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ERC: Bonato wins Rally Islas Canarias

Citroen french driver dominates second European Rally Championship round on Las Palmas island tarmac roads. Second place for Franceschi on Skoda, third Cachon that signs first european podium for Toyota GR Yaris Rally2. Franceschi now leads ERC general standings

Yoann Bonato made it back-to-back Rally Islas Canarias victories with a flawless display on round two of the 2024 FIA European Rally Championship today (Saturday, 4 May).

Co-driven by fellow Frenchman Benjamin Boulloud, Bonato started the deciding six-stage leg with a slender margin of 0.3sec over his compatriot Mathieu Franceschi. But he held on after a thrilling battle in the heat of the Gran Canaria sunshine by 2.8sec having begun the day with a brace of fastest stage times.

Bonato’s win was the first for the Citroën C3 Rally2 in this year’s ERC but the second for Michelin in 2024. With Franceschi’s Škoda Fabia Rally2 also Michelin-equipped, the French manufacturer extends its advantage in the new-for-2024 FIA European Rally Championship for Tyre Suppliers.

For Franceschi, meanwhile, two runner-up finishes in a row means he climbs to the top of the Drivers’ championship summit ahead of next month’s BAUHAUS Royal Rally of Scandinavia.

“We are very happy,” Bonato said following the third victory of his ERC career. “We tried to push as maximum as possible and the result was perfect for us, the team, the tyres and the car. It was a hard second loop with the temperatures going higher but everything was okay.”

The 40-year-old continued: “We only do three events in ERC this year and if we can win each one it should be perfect. But with such a small gap this morning we had to start like it was a new rally. And it worked.”

With championship points his priority, Franceschi admitted he had to resist the temptation to attack Bonato, a five-time French Tarmac champion, for his maiden ERC win, although he still notched up a stage win on SS11.

“We tried to have a nice rhythm and a nice feeling to see if was possible to push with Bonato,” said the 24-year-old. “But it was demanding too much to take too much risk, so for the points we decided to calm the situation, follow the road and go to the finish line. It’s amazing, we never expected this result in Gran Canaria because it’s a special event, unlike Tarmac in any other championship, so we’re so happy. Sometimes it’s important to think about the championship so we followed the plan.”

Alejandro Cachón won a thrilling all-Spanish battle for the final podium spot in his Pirelli-shod Toyota GR Yaris Rally2, defeating Diego Ruiloba by 2.7sec with Jose Antonio Suarezfinishing fifth. Cachón led after SS4 but dropped back with a damaged tyre before he launched his stunning comeback.

Reigning ERC champion Hayden Paddon started leg two in third place but with his Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2 hampered by an understeer issue, the New Zealander had to settle for sixth.

Mille Johansson on Opel Corsa wins ERC junior ahead on other swedish driver Calle Carlberg and german Timo Schulz, all on Opel Corsa.
“It feels amazing, we didn’t know we had this speed on asphalt and it’s only my third rally on this car on asphalt. A big thank you to my team, sponsor and my coach Pontus Tidemand” said Johansson after his first ERC Junior win.

Leg 1: Bonato and Franceschi on the edge

Yoann 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.

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.