Isidre Esteve consolidates in the ‘top 20’ of the Portugal Rally Raid


The Spanish driver Isidre Esteve (Repsol Toyota Team) finished this Thursday the second stage of the Rally Raid de Portugal in seventeenth place in the Ultimate category, designed for latest generation 4×4 prototypes, after 166 timed kilometers and a loop around the municipality from Grândola (100 km south of Lisbon).

Those 166 kilometers were a strong first course, after Wednesday’s aperitif. On a succession of tracks that combined a hard surface with soft sand and many muddy areas due to the rains of recent days, the mechanical and physical demands were considerable.

In fact, the organization shortened the section around 2:30 p.m. local time for the furthest behind teams. Although the conditions were not ideal for the almost three tons of their Toyota Hilux T1+, Isidre Esteve and his co-driver Txema Villalobos finished again in the ‘top 20’, 12:20 behind the winning car (Nasser Al-Attiyah and Edouard Boulanger ).

Esteve and Villalobos have ahead of them names like Nasser Al Attiyah (five-time winner of the Dakar), Sébastien Loeb (nine-time world rally champion) or the also Spanish Carlos Sainz (four-time winner of the Dakar and two-time world rally champion) , among other official Toyota, Prodrive or MINI drivers.

In the general classification of this Rally Raid of Portugal, which also includes light vehicles – more suitable for this terrain -, Esteve and Villalobos occupy thirtieth place; Meanwhile, they are the sixteenth tenants in their Ultimate category.


“We had a little more kilometers than yesterday, but the track was narrower, slower, more technical. There were dry parts, others muddier where we had no traction… it was very difficult for me. When it is so slow and On top of that it is muddy and you are going between trees, driving with the adapted steering wheel is very difficult,” Esteve declared to the Repsol Toyota Team after having finished the stage.

“It is very stressful for us, because we are used to tracks like those in the Dakar, in Morocco and even in Baja España, which are much more open, faster, where you can enjoy driving much more,” he reflected. the pilot from ilerdense.

“This race is very different from what rally raid is in general, there is no navigation here, there are only tracks. There are many light vehicles, which is the ideal car for this terrain. The clearest example is Sébastien Loeb, who races these days with one. It is not the same to carry a 2,800 kg car on muddy tracks as it is to carry one of 1,100 kg,” Esteve said as soon as he arrived at the service park.

“We are within the top 20 of the Ultimate and that is more than satisfactory. For me the important thing is to be there, comparing myself with those who will later be in the Dakar and learning to go faster, taking the same risks that I take now. To “That’s what we are in Portugal,” said the pilot from Lleida.

“In this type of racing I have to work a lot with the steering wheel, the brake and the accelerator. When we talk about open terrain it is very different, there it goes very fast, there are few 180º turns and the track gives you more margin. Here you are all the time hanging, shifting, braking, skidding… and everything is very close: trees, wire fences of farm gates, ditches, etc.,” he described in this regard.

“It is very, very difficult for me, without a doubt, but I like what I do. I think the key is to be fast and reach the end of the stage in good shape every day. I try to face the same difficulty as the rest, to share the classification with the best and if for me it is more complicated in tests like this, then it is what it is. I am satisfied and it is time to continue fighting,” Esteve concluded from Grândola.