The Spaniard was never able to recapture his title-winning form from 2022 aboard his Team MRF Tyres-entered Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, settling for seventh place at the finish on Sunday afternoon.
His hopes of Portuguese success took a knock when he missed a junction on Friday afternoon’s Qualifying Stage, which left him 19th fastest and saddled with a lowly starting order for the rain-hit Saturday leg. He was unable to get back on terms thereafter.
“It’s been a tough rally for me,” said the 27-year-old, who is co-driven by two-time European champion co-driver Sara Fernández. “In the qualifying I did a mistake and missed a junction but it’s not all about the road position because [on Sunday] the road position was not so bad but we are still missing a lot of things, I am not happy at all.
“I’ve never been fast on this rally, but we are losing time in the slow corners, we have no traction, for me it’s a disaster. In some parts I am pushing like hell but I was losing a lot of time in the slow corners.
“Honestly I tried my best, I was absolutely flat out, unfortunately we were not fast. We were not comfortable with the car, we were always out of the line. You can push 200 per cent but you are losing time in every corner, [so it’s] very disappointing.”
Llarena finished a distant 12th in Fafe last season, won the next ERC round in Azores and completed the season as champion, facts not lost on the Rallye Team Spain-supported driver.
“We never give up,” he said. “We will try to do our best on the next rally. It’s Tarmac so let’s see, we need to improve.”
Rally Islas Canarias hosts round two of the ERC season from 6 - 8 May.