The FIA European Rally Championship is on the verge of announcing the names of the new title holders – the final round of the series was officially launched on Thursday evening. The 44th Rally Islas Canarias will last until 28 November and will be held in “full format” – two racing days – Friday and Saturday, 17 special stages and just over 200 kilometers of competitive distance on the asphalt roads of Gran Canaria will reveal the fastest racers of 2020!
Everyone must pay tribute to the rally organizers, who did everything possible and not only retained the full-scale racing format, but also decided not to use multiple passes on special stages, so the racers will have to drive more than a hundred unique kilometers of roads. As a commitment to the municipalities most affected by last year’s wildfires, the organizers have developed a route to visit as many of these areas as possible. Also, in response to antiviral restrictions, the Service Park and the rally Headquarters have been moved from the port to the Gran Canaria stadium, where everything will remain closed for spectators.
The organizers efforts to make this rally possible are impressive, as is the entry list! There are 97 crews, 45 of them entered the FIA European Rally Championship, 38 of which will start in R5 class vehicles. Perhaps, there are only two contenders for the title at the end of the year in the overall standings – Alexey Lukyanuk and Oliver Solberg (recall that now the score is 116 against 89, respectively). And if Solberg only needs victory in the race, then it is enough for Lukyanuk to control the young Swede, keeping the lead in points, and finish in the top three.
Alexey Arnautov, who was on a sabbatical, followed the performance of his friend very closely. News from the racetracks could not leave him indifferent, and he suggested to resume joint performances with Alexey Lukyanuk starting with the Rally Islas Canarias, since he has a racing license and a valid visa for traveling to the European Union countries – earlier this year Arnautov has started at the FIA World Rally Championship round in Estonia.
The renewal of cooperation is a proposal that turned out to be the best possible solution for Lukyanuk at the final season race. The crew of two Alexeys has started at the Rally Islas Canarias five times and has become the winner of the FIA ERC island round three times; the features of these roads are well known and studied.
Alexey Arnautov, “I thought that I had stayed at home and had not been on vacation for a long time. It’s not difficult to get back to the rally. Of course, minor mistakes easily pop up here; you seem to do everything familiar, but sometimes feel more nervous. But I think everything will be fine, because the head works several times faster during the race. We’re not for the first time here; it’s a difficult rally, and the co-driver’s work plays a significant role”.
Rally Islas Canarias is a difficult competition for any driver or co-driver; the nature of the roads is specific and requires a high concentration of attention, the tracks are full of descents, ascents, have a lot of corners, drivers must control the speed of entering each of them in order to maintain the optimal trajectory and dynamics of the car. The co-drivers also do not have time to be bored, they got difficult notes: there are a lot of positions in the road book, each of which informs about some forks, junctions of paths and small settlements. This rally has enough work to do and requires extra attention from both crew members.
The racing field, teams and rally fans are used to the fact that island events open the program every year; the more unusual is the current time of the race – end of November. Average daily temperatures are stable and there are no abrupt changes in climate because of the Gran Canaria geographical location. But the current weather conditions offer riders a variety – it’s dry and warm off the coast, and wet and damp in the mountains. It is not uncommon for the rain to wet the asphalt tracks during the passage of the first crews, the average speeds dropped, but for the racers from the middle of the field the roadbed had time to dry out and they “shot” with productive times.
It is not surprising because this is the Grand Final, and the audience always supports fast and strong drivers, enthusiastically following the twists and turns of racing plots, and it is more interesting when the weather or other natural forces interfere in the fight. The rally organizers and promoters always manage to guess the dates of their round so that the event is not easy and very intriguing.
Alexey Lukyanuk, “The rally in the Canary Islands has already started for us – we had quite good tests; I think that in relation to last year we’ve made significant progress in the car set-up. In 2019, it was the first asphalt race in a Citroen and, of course, we were far from understanding how this car should drive; now the situation is changing. Not everything can be tried during the test runs, but the feelings are quite positive. The weather adds a little piquancy – it rained for several days, and this is not quite a typical picture for this area, it’s usually warm and dry here. There is an unknown component, but let’s look at what the weather will be like during the race.
We have very strong entry list, there are many fast drivers from WRC2, several local strong Spanish drivers who will also push hard – it will be funny! I believe that Andreas Mikkelsen, who has driven more than 1,500 kilometers at the FIA WRC races, will be fast, I think he will set the pace for everyone. And for us, a tactical fight with Oliver Solberg is planned, where we don’t even have to be ahead, the main thing is to be close to keep the points reserve. This task is clearly feasible, but at the same time we don’t want to sit in the rear and wait. The race is long, difficult and interesting, let’s try to go at our own pace – quickly and reliably, having fun”.
The rally organizers and promoters took care of the fans safety; although spectators are not allowed to enter the special stages, they will still be able to follow their favorite crews online during live broadcasts. The Grand-finale ERC’s live stage coverage includes footage from the camera in the sky and from the stage finish lines:
- On Friday November 27, SS1 will be live on Facebook and YouTube from 10h19* followed by SS8 at 16h10. Spanish motorsport governing body’s RFEDA is arranging a live stream of SS9 at 18h33.
- On Saturday November 28, SS11 (10h29) and SS17 (15h45) will also be shown as they happen on Facebook and YouTube.
Daily highlights will be shown on Eurosport and Eurosport Player at 23h00 CET on Friday and 00h30 CET on Sunday, while a number of videos will be published on FIAERC.com and YouTube before, during and after the rally.
The ERC All Access magazine show will be broadcast on Eurosport at 00h30 CET on December 2, while the extended Rally Review programme is distributed to global broadcasters.
ERC Radio: Live from the end of stages. Available at FIAERC.com or download the official ERC App.
*- local time GMT +0