Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés (Spain), 21-23 March
From the ice and snow of Austria and Latvia, the FIA European Rally Championship heads to sunnier climes next week for some high-speed asphalt action with a hint of Formula One thrown in for good measure.
GRAND PRIX ACE KUBICA BEGINS ERC BID ON ISLAND SHOWCASE
Robert Kubica, who famously won the Canadian Grand Prix in 2008, is embarking on a switch to rallying this season after serious injury halted his glittering F1 career. And he’s chosen the ERC for his first international rally when he will go up against 16 regulars from the championship including opening round winner Jan Kopecký, who is chasing a hat-trick of triumphs on Gran Canaria’s testing stages.
Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés, which runs for a 37th time in 2013, has been a mainstay of the FIA European Rally Cups contest for several seasons. But it now gets a fully-fledged ERC slot as host of round three of the revamped competition, which is being promoted by Eurosport Events under a 10-year agreement with the FIA, motorsport’s world governing body.
The event features 14 stages over a competitive distance of 246.34 kilometres. Following the ceremonial start in Las Palmas at 20:30hrs local time on Thursday 21 March, the action begins with the 13.57-kilometre Moya stage at 07:48hrs on Friday 22 March and finishes with the 16.23-kilometre Vallesco stage, which gets underway at 16:12hrs on Saturday 23 March. Extensive coverage of the event will be shown on Eurosport and Eurosport Player.
A tough challenge awaits…
With the stages frequently climbing and descending, drivers have to pay close attention to the speed they carry and the line they take for each corner to ensure optimal momentum is maintained at all times. That also makes precise car set-up and pacenote accuracy vital.
One of the notable features of the stages is the abrasive surface, which is partly constructed from volcanic lava. It means grip levels are high and will remain constant if it rains, although tyre wear can be increased a result. However, because there is little opportunity to take ‘cuts’ through corners, the road surface remains relatively clean of debris and consistent with the risk of punctures reduced.
…and there’s serious competition ahead
Ten crews will contest the headlining Super 2000 and Regional Rally Car class with six S2000s and four RRCs in action. With the exception of local hero Luis Monzón, who will line up in a MINI John Cooper Works RRC, all are regulars in the ERC.
Jan Kopecký, the winner of the opening ERC round in a ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia S2000, heads the entry from Peugeot Rally Academy’s Craig Breen (207 S2000) and Daniel Oliveira, who begins his eight-round ERC campaign in Gran Canaria in a Brazil World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RRC. Robert Kubica is the fifth seed behind Monzón. Other entry highlights include Jérémi Ancian, Jean-Mathieu Leandri, Janós Puskádi, Oleksii Tamrazov and Antonín Tlusťák, who represents the GPD Mit Metal Racing Team, currently first in the ERC Teams’ Championship classification.
The FIA Production Car Cup for N4 cars has attracted six entries including Andreas Aigner (Subaru Impreza R4 STI) and Team Renault Sport Technologies duo Germain Bonnefis and Robert Consani (both Mégane Renaultsport N4s).
Island regulars Enrique García Ojeda and Joan Vinyes are the top seeds for FIA ERC 2WD Championship honours where series frontrunners Zoltán Bessenyey (Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R) and Hermann Neubauer will provide strong opposition. Ekaterina Stratieva, the top-scoring female in last year’s ERC, will do battle with Emma Falcón for the new FIA ERC Ladies’ Trophy.
Q&A: ROBERT KUBICA
New ERC recruit on his rallying switch and the challenge ahead
Welcome to the ERC Robert. What made you choose rallying when you had options in circuit racing?
“I’m attracted by the very big challenge in front of me. It’s huge, one of the biggest, if not the biggest challenge of my life. Every rally will be a new discovery – and I might do more European championship rallies than currently planned – and that gives you more excitement. Also I’m a big fan of rallying from, following on the internet or watching on Eurosport. I was always looking to these guys and very soon I will be the guy doing those stages so it’s a really nice feeling for me.”
Given what happened to you in your accident were you not put off driving rally cars again?
“Unfortunately in motorsport accidents can happen. I don’t wish that something similar happens to other people but we have seen worse accidents in motorsport. Somehow my big passion to motorsport overall, including rallying, helped me a lot in these past two years to keep me focused to keep working and improve my condition.”
Did you always believe you’d come back and compete in international motorsport again?
“I would prefer to still be an F1 driver but my passion has led me to this programme and this is my focus although I cannot say how long for. One and a half year ago, if somebody told me I would be announcing a big programme with Lotos, Citroën and Michelin in the European championship and WRC I would not believe it. Normally I’m not an excited guy but when I am at the start of the stage it will be a huge excitement, particularly for the first rally in Canarias because it’s the first high-level challenge for me after the crash.”
What’s your target for this season?
“Definitely I need to learn and that’s why I need to keep in my mind I’m not on the race track, I’m in rallying, I’m on the stage, I have a lot to learn, I’m new to this sport. It will take time I know it but I have to take advantage of this opportunity that I have this season to learn as much as I can.”
Have you marked out any long-term career plans?
“In some way I still hope to come back to where I was, that’s definite. It’s a bit strange because I’m coming from Formula One and suddenly what was all my life stopped in one second. Now I know, I knew it always, but now I appreciate more that there’s nothing better in life than doing what you want to do. I had a great opportunity to be an F1 driver but on the other hand I have a great opportunity to become a rally driver with a very good programme. I can do a good job and provide excitement. Maybe not straight away results but excitement and somehow I can give something back to the people who have supported me.”
* Gran Canaria is located 100 kilometres off the coast of Morocco and is the third largest of seven Canary Islands.
* Czech ŠKODA driver Jan Kopecký is the event’s form man, winning in 2010 and 2012 and finishing second in 2011, 1.5s behind reigning European champion and then team-mate Juho Hänninen from Finland.
* While Kopecký’s recent success is widely recognised, two-time world champion Carlos Sainz won Rally Islas Canarias on five occasions in the 1980s.
* When it comes current and former careers, Zoltán Bessenyey and Daniel Oliveira stand out: Bessenyey is a TV presenter in his native Hungary while Oliveira played guitar in a death metal band back home in Brazil before switching to rallying.
* Feeling peckish after a day of watching the ERC action? Then try sancocho, a salt fish sweet potato accompanied by papas arrugadas, it’s a speciality on Gran Canaria.
Starts: 20:30hrs, Thursday 21 March, Parque Santa Catalina, Las Palmas
Finishes: 17:43hrs, Saturday 23 March, Plaza de Canarias, Las Palmas
Headquarters: Edificio Miller, Parque Santa Catalina
Service park: Plaza de Canarias
Facts and figures:
Entries received: 30 (international rally only)
ERC appearances: None (from restructuring of championship in 2004)
Stage distance: 246.34 kilometres (144.82 kilometres on leg one, 101.52 on leg two)
Liaison: 497.18 kilometres
Total: 743.52 kilometres
MEDIA EVENTS AND INFORMATION
Tree-planting ceremony: Departure from Parque Santa Catalina at 10:30hrs, Sunday 17 March
Media accreditation and media centre: Edificio Miller, Parque Santa Catalina. From 10:00hrs-20:00hrs, Wednesday 20 March. From 09:00hrs-21:30hrs, Thursday 21 March. From 07:30hrs-22:30hrs, Friday 22 March. From 09:00hrs-22:00hrs, Saturday 23 March
Driver autograph session: 19:00hrs-20:30hrs, Wednesday 20 March, El Corte Inglés, Fifth Floor, Avda, Messa y López 18, Las Palmas
Shakedown (priority drivers): 09:30hrs-10:30hrs, Thursday 21 March, GC-800 national road
Shakedown (all drivers): 10:30hrs-12:00hrs, Thursday 21 March, GC-800 national road
Brazil World Rally Team welcome event (all media welcome): 17:00hrs-18:00hrs, BWRT service area, Parque Santa Catalina
Pre-event press conference: 18:15hrs, Thursday 21 March, Media Centre, Edificio Miller. Drivers in attendance: Germain Bonnefis, Emma Falcón, Jan Kopecký, Robert Kubica (please note: line-up subject to change)
Official drivers’ photo: 20:00hrs, Thursday 21 March, start/finish ramp, Parque Santa Catalina
Ceremonial start: 20:30hrs, Thursday 21 March, start/finish ramp, Parque Santa Catalina
Prize-giving ceremony: 18:15hrs, Saturday 23 March, start
Post-event press conference: 19:00hrs, Saturday 23 March, Media Centre, Edificio Miller (top three drivers and co-drivers)
Media contact: Roberto Martí, email@example.com, +34 607755541
Television coverage: Go to the Watch it on TV section at www.fiaerc.com for more information
ERC Rally Radio: Live on air at www.fiaerc.com from 07:30hrs, Friday 22 March and from 10:00hrs, Saturday 23 March
Results and live timing: www.fiaerc.com