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Sun 28 Jan 2024

Moments that made ERC 2023 great: Bonato masters the mountains

Yoann Bonato became a two-time winner in the FIA European Rally Championship after a sublime drive to victory on Rally Islas Canarias last May.

With fellow Frenchman Benjamin Boulloud co-driving, Bonato started leg two of the island event 11.0sec in front of Hayden Paddon, who would finish the 2023 season as ERC champion.  


Frenchman Bonato eventually triumphed on Rally Islas Canarias by 36.9sec following a final day dominated by the changeable weather conditions across the mini mountain ranges of Gran Canaria  – and some seriously close competition throughout the field.  


He grew his relatively narrow overnight margin to 12.8sec by winning leg two’s opener before he trounced his rivals with a stunning run through the 27.74-kilometre Moya – Valleseco test, which featured dry, damp and full wet sections, plus fog in places.



At the wheel of a Citroën C3 Rally2 fitted with four medium compound Michelin tyres, Bonato was 11.3sec faster than the next quickest driver but a whole 19.4sec ahead of Paddon to move 32.2sec clear in the battle for top spot.  


Bonato made further progress with his third consecutive fastest time of the leg on SS10 to return to the midday service halt at the Estadio Gran Canaria leading by 34.3sec. Although his tally of stage wins would stop at seven out of a possible 13, Bonato’s victory was never in doubt.



“We did our best but the car and tyres were also perfect and I am very happy,” said Bonato, who scored his first ERC win in Catalunya the previous October. “We were with the medium-compound Michelin tyre for all the first loop and for these [weather] conditions it was perfect. You never know with the weather what will happen but we took one spare [hard-compound] tyre this morning because we understood there would only be damp parts and not in all special stages. This is a beautiful rally and this makes it easy to be fast here. And when it’s like this you don’t want the rally to stop, you want to keep going for the next few days.”  


Behind Bonato, Pirelli-equipped Paddon placed second with Efrén Llarena completing the podium for Team MRF Tyres.