fast drivers with good experience of the event.”
Which drivers do you feel are likely to be your main rivals for victory?
“I would say that the most serious candidates to win the rally are Craig Breen and Kajto [Kajetan Kajetanowicz], because both are very fast and with very strong and large teams to support them. I think some Portuguese drivers will be very fast, like Ricardo Moura, who is from the Azores and knows 100 per cent the roads, and José Pedro Fontes, who has been very fast in the Portuguese championship. I think Robert Consani will also be very strong, because he knows the rally from previous years, so there are many drivers capable of scoring a great result.”
This is your 14th year driving with Peugeot. How does the 208 T16 compare to the other Peugeots you have rallied over the years?
“I have a long association with the Peugeot brand and I am very proud of it, being quite rare that this happens these days. All my titles were achieved at the wheel of a Peugeot, so the connection is quite strong. As we know the cars evolve very quickly, so every car that I drove was better than the previous one. The car that most impressed me was the 207 S2000 because I was champion for the first time in my career, but I want to get good results also with the 208 T16 and believe a lot in its potential. The Peugeot has a long history in the automotive sport, always with many victories and with excellent cars, so I believe I will have good results once again with the new 208.”
For the many crews contesting Rallye Açores for the first time this year, especially the ERC Junior drivers, what advice would you give them?
“The rally is very special, with a difficult and treacherous route for those who participate in it for the first time. It is important to get very precise pace notes and a car with good traction because the surface is slippery, and very narrow areas that do not allow any error. However, I am sure that all the ERC Junior drivers will enjoy the rally and will get very excited about the sections and the island’s landscape. To all of them, I wish them good luck.”