The stage is set for the first asphalt round of the 2023 FIA European Rally Championship, Rally Islas Canarias. Taking place from 4 – 6 May, the event has challenged ERC drivers and their teams on 30 previous occasions and this year’s edition, the 47th, will be no exception.
European championship leader Hayden Paddon is the top seed and his Pirelli-equipped Hyundai is one of 28 Rally2 cars entered. Unlike Paddon, Mads Østberg – 10 points behind in the title chase – has previous Rally Islas Canarias experience, as do his fellow MRF Tyres-equipped drivers Simone Campedelli, Andrea Mabellini, Javier Pardo and Mārtiṇš Sesks.
Established asphalt ace Yoann Bonato will be another driver to watch in an upgraded Citroën C3 run on Michelin tyres. The Frenchman finished Rally Islas Canarias 12 months ago tied on time with Škoda-powered Spaniard Efrén Llarena, the reigning European champion.
Other leading ERC contenders include Hungarian hopeful Miklós Csomós, French gravel champion Mathieu Franceschi, Finnish champion Mikko Heikkilä, top Czech Filip Mareš and double Austrian title winner Simon Wagner. Iván Ares, Enrique Cruz, Óscar Palomo and José Antonio Suárez are just some of drivers flying the Spanish flag.
ERC3 driver Jon Armstrong will debut M-Sport Poland’s Ford Fiesta Rally3 Evo, while Roberto Daprà heads the ERC4 category runners in a Peugeot 208 Rally4.
Precision-key asphalt roads that climb and descend and twist and turn with rapid frequency, combined with changeable mountain weather, make Rally Islas Canarias a tall order to master and a feast of high-speed entertainment that’s not to be missed.
Thursday evening’s Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the first of 13 special stages, will be a spectacle to behold as the ERC goes indoors – quite literally – from 21:05 local time (CET -1).
A section of the 1.88-kilometre test sends drivers charging through the Gran Canaria Arena basketball court where a sell-out 8000 capacity crowd will watch competitors perform a donut turn before powering towards the finish line – and all with a roof over their heads.
The Gran Canaria Arena’s basketball court will host action of a different kind tonight (3 May) when home side Gran Canaria take on Turk Telekom from Ankara in the final of the EuroCup.