After a near two-month gap between rounds one and two, the second round of the 2023 European Rally Championship is finally upon us!
And after the tricky, muddy, gravel stages of Rally Serras de Fafe, it’s off to the smooth (yet punishing) asphalt roads of Rally Islas Canarias.
Here’s everything you need to know about this weekend’s event, which begins in earnest:
Total 82 crews
36 ERC crews
1 ERC3 crew
4 ERC4 crews
Numbers might be down compared to round one, but this weekend’s entry list is still stacked in quality.
Hayden Paddon tops the pile as the winner in Portugal and therefore the championship leader. He’s never won an asphalt rally at this level before, but that’s no reason to doubt the Hyundai pilot’s credentials in the Canaries.
Mads Østberg and Efrén Llarena are second and third seeds and both tipped to go well. Reigning champion Llarena struggled with the new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 on gravel, but Spanish Tarmac is the surface he grew up on.
Tom Kristensson lines up at four ahead of Andrea Mabellini, Yoann Bonato and the star of the opening round, Mikko Heikkilä. Miklós Csomós, Mārtiņš Sesks and Mathieu Franceschi complete the top 10.
There’s an ERC return for last year’s vice-champion Javier Pardo, who this year is competing for Spain Superchampionship honors in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2.
Other local hotshots to watch out for include José Antonio Suárez, Óscar Palomo and Diego Ruiloba.
Jon Armstrong is the sole entrant in ERC3, debuting M-Sport Poland’s updated Fiesta Rally3 Evo while four drivers (Roberto Daprà, Norman Kreuter, Bendegúz Hangodi and Alessandro Grillo) line up to fight for ERC4 honors.
Evolution, not revolution, has been the name of the game for the Rally Islas Canarias organizer this year, with a rally route that’s broadly identical to the year before.
The event kicks off with shakedown and qualifying on Thursday afternoon before the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria – Disa superspecial stage later that evening.
This test also ran last year, but in 2023 featured a donut inside a basketball court!
Friday comprises six stages split into two loops of three. Gáldar kicks off the loop before runs through Tejeda and Santa Lucía.
Saturday is also a six-stage affair with two loops of three, but is the longer day with an extra 5.5 miles of competitive action.
Arucas is the first scheduled test before the longest stage of the rally, the 17.2-mile Moya-Valleseco and then San Mateo-Valsequillo which runs as the powerstage in the afternoon.