M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux took a lead of over half a minute on the European Rally Championship’s Canary Islands decider after more rain-induced chaos on Saturday morning, as the Spanish championship frontrunners fell back.
Fourmaux had charged up to second at the end of the first day and immediately took the lead on Saturday opener Valleseco, as rally leader Iván Ares was 10 seconds off the pace.
Early rally leader Nil Solans was back on a charge after dropping time on the wrong tire choice during Friday’s last three stages and won Galdar to temporarily resume the lead.
But Galdar proved to be the most difficult stage of the loop, with several drivers aquaplaning off the road and picking up damage to varying degrees.
In Solans’ case, he picked up two punctures on Galdar, blaming stones which had been brought onto the road by the time he came through.
With only one spare in the boot Solans had to drive with a left-rear puncture on the last two stages of the loop and plummeted down the leaderboard.
Ares didn’t fare well either, spinning at high speed on Arucas and dropping a whole minute across the last two stages.
That allowed Fourmaux to build a 33.4s lead, with his French compatriot Yoann Bonato now his nearest rival in second place.
Bonato clipped a barrier on Arucas and had also taken a trip off-road in the final few corners of Galdar like several of his rivals, though he was otherwise untroubled by the unpredictable grip and won both the Valleseco and Moya stages.
“You need a boat, and we only have a car,” Bonato said at the end of Galdar, summarizing the stage conditions succinctly.
Oliver Solberg was one of the few drivers early in the road order that didn’t skate off at a slow right-hander on that stage that caught out most of those around him.
Despite then saying he had “backed straight off” amid the unpredictable grip, a second-fastest time on Arucas propelled the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 driver up to fourth place, 10.6s ahead of Spanish championship title contender José Antonio Suárez.
Suárez was caught out elsewhere on Galdar, ripping the rear bumper off his Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo and only making the top 10 stage times once all loop, on Valleseco.
He now faces ERC points leader Alexey Lukyanuk closing in behind, only 2.5s in arrears in sixth place.
But ultimately Suárez will be more worried about Luis Monzón in seventh, who is lurking 19.7s behind him.
Falling behind Monzón would end Suárez’s hopes of a first Spanish national title, as he needs to finish in the top two and bag bonus points in that category’s ‘TC Plus’, which is similar to the World Rally Championship’s powerstage format.
Andreas Mikkelsen would have been all set to retain seventh ahead of Monzón had he not copped a 20 second penalty for being late to the Moya stage.
His recalcitrant Fabia refused to fire up, with Mikkelsen having to push his car into time control and clocking in two minutes late.
Mikkelsen’s woe was compounded by an overshoot on the same stage, which dropped him back down a place after he had taken seventh off Monzón on Galdar.
Craig Breen climbed into the top 10 for the first time all rally on Galdar, waxing lyrical about the final stretch of the test which had caught out several other drivers being an example of “proper rallying”.
Team MRF’s sole representative this weekend is engaged in a close battle with fellow Irishman Callum Devine, who passed Breen for ninth on Arucas and heads to midday service three seconds up on his compatriot.
Marijan Griebel joined Saintéloc team-mate Lukyanuk in skating off the road in the final treacherous section of Galdar, while Enrique Cruz spun and ripped the front bumper off his Ford Fiesta Rally2 in the same spot.
Those dramas promoted qualifying stage winner Miko Marczyk to 11th, with Griebel slotting into 12th.
Solberg remains on course to win the ERC1 Junior title, with Grégoire Munster still too far back after his nightmare start to the rally on Friday morning.
Munster remains sixth in the Junior class and isn’t set to improve his existing championship points haul due to the best-of-four scoring format, while Solberg remains on track for a haul of 32 points that would put him 10 points clear at the top.
Hyundai junior Munster’s day was mostly uneventful, though he glanced a barrier at slow speed in the low-grip conditions.
Pep Bassas now has a commanding lead in the ERC3 class despite nearly crashing out on the tricky Galdar stage, where his nearest rivals fared even worse.
Galdar caught out all three lead contenders in the two-wheel-drive class, with Bassas first to arrive with the left-rear door panel ripped off his Peugeot 208 Rally4 and a bent wheel after a trip off-road.
That cost Bassas almost a minute and put Sindre Furuseth in a perfect position to capitalise, only for Furseth to go off at the exact same corner.
Fate was not on the Saintéloc driver’s case as unlike Bassas, Furuseth got stuck in undergrowth and retired on the spot.
Newly crowned ERC3 and ERC3 Junior champion Ken Torn won the stage and gained 42.3s on Bassas but didn’t escape Galdar scot-free either, denting his Ford Fiesta Rally4 in the left-rear.
Torn then spun on Moya and got stuck, with spectators having to push his car back onto the road and losing four minutes in the process.
Despite that delay Torn still holds second, as Pedro Almeida had retired his 208 Rally4 before the second leg began.
Jorge Cagiao completes the ER3 podium in a Renault Clio Rally5, 2m05.3s behind Torn.
Reigning ERC champion Chris Ingram is sixth in class in another Clio and is closing in on Amaury Molle for fifth, the gap now down to 20.4s.
Leading positions after SS13
1 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (Ford) 1h40m14.4s
2 Yoann Bonato/Benjamin Boulloud (Citroën) +33.4s
3 Iván Ares/David Vázquez (Hyundai) +1m00.9s
4 Oliver Solberg/Aaron Johnston (Volkswagen) +1m36.1s
5 José António Suárez/Alberto Iglesias (Škoda) +1m46.7s
6 Alexey Lukyanuk/Alexey Arnautov (Citroën) +1m49.2s
7 Luis Monzón/Jose Carlos Deniz (Citroën) +2m06.4s
8 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jäger (Skoda) +2m22.0s
9 Callum Devine/James Fulton (Hyundai) +2m24.8s
10 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +2m27.8s