Rally Islas Canarias full preview

Rally Islas Canarias full previewFrom ERC Media [ 15/03/2013 ].
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From the ice and snow of Austria and Latvia, the FIA European Rally Championship heads to sunnier climes next week for some high-speed asphalt action with a hint of Formula One thrown in for good measure.   Robert Kubica, who famously won the Canadian Grand Prix in 2008, is embarking on a switch to rallying this season after serious injury halted his glittering F1 career. And he’s chosen the ERC for his first international rally when he will go up against 16 regulars from the championship including opening round winner Jan Kopecký, who is chasing a hat-trick of triumphs on Gran Canaria’s testing stages.  

Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés, which runs for a 37th time in 2013, has been a mainstay of the FIA European Rally Cups contest for several seasons. But it now gets a fully-fledged ERC slot as host of round three of the revamped competition, which is being promoted by Eurosport Events under a 10-year agreement with the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body.

The event features 14 stages over a competitive distance of 246.34 kilometres. Following the ceremonial start in Las Palmas at 20:30hrs local time on Thursday 21 March, the action begins with the 13.57-kilometre Moya stage at 07:48hrs on Friday 22 March and finishes with the 16.23-kilometre Vallesco stage, which gets underway at 16:12hrs on Saturday 23 March. Extensive coverage of the event will be shown on Eurosport and Eurosport Player.

A tough challenge awaits…
With the stages frequently climbing and descending, drivers have to pay close attention to the speed they carry and the line they take for each corner to ensure optimal momentum is maintained at all times. That also makes precise car set-up and pacenote accuracy vital.

One of the notable features of the stages is the abrasive surface, which is partly constructed from volcanic lava. It means grip levels are high and will remain constant if it rains, although tyre wear can be increased a result. However, because there is little opportunity to take ‘cuts’ through corners, the road surface remains relatively clean of debris and consistent with the risk of punctures reduced.

…and there’s serious competition ahead
Ten crews will contest the headlining Super 2000 and Regional Rally Car class with six S2000s and four RRCs in action. With the exception of local hero Luis Monzón, who will line up in a MINI John Cooper Works RRC, all are regulars in the ERC.

Jan Kopecký, the winner of the opening ERC round in a ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia S2000, heads the entry from Peugeot Rally Academy’s Craig Breen (207 S2000) and Daniel Oliveira, who begins his eight-round ERC campaign in Gran Canaria in a Brazil World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RRC. Robert Kubica is the fifth seed behind Monzón. Other entry highlights include Jérémi Ancian, Jean-Mathieu Leandri, Janós Puskádi, Oleksii Tamrazov and Antonín Tlusťák, who represents the GPD Mit Metal Racing Team, currently first in the ERC Teams’ Championship classification.

The FIA Production Car Cup for N4 cars has attracted six entries including Andreas Aigner (Subaru Impreza R4 STI) and Team Renault Sport Technologies duo Germain Bonnefis and Robert Consani (both Mégane Renaultsport N4s).

Island regulars Enrique García Ojeda and Joan Vinyes are the top seeds for FIA ERC 2WD Championship honours where series frontrunners Zoltán Bessenyey (Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R) and Hermann Neubauer will provide strong opposition. Ekaterina Stratieva, the top-scoring female in last year’s ERC, will do battle with Emma Falcón for the new FIA ERC Ladies’ Trophy.

* Gran Canaria is located 100 kilometres off the coast of Morocco and is the third largest of seven Canary Islands.
* Czech ŠKODA driver Jan Kopecký is the event’s form man, winning in 2010 and 2012 and finishing second in 2011, 1.5s behind reigning European champion and then team-mate Juho Hänninen from Finland.
* While Kopecký’s recent success is widely recognised, two-time world champion Carlos Sainz won Rally Islas Canarias on five occasions in the 1980s.
* When it comes current and former careers, Zoltán Bessenyey and Daniel Oliveira stand out: Bessenyey is a TV presenter in his native Hungary while Oliveira played guitar in a death metal band back home in Brazil before switching to rallying.
* Feeling peckish after a day of watching the ERC action? Then try sancocho, a salt fish sweet potato accompanied by papas arrugadas, it’s a speciality on Gran Canaria.

Starts: 20:30hrs, Thursday 21 March, Parque Santa Catalina, Las Palmas
Finishes: 17:43hrs, Saturday 23 March, Plaza de Canarias, Las Palmas
Headquarters: Edificio Miller, Parque Santa Catalina
Service park: Plaza de Canarias
Entries received: 30 (international rally only)
ERC appearances: None (from restructuring of championship in 2004)
Stages: 14
Stage distance: 246.34 kilometres (144.82 kilometres on leg one, 101.52 on leg two)
Liaison: 497.18 kilometres
Total: 743.52 kilometres
Surface: Asphalt

ERC Rally Radio: Live on air on our web site from 07:30hrs, Friday 22 March and from 10:00hrs, Saturday 23 March