Defending champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz leads the opening round of 2016 FIA European Rally Championship, moving ahead on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés when Mads Ostberg crashed near to the end of Friday's final stage.
Making his ERC debut, Ostberg won the first stage of the 2016 ERC season by a single tenth of a second before opening up an advantage of 9.3 seconds over the remaining two stages on the opening loop. Third after the first test, Kajetanowicz then took four consecutive wins to cut Ostberg's lead to 6.9s with one stage remaining before the overnight halt.
Towards the end of that final stage, Ostberg was unable to get his Ford Fiesta R5 stopped for a tight corner after suffering a problem with the brakes. After contact with a wall damaged his RMC Motorsport-prepared car, the Norwegian and co-driver Ola Floene had to complete the stage on foot. They will not restart on Saturday.
“I had a bit of a warning before, when the brake didn't seem to be working very well,” said Ostberg. “But then it seemed to be better and I thought maybe it was just some dirt or something. Unfortunately, though it happened again and when you're pushing hard there's not much left in reserve, so we crashed. It's a real pity as we were enjoying the rally; there's a fantastic atmosphere.
“The damage is quite big, all the suspension is gone and the side of the car is pushed in: the differential is damaged too.”
Kajetanowicz picked up a lead of 22.7 seconds over fellow Fiesta driver Alexey Lukyanuk, who began the day by setting the pace for a large part of the wet opening stage before losing time on his soft tyres in a dryer section at the end, finishing up 0.1s slower than Ostberg. Rueing his tyre compound choice, the Russian lost further time as the first loop went on but he did end the day by bringing Kajetanowicz's run of stage wins to an end.
“It is great as we are in the lead after the whole day of competition,” said Kajetanowicz. “The battle with Mads was awesome and it is a pity that he went off because we were fighting for fractions of seconds. Here it is very difficult to achieve such similar times on these long stages, under changeable conditions and different tyres. It is great that we were winning the stages, he was pushing a lot and it was clear that for sure he was not easing off, he was attacking. I am very happy after this day, a bit tired because the g-forces took their toll on me. We did our job as well as we could. For us the rally is still on, we will fight and try to do our best tomorrow – but first of all we have to get a good sleep.”
Robert Consani finished the day in third in a Peugeot 208 T16 for the first time. He is 10.5 seconds ahead of the local favourite Luis Monzon, who has struggled with mechanical issues in his Citroen DS3 R5 but is hopeful of getting the car fixed overnight and scoring another podium finish at his home event.
Dutch driver Hermen Kobus lost time when he missed a turn on SS4 and had to reverse but fought back to sixth place in his Skoda Fabia R5 and is only 2.5s away from the top-five place he's targeted for this event, currently held by Spanish runner Jonathan Perez. Another Spaniard, Ivan Ares, had made it a top-four lockout for the Ford Fiesta R5 behind the trio of Ostberg, Kajetanowicz and Lukyanuk but he lost considerable time with mechanical woes through the final two stages of the day and has fallen to 11th.
Others in strife included Italian Federico Della Casa, who was seventh when his DS3 R5 stopped on SS5, as did the similar machine belonging to Lebanese debutant Gilbert Bannout. ERC2 champion David Botka hasn't had the step up to a DS3 R5 that he was hoping for, suffering from a broken clutch through the morning before retiring in the afternoon.
Leg two on Saturday now begins at 09h05 local time and is made up of six stages and 104.52 competitive kilometres. Ingenio (22.84km), Galdar (13.97km) and Valleseco (15.45km) will stage the day's action, with each test run in both the morning and then again in the afternoon, with a service halt in Las Palmas in between.