Fri 03 May 2024

Bonato is best to hold super-close ERC Canarias lead

Yoann Bonato is on top of a thrilling battle for first place on Rally Islas Canarias, completing leg one of the FIA European Rally Championship counter leading by a mere 0.3sec.

Bonato, behind the wheel of a Citroën C3 Rally2 on Michelin tyres, charged in front on this morning’s first stage by demoting overnight leader Hayden Paddon.

But back-to-back stage wins for Alejandro Cachón put the Pirelli-equipped Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 driver at the head of the pack only for a damaged tyre to drop the Spaniard down the order on SS5, the first stage of the afternoon loop.

Cachón’s misfortune left Bonato 0.9sec ahead of Mathieu Franceschi before he extended that slender advantage to 2.0sec after SS6. But Franceschi wasn’t done and outpaced Bonato by 1.7sec to slash his fellow Frenchman’s margin to 0.3sec heading into day two.

“It was a perfect day, completely dry,” said Bonato, the 2023 Rally Islas Canarias winner. “The car is really perfect, the tyres worked well because this afternoon was really higher in temperature. We will continue tomorrow like this but the fight is on and we have to push very hard so it’s fun.”

Franceschi, driving a Michelin-equipped Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, snatched the lead from Bonato at the finish of SS3. And while his advantage only lasted until the next stage his overnight placing of second represents another strong showing from the 24-year-old, who finished runner-up on V-Híd Rally Hungary last month.

“The most difficult part today was the last section of the last stage because the grip is very strange and it’s difficult to know if you have a good feeling or not,” Franceschi said. “When I took the lead this morning I thought absolutely nothing because I don’t see the result, I prefer to put my phone in the bag and focus on the next stage. But I know which points can be better and now I work on it.”

BRC Racing Team’s defending ERC champion Hayden Paddon is third in his Pirelli-shod Hyundai i20 N Rally2, just 12.1sec back from the top spot. Diego Ruiloba is the leading Spanish championship contender in fourth followed by José Antonio Suárez and Jon Armstrong, who swapped positions in the final test. 

Armstrong’s performance is particularly noteworthy. On his step up to Rally2 as the reigning ERC3 champion, Armstrong is making his first start on Tarmac driving M-Sport Poland’s Ford Fiesta Rally2 run on Pirelli tyres.

Mads Østberg, Miko Marczyk, the delayed Cachón and Yeray Lemes complete the top 10.   

“I don’t know [what happened],” Spaniard Cachón said. “There are a lot of rocks on the inside, maybe I touched something and I punctured.”  

Double European champion and four-time Rally Islas Canarias winner Alexey Lukyanuk is 11th followed by Erik Cais, Iván Ares and Simon Wagner with Enrique Cruz completing the list of provisional point-scoring drivers. Efrén Llarena, Martin László, Filip Mareš, Andrea Mabellini and Óscar Palomo hold positions 16-20 overnight.

Miklós Csomós was in fifth place when he crashed heavily on SS3. Following checks in hospital it was confirmed that the Hungarian and co-driver Attila Nagy had suffered fractures but will make full recoveries, although their Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo suffered extensive damage.  

Local hero Luis Monzón was a non-starter after he damaged his Citroën C3 Rally2’s left-rear suspension striking a concrete barrier in the stadium section of the SSS1 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on Thursday night.    

Six stages remain on Rally Islas Canarias with Saturday’s deciding leg getting under way at 09:17 local time. Up first is the 9.41km Arucas - Firgas stage followed by the longest stage of the event, the 27.70km Moya – Valleseco test, from 10:07. The San Mateo – Valsequillo Power Stage is due to begin at 17:05 after the first run at 11:35.

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