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A RECORD 14 new-spec World Rally Cars headline a star-studded 65-strong entry for this week’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

The first European gravel rally of the 2017 WRC season will be the 50th anniversary of the Portuguese classic with entries across four FIA Championship categories and two manufacturer teams represented at full strength for the first time.

Toyota will be competing with three Yaris WRCs in its most ambitious entry since returning to the WRC this season, with rising star Esapekka Lappi joining Juho Hänninen and Rally Sweden winner Jari-Matti Latvala.

Citroën will enter four C3 WRCs instead of the usual three, for Mexico winner Kris Meeke, Craig Breen, Stéphane Lefebvre and Khalid Al Qassimi.

M-Sport also will enter four cars. Defending world champion Sébastien Ogier, winner of the first round of the year, will be joined by Ott Tänak, Elfyn Evans and Mads Østberg.

Finally, Hyundai will be entering its usual line up of Thierry Neuville -winner in France and Argentina – Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo.

Also competing in pre-2017 WRC cars are WRC Trophy contenders Martin Prokop (Ford), Valeriy Gorban (Mini) and Jean-Michel Raoux (Citroën) making a total of 17 WRC cars on the list.

Portugal is the first mandatory event in WRC 2 and 20 registered drivers will be in action.

Skoda Fabia R5 drivers Andreas Mikkelsen and Pontus Tidemand head the support category entry list, which also features Eric Camilli and Teemu Suninen in M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5s. Last year’s Junior WRC winner Simone Tempestini and 2015 Junior title winner Quentin Gilbert will also compete.

The rally also features six entries in the two-wheel-drive WRC 3 championship.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.