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Thu 02 May 2024

People power for Paddon! Thousands watch as the ERC goes indoors in Gran Canaria

Hayden Paddon benefited from people power to top the order on the opening stage of Rally Islas Canarias, round two of the 2024 FIA European Rally Championship.

Hayden Paddon benefited from people power to top the order on the opening stage of Rally Islas Canarias, round two of the 2024 FIA European Rally Championship.

With 8000 fans filling the Gran Canaria Arena, plus thousands more watching from the outdoor sections of the 1.80km SSS1 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Paddon delivered the ultimate display in precision driving to set the benchmark time of 1min 30.5sec aboard his Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2.

It means the New Zealander, who was also quickest on the same stage last year, will take a lead of 1.2sec into Friday’s first full day of Tarmac rallying action. That’s when the demanding mountain roads will provide a tough test that’s made even tougher by the prospect of changeable weather conditions.

“It’s morning time in New Zealand so I’m starting to wake up,” BRC Racing Team-run Paddon said. “There’s so many people out here and it’s great for the atmosphere. It’s made me excited for the morning now.”

Andrea Mabellini was second fastest for Team MRF Tyres, despite nudging a wall with his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2’s left-rear corner. Miko Marczyk took third on a 1min 31.9sec in his Michelin-equipped Fabia. Erik Cais was fourth, 0.2sec behind Marczyk, with Miklós Csomós fifth on a 1min 32.2sec.

“The feeling is good, the different is not very big but the atmosphere is really good so thanks to the rally fans,” Hungarian hero Csomós said afterwards.

Mathieu Franceschi, Efrén Llarena, Simon Wagner and Mads Østberg were next as Qualifying Stage pacesetter and 2023 Rally Islas Canarias winner Yoann Bonato completed the top 10.

After a completing the stage in a time of 1min 33.9sec, Bonato said: “I was like a beginner on the arena, it was too slippery, I was too careful, I pushed the throttle and also the handbrake. I have to get confident.”

Back in action after misding V-Híd Rally Hungary, Østberg said: “It felt like really chaos in there, arriving into the stadium was so slippery, trying to manage it felt really bad but hopefully I gave a bit of a show.”

Behind Toyota GR Yaris Rally2-driving Mārtiņš Sesks in 11th, Hankook-shod Filip Mareš was 12th quickest followed by two-time ERC champion and quadruple Rally Islas Canarias winner Alexey Lukyanuk in a Hyundai Canarias-entered i20 N Rally2. He said: “I’m happy of course, we need to make some friendship between [me and the car]. At the moment it’s not responding the way I want.”

Spanish championship ace Diego Ruiloba set the 14th fastest time followed by Martin László.

“I think it’s okay,” Ruiloba said. “This stage is very easy to make some mistake, the real rally starts tomorrow and now we have time to focus on that.”

There was drama for local hero Luis Monzón when the three-time Rally Islas Canarias winner slid the rear of his Citroën C3 Rally2 into a concrete barrier in the stadium section of the stage and broke his car’s left-rear suspension. “I touched the wall with the tyre, I don’t know what happened but it looks like a very strong problem,” the 58-year-old said.

Double Austrian champion Hermann Neubauer dislodged an oil drum during his run, admitting his first stage back in the ERC since 2018 was “not easy”.

Rally Islas Canarias resumes tomorrow (Friday, 2 May) with the 14.83km Agüimes - Santa Lucía stage from 10:38 local time.