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 F1 thrown in for good measure.
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 Kopecky, who is chasing a hat-trick of triumphs on Gran Canaria's testing stages.
Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles, 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 ten-year agreement with the FIA.
With the 14 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.
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 Monzon, who will line up in a MINI John Cooper Works RRC, all are regulars in the ERC.
Kopecky, the winner of the opening ERC round in a SKODA Motorsport Fabia S2000, heads the entry from Peugeot Rally Academy's Craig Breen (Peugeot 207 S2000) and Daniel Oliveira, who begins his eight-round ERC campaign in Gran Canaria in a Brazil World Rally Team Ford Fiesta RRC. Kubica is the fifth seed behind Monzon.
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 Megane Renaultsport N4s).
Island regulars Enrique Garcia Ojeda and Joan Vinyes are the top seeds for FIA ERC 2WD Championship honours where series frontrunners Zoltan 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 Falcon for the new FIA ERC Ladies' Trophy.