Alexey Lukyanuk delivered a Tarmac-driving masterclass with a sublime performance on the opening leg of the 45th Rally Islas Canarias, the deciding round of the 2021 FIA European Rally Championship.
With Alexey Arnautov co-driving his Saintéloc Junior Team Citroën C3 Rally2, Lukyanuk was fastest on eight out of today’s nine stages to open up an overnight lead of 32.6s.
Pirelli-equipped Lukyanuk, who is chasing a fourth victory in Las Palmas, was flat out from the start and remained composed when he was handed a 10s penalty for a tyre chicane infringement on SS2.
“I’m just happy, it was probably the most enjoyable day in my rallying career,” said Lukyanuk, the 2018 and 2020 ERC champion who was forced to miss last month’s Rally Hungary due to funding issues. “It’s a really nice feeling inside, I’m just enjoying in full and thanks for everyone who has made this happen for me. Despite this penalty it’s almost a perfect day for us. The pace was good, the times were good and the feeling was fantastic like the cars and the tyres. Thanks to Pirelli and Citroën for a super package.”
Rallye Team Spain’s Efren Llarena has boosted his chances of beating Miko Marczyk (ORLEN Team) to the runner-up spot in the final ERC standings by completing leg one in second overall to earn a potential four leg bonus points. However, Canary Island champion Enrique Cruze is just 3.6s behind the Rallye Team Spain driver. By winning Friday’s final stage, Marczyk was able to demote Simone Campedelli (Team MRF Tyres) for fourth with Yoann Bonato (CHL Sport Auto) in sixth followed by Surhayén Pernía, Iván Ares, Luis Monzón and Nil Solans.
Jan Solans dropped from ninth to P11 when he spun on SS9. Yeray Lemes is P12 on his debut in the all-new Hyundai i20 N Rally2, followed by Albert von Thurn und Taxis, who is starting his fifth Rally Islas Canarias on the back of a testing crash that the ex-GT racer reckoned had hampered his quest for finding an optimal set-up. Jarosław Kołtun and Luis Vilariño are P14 and P15 respectively.
Javier Pardo remains on course for ERC2 title glory despite dropping almost three minutes with a loss of power on SS2. And while his bid for a sixth straight victory is seemingly over, it’s been another strong day from his Suzuki Motor Ibérica team with Joan Vinyes leading the showroom category from Abarth Rally Cup pacesetter Carlos David García. Dmitry Feofanov, Pardo’s title rival, was forced to stop and change a damaged tyre on SS8 and has slipped to fifth in class as a result.
Anthony Fotia, driving a CHL Sport Auto Renault Clio Rally4, heads ERC3 and ERC3 Junior on his Rally Islas Canarias debut. Jean-Baptiste Franceschi is 0.9s behind in a Toksport WRT Clio Rally4 as he bids to win the ERC3 and ERC3 Junior titles. Sami Pajari, who heads the provisional ERC3 Junior standings, is 4.2s behind Franceschi in third.
How battle for ERC glory unfolded on day one in Gran Canaria
Free from the pressure of pushing for a third ERC title, Alexey Lukyanuk hit the ground running this morning, outpacing Efrén Llarena by 0.1s on SS1 before beating Miko Marczyk by the same margin on SS2. He then headed Iván Ares by 2.0s on SS3 but saved his best to last on SS4 by going 6.4s faster than Canary Island champion Enrique Cruz through the 13.07-kilometre Santa Lucía test streamed live on Facebook and YouTube.
“It’s a perfect Canarias and the thing we enjoy the most and expect from this island,” Lukyanuk said prior to the midday halt at the Estadio Gran Canaria. “These stages are just fantastic and we have enjoyed every metre. It was a massive pleasure [on stage four], probably the most exciting stage I have ever done.”
Lukyanuk started the afternoon loop 4.5s in front of Llarena with Cruz in third. He gradually extended that margin with four stage wins, including a blitzing run through the second pass of Santa Lucía live on Facebook and YouTube, which he topped by 6.9s. It gave him a margin of 31.2s heading to the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria street stage. Despite missing out on a clean sweep of stage wins by 0.2s, Lukyanuk competed leg one with an advantage of 32.6s.
By sharing the fastest time with Surhayén Pernía on the day-closing SS9, Marczyk was able to demote Simone Campedelli for fourth after both Škoda drivers received 10-second penalties. Marczyk was punished for being adjudged to have jumped the start of SS4, while Campedelli hit a tyre chicane on SS2.
Jan Solans was on course to finish leg one in ninth overall behind Yoann Bonato, Pernía and Iván Ares but a spin and reverse on SS9 dropped him to P11 behind Luis Monzón and his older brother Nil Solans. The Team MRF Tyres driver struggled for form in the morning but myriad set-up changes at midday service helped him to the second fastest time on SS5.
Vinyes on course for victory in ERC2 as title rivals Pardo and Feofanov suffer setbacks
Joan Vinyes capitalised on his Rally Islas Canarias knowledge to lead ERC2 from Friday’s first test as Suzuki Motor Ibérica team-mate Javier Pardo’s hopes of a sixth straight victory were hit by a power loss on SS2. Despite being overtaken on the stage by title rival Dmitry Feofanov as he limped to the finish of the test, the Spaniard was quickly back up to speed on SS3 following repairs to the extent he was able to demote Feofanov for third in class on SS6. And with the title Pardo’s priority on his home round of the championship, he was more than happy for Vinyes to lead from the front. “In one race it’s possible to be unlucky but the rest of the season has been very good and I am happy for Joan and Jordi [Mercader] to be leading,” said Pardo. Vinyes added: “It’s a good day and the car is fantastic. We have so much advantage to the driver in second.” That advantage over Abarth Rally Cup leader Carlos David García stands at 1m51.3s after nine stages with Pardo 1m11.6s behind García in third. Newcomer Serhii Potiiko is fourth in a Proracing Rally Team Rally2 Kit-specification Škoda Fabia R4, while Feofanov’s title hopes suffered a further setback when he was forced to change a damaged tyre on SS8. Tibor Érdi Jr’s debut in a second Fabia R4 was over almost before it had began after the Hungarian clipped a wall with the right-rear of his car 50 metres from the start of SS1. Dariusz Poloński, the Abarth Rally Cup title winner for 2021, retired on SS2 with an electrical fault.
Fotia first but Franceschi fighting hard in ERC3/ERC3 Junior
Anthony Fotia has shrugged off his lack of experience of international-level competition and the high-grip Rally Islas Canarias stages to head ERC3/ERC3 Junior in his Pirelli-equipped Renault Clio Rally4 run by CHL Sport Auto and co-driven by fellow Frenchman Arnaud Dunand. After nine stages, Fotia heads ERC3/ERC3 Junior title chaser Jean-Baptiste Franceschi by 0.9s with ERC3 Junior points leader Sami Pajari 4.2s behind Franceschi. “The car has been fine all day and I have been very pleased with my performance for my first time here and my second time in ERC,” said Fotia. Pep Bassas is fourth in ERC3 but 17.8s behind Pajari after brake and intercom issues and a loss of power held him back this morning. Jorge Cagiao is fifth with Martin László sixth, Paulo Soria is seventh and Nick Loof eighth. Zósimo Hernández, from the nearby island of El Hierro, is ninth on his first ERC start in 20 years. Ekaterina Stratieva completes the top 10 on her first start in a Rally4 car.
PROVISIONAL TOP 15 ERC POSITIONS (after nine stages, 106.41 kilometres)
1 Alexey Lukyanuk (RUS)/Alexey Arnautov (RUS) Citroën C3 Rally2 1h05m08.02s
2 Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +32.6s
3 Enrique Cruz (ESP)/Yeray Mujica (ESP) Ford Fiesta Rally2 +36.2s
4 Miko Marczyk (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +37.7s
5 Simone Campedelli (ITA)/Tania Canton (CHE) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +38.4s
6 Yoann Bonato (FRA)/Benjamin Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 Rally2 +43.2s
7 Surhayén Pernía (ESP)/Alba Sánchez (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +45.0s
8 Iván Ares (ESP)/David Vázquez (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +48.0s
9 Luis Monzón (ESP)/José Déniz (ESP) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +1m03.3s
10 Nil Solans (ESP)/Marc Martí (ESP) Hyundai i20 R5 +1m05.5s
11 Jan Solans (ESP)/Rodrigo Sanjuan (ESP) Citroën C3 Rally2 +1m09.4s
12 Yeray Lemes (ESP)/Rogelio Peñate (ESP) Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +1m34.7s
13 Albert von Thurn und Taxis (DEU)/Bernhard Ettel (AUT) Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +2m29.3s
14 Jarosław Kołtun (POL)/Ireneusz Pleskot (POL) Ford Fiesta Rally2 +3m21.9s
15 Luis Vilariño (ESP)/José Murado (ESP) Śkoda Fabia Rally2 Evo +3m42.6s ...
FIA ERC2: Joan Vinyes (AND)/Jordi Mercader (ESP) Suzuki Swift R4lly S
FIA ERC3: Anthony Fotia (FRA)/Arnaud Dunand (FRA) Renault Clio Rally4
FIA ERC Junior: Ken Torn (EST)/Kauri Pannas (EST) Ford Fiesta Rally3
FIA ERC3 Junior: Anthony Fotia (FRA)/Arnaud Dunand (FRA) Renault Clio Rally4
Abarth Rally Cup: Carlos David García (ESP)/Nazer Ghuneim (ESP) Abarth 124 rally