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Tue 11 Apr 2023

Countdown to Canarias: 25 days to go until ERC returns

The FIA European Rally Championship switches to asphalt for yet another eagerly anticipated instalment when Rally Islas Canarias hosts round two of the ERC’s 70th-anniversary season from 6 - 8 May.

Based on the island of Gran Canaria, the event is a long-term ERC calendar highlight and never fails to disappoint when it comes to the drama and excitement served up on the challenging stages.

With 25 days to go until the start at the Estadio Gran Canaria on Thursday 6 May, here are five early talking points to build the intrigue even further.

1: Paddon versus Østberg: the rematch
They finished first and second on Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto last month with Hayden Paddon narrowly ahead of Mads Østberg, a result that convinced Paddon and his BRC Racing Team that dropping the island classic, as originally planned, wouldn’t be the smartest of moves. Østberg has the upper hand with one Rally Islas Canarias start to his name. But while Paddon is an event rookie, his team was behind Pierre-Louis Loubet’s entry in 2018 so there is some event experience for the New Zealander to call upon.

2: Home heroes will be out in force
As well as the hordes of win-thirsty ERC aces, the Rally Islas Canarias entry traditionally features a host of local stars aiming to showcase their talents on an international stage. With boundless knowledge of the demanding mountain roads – and the all the latest local weather trends – expect a fearsome challenge to come from the Canary Islands’ massive.

3: Champion Llarena on a charge (below)
By his own admission, Efrén Llarena hated Rally Serras de Fafe, Felgueiras, Boticas, Vieira do Minho e Cabeceiras de Basto, struggling for form in his new-for-2023 Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. Although the Spaniard is always quick to point out that his nationality brings no home advantage – he lives far away in mainland Spain – a big score is very much needed on an event where his co-driver Sara Fernández became the first woman to win the FIA European Rally Championship for Co-Drivers in 2021.

4: Wagner has a point to prove
Simon Wagner made the headlines for all the wrong reasons on Rally Islas Canarias last season. An early crash wrecked his hopes of victory and resulted in his Eurosol Racing Team Hungary mechanics having to go into overdrive to fix his damaged Fabia. He paid them back by winning the Power Stage but winning Rally Islas Canarias outright would more to his liking, particularly on the back of his recent success in the Austrian championship.

5: Can Bonato star on Spanish Tar… again (below)?  
Yoann Bonato’s Tarmac-driving pedigree is not to be underestimated based on his four French asphalt titles, but also his victory on the 2022 ERC season-deciding RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada last October. Buoyed by his strong Fafe result of fifth, the Citroën-powered star will be one to watch on Rally Islas Canarias.