With Rally Islas Canarias gearing up to host the deciding rounds of the 2020 FIA European Rally Championship from November 26-28, here are some of the main talking points.
Friends reunited: Alexey Arnautov is ending his sabbatical from competing early by returning to co-drive Alexey Lukyanuk on an event they’ve won three times previously. And it’s a big weekend for the Saintéloc Junior Team-run Lukyanuk with the Russian on top in his bid to win a second ERC title.
Familiar car, unfamiliar rally: While Oliver Solberg has experience of his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally Islas Canarias is all-new for the Swedish teenager, who is chasing ERC and ERC1 Junior titles.
Brothers in arms: Not one but two members of the Munster family are set for action on Rally Islas Canarias with Charles Munster joining older brother Grégoire Munster, leader of the ERC1 Junior standings, on an ERC entry list for the first time.
Home hopeful: Efrén Llarena, the ERC3/ERC3 Junior champion from 2019, is the best-placed Spanish driver in the European championship standings following his first outright podium on Rally Hungary earlier this month. The Rallye Team Spain Citroën C3 R5 driver is also chasing a top-three finish in ERC1 Junior.
Development focus: Although Team MRF Tyres’ Craig Breen has shown podium potential in his Hyundai i20 R5, the Indian manufacturer’s ongoing development programme is his focus on an event he last tackled in 2013, when he finished second overall with co-driver Paul Nagle.
New event to Czech out: Erik Cais missed out on a Rally Islas Canarias debut in 2019 to sit his school exams. Despite his lack of experience, the 21-year-old Czech is one to watch in ERC1 Junior at the wheel of his Yacco ACCR Team Ford Fiesta R5 MkII. Category rival Miko Marczyk also has what it takes to impress in his ORLEN Team Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo but has no previous event knowledge.
Out for revenge: Rally Hungary winner Andreas Mikkelsen was one stage away from winning Rally Islas Canarias in 2012 when his car a misfired on the final stage. He returns on a high for the Topp-Cars Rally Team with Anders Jæger-Amland back on co-driving duty in place of Ola Fløene.
Podium potential: A top-three finisher on last month’s Rally Fafe Montelongo, Iván Ares brings ample event experience to the podium fight in his self-run Hyundai.
Big Drift: As well as the confidence boost equalling his best ERC result on Rally Hungary provided Niki Mayr-Melnhof, the DriftCompany Rally Team driver has competed in Gran Canaria before, as has his friend and former GT racing team-mate Albert von Thurn und Taxis, who is entered by the Austria-based Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team operation.
It takes two: The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy can once again count on two rising stars of Irish rallying with Josh McErlean earning a second outing after placing P11 on his ERC debut in Hungary. ERC1 Junior contender Callum Devine heads the squad’s attack with the event new to both drivers.
Tempestini at last: After being forced to miss Rally Hungary due to a positive PCR test result, five-time Romanian champion Simone Tempestini makes his long-awaited ERC return following an impressive run to second in ERC1 Junior on Rally di Roma Capitale in the summer.
Great Griebel: Double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel returns to Rally Islas Canarias, an event he’s tackled twice before, much more at home in his new-for-2020 Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 R5.
Speedy Surhayen: Spaniard Surhayen Pernía has what it takes to score more 2020 ERC points in his Hyundai Motor España entry, while French flyer Yoann Bonato is a podium contender in his Michelin-equipped Citroën C3 R5, the car of choice of last year’s Rally Islas Canarias winner Pepe López and Luis Monzón, the veteran competitor who has three event victories to his name.
Fourmaux returns: Highly-rated French driver Adrien Fourmaux has been on an impressive run of wins and podiums since his ERC debut on Rally di Roma Capitale ended in a sizeable accident. Like Spaniard Enrique Cruz, Fourmaux competes in a Ford Fiesta R5 MkII.
Fab in Fabias: José Suárez and Nil Solans bring front-running potential to the entry given their world championship event experience, although Solans, the 2017 FIA Junior world champion, is new to the ERC and Rally Islas Canarias. The same can’t be said for local drivers Emma Falcón, the 2018 ERC Ladies’ Trophy winner, and Yeray Lemes, who has started the event 11 times. Like Lemes, Spaniard Francisco López and Irishman Pauric Duffy are Hyundai-powered, with Duffy part of the same PCRS team behind the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy effort.
Excellent Érdi Jr: With three consecutive ERC2 wins to his name, a third class title is Hungarian Tibor Érdi Jr’s (pictured) for the taking, although Zelindo Melegari and Andrea Mabellini can still deny him. Melegari switches back to the CHAZEL Technologie Course Alpine A110 RGT he drove for the first time on Rally Fafe Montelongo, while youngster Mabellini can’t be caught in the Abarth Rally Cup following a strong debut ERC season by the former circuit racer. Dmitry Feofanov, who has shown progression all season, and the returning Dariusz Poloński complete the ERC2 entry.
King Ken: Ken Torn starts Rally Islas Canarias for the second time preparing to celebrate his ERC3/ERC3 Junior title double in his Pirelli-equipped Ford Fiesta Rally4. With the Spa Rally no longer taking place, Rallye Team Spain’s impressive rookie, Pep Bassas, can no longer catch Estonian Autosport Junior Team driver Torn in both category standings.
Amaury aims high: Belgian Amaury Molle can finish in the top three in ERC3 and ERC3 Junior, while Portuguese Peugeot 208 Rally4 driver Pedro Almeida finished on the podium on Rally Fafe Montelongo, his home round of the ERC.
Swift in fifth: Hungarian female driver Adrienn Vogel has two strong fifth-place finishes from two ERC3 starts to hold fifth in the provisional order.
Rallying returnees: Canary Islander Sergio Fuentes is back in ERC action after a training injury forced him to miss Rally Fafe Montelongo. Sindre Furuseth’s last ERC appearance was on Barum Czech Rally Zlín in August 2019 but the Norwegian is expected to run at the front of ERC3/ERC3 Junior in his Saintéloc Junior Team-run Peugeot 208 Rally4. After non-starting on Rally di Roma Capitale, Łuksasz Lewandowski returns for the ERC season-finale, while Ekaterina Stratieva is back following her Rally Fafe Montelongo retirement with a technical issue on the final morning.
Clio drivers can: Ola Jr Nore scored a debut ERC3 Junior podium on Rally Hungary in Renault’s all-new Clio Rally5 and the 20-year-old promise from Norway will be joined in the Toksport line-up by none other than 2019 outright ERC champion Chris Ingram, who is making his European championship return alongside Ross Whittock after a year on the sidelines due to a lack of budget. Spaniard Jorge Cagiao Sueiras makes his ERC debut in a third Clio Rally5 after claiming four Clio Trophy Spain victories.