ERC1 Junior star López wins Qualifying Stage in Canarias
Citroën Rally Team’s Pepe López went fastest on the Qualifying Stage for Rally Islas Canarias, making a perfect start to his FIA European Rally Championship return.
López, who returns to the FIA ERC1 Junior Championship after competing full-time in 2017 with Peugeot Rally Academy, beat a strong group of experienced ERC and Spanish championship drivers to go fastest, beating compatriot Iván Ares (Hyundai Motor España) by 0.545s.
Reigning ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk went third-fastest aboard his Saintéloc Racing-prepared Citroën C3 R5, 1.316s slower than López.
Rally Team Spain’s José Antonio Suárez, a graduate of the ERC1 Junior championship, went fourth fastest in his Hyundai i20 R5, with Team OSCARO-backed Pierre-Louis Loubet rounding out the top five as the second-fastest ERC1 Junior runner.
Norbert Herczig (MOL Racing Team) and Vojtěch Štajf (ACCR Czech Team) turned in strong runs on the Qualifying Stage to go sixth and seventh quickest respectively, both 4.3s off López’s searing pace.
Niki Mayr-Melnhof also did well on ERC return, clocking the eighth fastest time aboard his Ford Fiesta R5, just ahead of former World Rally Championship star Xevi Pons (ACSM Rallye Team) in ninth.
Current championship leader Łukasz Habaj was P10 aboard his Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5, 5.3s off the pace, followed by Luis Monzón (Auto-Laca Competición), Marijan Griebel (Baumschlager Rallye & Racing), Yeray Lemes (Escudería Fuertwagen Motorsport), Surhayen Pernía – Hyundai Motor España and Tibor Érdi Jr. (Érdi Team Kft.) completing the top 15.
Andrea Nucita clocked the fastest time of the Abarth Rally Cup drivers with P18, only two seconds off the pace of ERC1 Junior points leader Chris Ingram, while Jean-Baptiste Franceschi was fastest of the ERC3 Junior crews aboard his Ford Fiesta R2T.
Juan Carlos Alonso endured a difficult start to his hopes of an ERC2 class win with a broken wheel on the Qualifying Stage, a fate shared by ERC3 Juniors Simon Wagner (Team Stengg Motorsport), Grégoire Munster (ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team) and Nabila Tejpar.
The top 15 drivers from Thursday’s Qualifying Stage will select their road order at 17h00 local time (18h00 CEST) at the rally base in Las Palmas, with SS1 Valsequillo – Festina kicking off the rally itinerary tomorrow at 10h08 local time (11h08 CEST).