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Tue 07 May 2024

How Franceschi tops the ERC title chase

While Yoann Bonato was busy winning Rally Islas Canarias for the second time in as many years, his understudy and fellow Frenchman Mathieu Franceschi was busy moving to the top of the FIA European Rally Championship standings.

Aged 24 and still lacking seat time on Tarmac, Franceschi excelled on the Las Palmas-based asphalt event to move 21 points clear in the title chase after the second round of the ERC season.  


With Andy Malfoy co-driving his AMD Motorsport-prepared Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, Michelin Motorsport ambassador Franceschi held the lead after three stages, banked a stage win and pushed Bonato for his maiden ERC victory all the way to the finish of the Power Stage.  


He eventually finished a slender 2.8sec from winning, explaining afterwards how he reached the top of the European championship summit following two action-packed ERC counters.

“When I took the lead after SS3 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,” Franceschi explained. “But at the end of the loop I thought, ‘okay, it’s good’.”  


Franceschi’s lead lasted for one stage due to a loss of confidence through the closing section of SS4 and a faster stage time from Alejandro Cachón, who moved into first place by making it two stage wins in a row. But it was Franceschi’s reaction afterwards that was particularly impressive, given his experience at international level.  


“The most difficult part 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. “So I know which points can be better for my performance and now I work on it.”  


He continued: “We tried to have a nice rhythm and a nice feeling for the second day to see if it’s possible to push with Bonato but it was demanding too much to take too much risk and we want to have the points for the championship so we decided to calm the situation, follow the road and go to the finish line.”

Although ERC points were the priority for Franceschi, his fastest time on SS11 and a run through SS12 that was equal to Cachón and 1.8sec quicker than Bonato achieved meant the gap between the top two was cut to 3.7sec heading into the Power Stage.   


Franceschi was 0.9sec quicker than Bonato through the deciding 11.5km but Bonato did just enough to take the victory by 2.8sec in a thrilling finale.  


“It’s amazing because we never expect this result in Gran Canaria because it’s a special event, it’s not Tarmac like in other championships, the French championship for example. It’s really nice and we’re so, so happy. When we had a good feeling we tried to push but sometimes we had to think about the championship and we follow the plan perfectly.”  


Click HERE to view the provisional ERC standings after round two.