What happened at the Rally Islas Canarias?

Rally Islas Canarias 2019 was the second round of the FIA European Rally Championship. Gran Canaria, one of the three largest islands in terms of both area and height of the Canary archipelago, hosted 65 FIA ERC participants from 2 to 4 May.

Sergei Remennik planned to continue his performance in the ERC-2 standings in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. At the current event the Abarth Rally Cup competitors joined the production cars; now the R4-K and RGT vehicles can also score points in the updated ERC-2 category. The Abarth Cup will be held at six of eight series rounds included in the current year calendar.

This entry started the news about the Russian crew participation in the Rally Islas Canarias that was prepared for publication before it became clear that the car, damaged after the run-off at the test special stage, could not be restored fast on the eve of that rally start. Why has it happened? After the emotions have gone and there is a little less than a week before the new FIA European Rally Championship round, we can recall what has happened without vivid epithets. Let us give the floor to Sergei Remennik, the crew driver; he will tell how that rally week events took shape.

Sergei Remennik, driver, “I think the upcoming battle would have been interesting, since there are three classes of cars in the same category. This is a positive moment if to speak about the field filling. Before the rally start it was hard to imagine how it would look in the results table, because on gravel production four-wheel drive cars are definitely faster than Abarth and Porsche 911 with rear-wheel drives, but I think at fast asphalt races there would be nothing to “catch” next to these nimble cars. There is not a large number of R4 category vehicles, and it is difficult to assume how many of them will appear at the rallies during the season. But when everyone gathers, it will be possible to compare.

What happened at the Rally Islas Canarias?I arrived at the Canary Islands in advance to acclimatize and practice a little bit in making notes at the local roads that were not included into the rally route. Before the rally I spent three days with Alexey Lukyanuk training in the Baltics. There were some interesting asphalt sections and we had a very productive time.

I’ve already “tasted” asphalt races, I had my first experience in it just on the Canary Islands – I really liked it. To drive fast on the asphalt is not so spectacular for the fans, but inside the car it’s a very specific thing. It’s an interesting experience and understanding how to turn to the right angle in order not to overheat the tyres of the front axle, because Lancer is quite a heavy car compared to the R5 or the prototype. And when the asphalt road is narrow, my Production car is really not so convenient to drive. Now I like the asphalt races and I was looking forward to the event start.

Unfortunately, a day before the departure there was a replacement in the crew: Mark Rozin was not able to take part in the rally because he got sick (yes, it happens). At night an urgent question about a co-driver was decided. There were several options: first of all, Marina Danilova, but she was involved in her main crew at this period – the rally in Russia took place on the same dates as ours. Several other candidates were considered, but either the co-drivers didn’t have an international license, or they were busy. So “heavy artillery” went into action – Oleg Krylov, the crew manager.

Beside the fact that we have a long-standing cooperation in the Baltic States and Europe, Oleg is an experienced co-driver. He had already read me the notes many times, although it happened regularly when Mark corrected something in his notebooks, and we checked with the video what had already been written. Oleg and I have never driven together and this was an adventure, it could have been fun. The team and the car were in place; we couldn’t cancel participation in the race last moment, when we have already incurred so many costs… In any case we were going to take part in the rally, and we wanted to show the best possible result in that situation, but we only demonstrated, that we were enough “lucky”.

We went to a test session scheduled by the organizers before the rally start; the speed section was new for everyone and turned out to be a rather narrow mountain road. And the most sudden for us was littered asphalt surface in those places where we didn’t expect it. The Spanish race has a very clean asphalt and we didn’t even think that we could get on a dirty surface. We were not ready for it, because usually the roads on the island are very clean and even. So much that they “forgive” small mistakes – even if you just slip out of the trajectory, you slide a little bit, then the car catches the surface and go in the right direction again. You can stretch the trajectories; in general, the rally is a pure pleasure, like a circuit race, just across the mountains.

But the test section this year was such that in places there were only trajectories that were rolled out and scattered by wheels, like ruts. It’s not clear, why there was so much dirt on the track. It was obviously, where it was possible to “cut” in corners, but where we slipped, this dirt seemed to come from nowhere. Nevertheless, it happened like that: we drove a little bit earlier into the turn and came out a little wider; it was a matter of several tens of centimeters, the rear right wheel fell on dirt or sand, and the car immediately lost its grip. It began to slide and thus drove to the cliff, got hit by the front right part; we flew up because of this, made a half-turn in the air and stayed hanging on the guard rail by some miracle. And literally in the next turn Catie Munnings’s car ran-off and fell from the bridge, and the Hyundai of Jose Suarez fell on top of it. They were lucky with their cars that were not so seriously damaged, but our “Lancer” will be ready only for the next rally in Latvia – the front end has been significantly warped. We tried to find any car for rent for a race on the islands, but without success.

Frankly speaking, it was not easy to pull myself together and go for a recce, the mood was such: I wanted nothing at all. But Oleg and I drove both days of recce, made the pacenotes, compared it with the records of Alexey Lukyanuk in order to evaluate our expectations from the route and reality. We didn’t have enough experience in the incident at the test special stage and it’s a pity that we couldn’t drive such a great race. I would say this is one of my favorite asphalt rallies. Because here you can drive fast, the roads are wide enough in some places, the grip is excellent – all the components to enjoy driving on asphalt.

I would also like to thank all the fans and rally amateurs who wrote me or expressed words of support in person! The most amazing thing is that when we went to the special stages to “escort” Lukyanuk and Arnautov, people recognized me there and said, “Do not be discouraged, and thank you for coming to us”. Residents of the Canary Islands, you really love the rally, and thank you for your support and your positive attitude!”