ERC EVENT PREVIEW: RALLY ISLAS CANARIAS, 3-5 MAY
FIA European Rally Championship round 2/8
FIA ERC Junior Under 27/FIA ERC Junior Under 28 round 2/6
From the spectacular gravel sweeps of the Azores Airlines Rallye to the challenging twists and turns of Rally Islas Canarias, the chase for success in the FIA European Rally Championship continues from 3-5 May with an all-asphalt counter savoured by drivers and followed by thousands of enthusiastic fans.
All you need to know: Click here for the event guide, itinerary and other essential information
Who’s in it to win it? Click here for the Rally Islas Canarias entry list
They said what? Click here for quotes from all ERC Junior drivers
What’s new for 2018? Click here for a summary of all the ERC changes for 2018
For everything else… Go to the online ERC Media Centre by click here
ERC RALLY ISLAS CANARIAS IN NUMBERS:
27: A total of 27 top-of-the-range R5 cars are set for action across the international and national events
60: Of the 60 crews originally entered for the international section, 20 are eligible for ERC Junior
3: Three reigning notable national champions are competing on Rally Islas Canarias: Norbert Herczig (Hungary), Fabian Kreim (Germany) and Iván Ares (Spain), while Chris Ingram won the ERC Junior Under 27 title in 2017 and steps up to ERC Junior Under 28 in 2018
14: This year’s Rally Islas Canarias features 14 stages over a competitive distance of 202.72 kilometres
2: After counting as one stage last season, the new-for-2017 Las Palmas de Gran Canaria street stage will be split into two tests this year to further raise the spectacle
*Rally Islas Canarias boasts a number of prominent former winners including Didier Auriol, Piero Liatti and Carlos Sainz, who claimed five consecutive wins in the 1980s
*The Canary Islands is known for its good weather with the ambient temperature ranging from 17-24 degrees centigrade. Warm and sunny conditions are being forecast for rally week
*Rally Islas Canarias joined the ERC for the first time in 1982 and has counted for Europe’s premier rally championship 24 times
*Islas Canarias comes from the Latin Insula Canaria, or Island of the Dogs, which were believed to be a type of monk seal
*A dish of choice in the Canary Islands is ropa vieja, made from chicken, beef, potatoes and beans
LUKYANUK WARY OF ERC JUNIOR THREAT ON RALLY ISLAS CANARIAS
*ERC Juniors aiming to shine on Gran Canaria’s Tarmac counter
*Llarena flies the flag for national federation-backed Rally Team Spain
*Fast female Falcón among local stars in action
Alexey Lukyanuk admits he’ll have his work cut out in his bid to make it two wins from two in this year’s all-action FIA European Rally Championship.
Lukyanuk claimed a comprehensive victory on the season-opening Azores Airlines Rallye last month, his winning margin only reduced after he performed a series of celebratory ‘donuts’ nearing the finish of the final stage, such was his eagerness to celebrate a fine performance alongside co-driver Alexey Arnautov.
While the competition was seriously strong in the Azores, Lukyanuk expects another tough battle for victory on the all-asphalt Rally Islas Canarias, which features a significantly revamped route for 2018 over a competitive distance of 202.72 kilometres.
“I hope we can adjust the car well during the tests because the race will be very difficult and exciting,” said the Russian Performance Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5 driver, a dominant winner in Gran Canaria last season. “I have restrained expectations because anything can happen, there are different rivals, Spaniards, French, young Russians and almost all of last year’s liaisons became special stages and vice versa. But I love it and the mood is excellent.”
Nikolay Gryazin and co-driver Yaroslav Fedorov are the young Russian crew capable of challenging for victory on Rally Islas Canarias. After winning the 2017 season-closing Rally Liepāja, the Sports Racing Technologies pair are in the hunt for more success, although the 20-year-old Gryazin is quick to play down his chances. “I feel more comfortable on gravel but my target is to be faster and faster on Tarmac. This is a difficult rally with very abrasive Tarmac. It means it’s difficult to manage the tyres so you need to be smart and not push every time in order to save the tyres in the long stages.”
While the outright ERC title is Lukyanuk’s focus, Gryazin’s main aim is to land the ERC Junior Under 28 title for young stars in R5 cars. But after electing not to include the Azores Airlines Rallye on his schedule for 2018, Gryazin will be playing catch-up as he bids to overhaul Chris Ingram in the standings.
Stepping up to R5 power for the first time, Ingram drove his Toksport ŠKODA Fabia to the class win in the Azores. “The Azores was a dream R5 debut for me, although I was a little bit disappointed to miss out on an overall podium because I knew we could do it,” said the Briton. “Originally our plan was to win the U28s this year and then win the championship next year, but myself and Toksport have put a hell of a lot of effort in to see what we can do, especially for this rally we did an extra test because if we can beat Lukyanuk or something happens to him we need to think about the overall championship.”
Of the drivers aiming to emulate Ingram by winning the ERC Junior U27 title, three are competing with major support from motorsport federations/automobile associations. They are Dominik Brož (ACCR, Czech Republic), Tom Kristensson (ADAC, Germany) and Efrén Llarena (RFEDA, Spain. Points scored by the trio will count towards the ERC Nations’ Cup, a new initiative for 2018 that promotes the participation in the European championship by these organisations and, in turn, provides an extra opportunity for rising talents to progress from national to international level.
Other changes for 2018 include reducing the number of scoring rounds in ERC2 from six to four – which has resulted in double the number of all-season campaigners – a requirement for drivers to be ERC registered in order to score overall points and a revamp to the ERC Ladies’ Trophy points system. Rather than recognise the achievements of women when competing against other women drivers, to promote gender equality, drivers will score points based on where they appear in the final two or four-wheel-drive order. Click here for a full summary of rule changes for 2018.
ERC Junior Under 28: More star names enter the fray*
Nikolay Gryazin, José Suárez and Aleks Zawada will join the FIA ERC Junior Under 28 ranks on Rally Islas Canarias. But while Gryazin and Suárez have ERC Junior U28 experience from their impressive exploits in 2017, Zawada is stepping up from ERC Junior U27 – where he challenged for the title in 2017 – to drive a top-of-the-range R5 car in competition for the first time, lining up in a Hyundai i20 R5. Like Zawada, Spaniard Suárez is also embarking on unchartered territory. Having campaigned a PEUGEOT 208 T16 in ERC Junior U28 last season, Rally Islas Canarias marks the 27-year-old’s first European championship appearance in a Hyundai I20 R5, which he’ll use for a programme of Spanish and international events with support from Hyundai Motor España. German champion Fabian Kreim will represent ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland with Team OSCARO’s Pierre-Louis Loubet driving a BRC Racing Team Hyundai. Hubert Ptaszek will drive for the TRT Krezus Rally Team, while Laurent Pellier has the support of the PEUGEOT Rally Academy behind him in his step up to R5 machinery following success in the 208 Rally Cup one-make series in his native France. Jan Černý had been due to compete in an ACCR Czech Team Fiesta R5 but engine supply issues have forced his withdrawal from the event. Chris Ingram heads the standings – and the race for a World Rally Car prize drive – following his Azores victory.
*Pre-event quotes from ERC Junior Under 28 drivers are available by clicking here.
ERC Junior Under 27: All eyes on Llarena in Pirelli-backed class*
Much is expected of Efrén Llarena in ERC Junior Under 27. Embarking on his first international campaign as his prize for winning the Beca Junior R2 crown in his native Spain last season, Llarena has been on impressive form already with second place in the Azores behind winner and category leader Diogo Gago from Portugal. Although he’s new to Rally Islas Canarias, Llarena admits he has a preference for competing on asphalt. Tom Kristensson and Mārtiņš Sesks have been charged with chasing a fourth consecutive title for ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team. Kristensson gets his chance after winning the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup in Germany in 2017, while Sesks is a graduate of the ERC Junior Experience training programme. Their rivals will include ACCR Czech Team’s Dominik Brož, Saintéloc Junior Team trio Miika Hokkanen – a new recruit for Rally Islas Canarias – Catie Munnings and Simon Wagner, plus circuit racer turned rally driver Mattia Vita from Italy. Austria’s Roland Stengg and Spain’s Roberto Blach are competing in ERC Junior U27 for the first time with Stengg planning a season-long bid. All ERC Junior Under 27 drivers will be enrolled onto the ERC Junior Experience training programme. *Pre-event quotes from ERC Junior Under 27 drivers are available by clicking here.
And in other news…
*Following his third place in the Azores, Bruno Magalhães continues his ERC bid in an ARC Sport Fabia. The Portuguese will use the build-up to the event to announce a new sponsor to supplement his existing SEAJETS backing.
*Hermann Neubauer is back in a replacement Ford Fiesta R5 following his car-wrecking crash in the Azores, where Albert von Thurn und Taxis was also a non-finisher following an off.
*Former Polish champion Grzegorz Grzyb is making his first ERC start of the season and will go up against another ex-national title winner, Łukas Habaj, a non-starter on Rally Islas Canarias last year following a crash in Free Practice.
*Orhan Avcioglu continues his European adventure after graduating to the ERC as the winner of the FIA Balkan Rally Trophy in 2017. His Toksport entry required significant repair after he crashed in the Azores.
*Having achieved success on the world stage, Eyvind Brynildsen is an exciting addition to the ERC entry from Rally Islas Canarias onwards. The Norwegian will compete in an Autotek Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5.
*Brazil’s Paulo Nobre is returning to international competition this season after successfully masterminding the rise of Palmeiras in his role as club president. Nobre, a regular in the WRC and in cross-country rallying in the past, is competing with his old team, Motorsport Italia.
*Hungarian Dávid Botka, a former ERC2 champion, will be hoping for better fortune on Rally Islas Canarias after technical issues hampered his Azores bid. Compatriot Norbert Herczig was a promising sixth in the Azores for the MOL Racing Team and has a preference for Tarmac over gravel.
*Canary Islander Emma Falcón and Catie Munnings will battle for ERC Ladies’ Trophy honours, while Florian Bernardi is new to ERC3 in a Renault Clio R.S.
*Rapid local drivers Luis Monzón and Surhayen Pernía will challenge for top 10 overall finishes.
Showroom showdown: New rules result in expanded ERC2 interest
With the number of scoring rounds reduced from six to four in response to competitor feedback, the amount of drivers planning season-long campaigns in ERC2 – the category for standard production cars – has doubled. Juan Carlos Alonso heads the list following his impressive victory in the Azores where Sergei Remennik placed a fine second. Zelindo Melegari, last season’s championship runner-up, went off the road, while suspension failure ended Tibor Érdi Jr’s hopes of a winning start to his title defence. Gilbert Bannout from Lebanon replaces Turkey’s Tarik Manderes Okur in the Toksport WRT attack.
Watch and listen
Highlights from both legs will be shown on Eurosport and available on Eurosport Player. ERC Radio will broadcast live from stage finishes and selected service park visits.