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Mon 24 Apr 2023

Solans gives ERC Canarias tips and says listen to the mountain people

Nil Solans has given an insight into what it takes to win Rally Islas Canarias after confirming he will be unable to go for a repeat win on the FIA European Rally Championship’s island-based round next month.

Solans won Rally Islas Canarias at his third attempt last May but has fallen short in his bid to secure the funds needed to try to win the all-Tarmac round for a second time.

Although work commitments mean he’s not sure whether he will be available to visit the event to support his younger brother Jan, who will be in action in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2, Solans has offered a few tips for the ERC stars tackling the event for the first time, such as Mathieu Franceschi, Mikko Heikkilä and Hayden Paddon.

“You basically need to work a lot and prepare the rally as it’s a rally which is very fast, flowing and very demanding on pacenotes,” said the 31-year-old Solans. “And also to prepare the car as much as possible for the grip of the island because it’s a special grip. In some places it’s more abrasive but the grip is lower than [mainland] Spain, for example, and it’s something special [needed] on the set-up.”

Unlike some Tarmac events, corner cutting is limited on Rally Islas Canarias meaning there are few instances of gravel being dragged onto the road.

“There are no cuts, maybe three or four in the whole rally!” Solans explained. “When we are on the small roads that are going downhill in the middle of the small villages in some places you can find a lot of these volcanic rocks that they have on the island and also some cuts but only on these special roads. But 80-90 per cent of the roads are 100 per cent clear without any cuts.

“This rally is not easy and at the end the differences between drivers is really tight because it’s not so demanding on the driving side, it’s more demanding on the pacenotes side to take the speed in every corner.”

Don’t be crazy, listen to the mountain people
Solans has also explained the decisive role the weather can play on Rally Islas Canarias due to its island climate. “This is maybe the most difficult thing [about the rally],” he said. “You are maybe in the service park and you look at the sky and it’s full blue, you cannot see one cloud. But the people on the stages will tell you it’s full rain, even though they are less than 30 kilometres from where you are. So you start from the service park with four wet tyres and it’s full sunshine and it’s like, ‘what are you doing, you are crazy’, but in the end you have to believe in the people in the mountains.”

ERC ambitions remain for Solans
Despite being unable to contest either of the opening two rounds of this year’s ERC – the two events he won last season – Solans isn’t giving up hope on competing in the championship again his year.

“I really wanted to be there [Rally Islas Canarias] but in the end I didn’t find the support to go there,” Solans said. “For me it would be a pleasure to be there but I was not able to but if I find the budget or the team to help me to do some events I will do it for sure.

“I made it to the Azores this year. Even though it was not inside the ERC this year, going against Loeb and the other guys in my old car, it was a very good result to be on the podium.

“In the end we have the rhythm and the experience now, we have the maturity so it’s a good moment for us to compete in a few races to get some good results without making mistakes.”

This season's Rally Islas Canarias takes place from 4 - 6 May.

Three shades of Solans
Nil Solans has contested Rally Islas Canarias on three occasions. Here's a reminder.

2020
Making his ERC debut, Solans stars in the challenging conditions by winning four stages and leading for much of the opening leg.

2021
Myriad issues rule out a top result but Solans still registers several top-two stage times.

2022
Having driven with Škoda and Hyundai power, Solans is at the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 when he wins Rally Islas Canarias at this his third attempt.