Thu 02 May 2024

Bonato fastest but regrets quality ERC qualifying as Csomós gets penalty

Yoann Bonato’s pursuit of back-to-back wins on Rally Islas Canarias is under way with the Frenchman setting the fastest time through the 3.57km Santa María de Guía Qualifying Stage to secure first place in the starting order for Friday’s opening leg.

The FIA European Rally Championship star outpaced his Spanish championship counterpart and fellow Citroën C3 Rally2 driver Diego Ruiloba by 0.1sec as Miklós Csomós (Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo) completed the top three, only to be penalised afterwards.   

But with the weather on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria ever-changing and ever-unpredictable, Bonato revealed that he wanted a lower starting position to properly assess the stage conditions and give himself the best opportunity to make the right tyre call.   

Previously in the ERC the Qualifying Stage winner earned the right to select their road order first. However, new rules for 2024 mean the fastest in qualifying go first on leg one of asphalt events, putting Bonato and co-driver Benjamin Boulloud at the head of the pack in their Michelin-equipped Citroën run by ERC newcomer Trajectus Motorsport.   

“It was not my target, I expect a place between 10 or 12,” Frenchman Bonato said. “I don’t know why, I brake a bit early, maybe too late. That’s not a good start I think because it’s not the best position. We saw last year we start in first position and it was really difficult but it’s only my fault, I was a bit too fast in this one. But it doesn’t matter, we will see tomorrow. Last year we start first and lost around 30sec in the first stage and then we won the rally with 30sec.”

Behind Ruiloba, Csomós was third initially to make it two Pirelli-shod cars in the top three on his return to Rally Islas Canarias 12 months on from his huge car-wrecking crash.   

“It is okay,” Csomós said. “The tyre is cold, waiting for the 10 minutes at the start is not so good but the stage was good, the car and co-driver perfect so no problem.”

However, following post-Qualifying Stage technical checks, the Hungarian's HRT Racing entry was found to be under the permitted weight due to a miscalulation, which resulted in his time being cancelled. He will therefore start as the final ERC1 driver for leg one.

Mathieu Franceschi, who placed second on the V-Híd Rally Hungary ERC season opener last month, was fourth quickest followed by Spanish championship leader José Antonio Suárez (above).  

Andrea Mabellini, the Rally Islas Canarias Qualifying Stage winner in 2023, was the fastest of the MRF-equipped drivers in sixth followed by Erik Cais and Miko Marczyk, who has joined Kresta Racing for round two of the ERC season.  

The Polish driver reckoned he wasn’t too concerned about his starting position for Friday’s six-stage leg. “You never know the weather,” he said. “The most important is to have proper pace from the start, not to lose the confidence, be smooth and clean in the slow corners and brave in the faster corners.”

Iván Ares was ninth and the leading Hyundai i20 N Rally2 pilot with Simon Wagner completing the top 10. Alejandro Cachón (above) finished the Qualifying Stage finish in 11th position as the highest-placed Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 driver followed by four-time Rally Islas Canarias winner and double ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk.   

Filip Mareš was next up in his Hankook-equipped Toyota, one place ahead of Mads Østberg.  Back in action after illness prevented him from starting V-Híd Rally Hungary, the Norwegian’s Citroën was slowed by a turbo boost issue.   

ERC3 champion Jon Armstrong round out the top 15 ahead of 2022 ERC champion Efrén Llarena (below) and Hermann Neubauer, who is starting his first ERC event since 2018. Llarena said:  “I tried to push too much and I made one mistake in a slow corner.”

Defending ERC champion Hayden Paddon (below), who was 18th quickest, reported a “very messy run, a lot of understeer”, adding that “road position is not so important on this rally. The real game starts tomorrow”.  

Raúl Hernández and Canary Islands champion Miguel Suárez were 19th and 20th fastest respectively.   

Next up is the opening stage, SSS1 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, from 20:35 local time. The 1.80km stage includes a section through the Gran Canaria Arena basketball stadium where an 8,000 capacity crowd will watch the action.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM