Yoann Bonato claimed his maiden FIA European Rally Championship victory on RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada on Saturday (22 October), getting the better of recently-crowned champion Efrén Llarena to secure the final win of the season.
Although Llarena drew first blood by setting the pace on the opening stage on Friday morning, once Bonato settled into his stride, there was no stopping him. The Frenchman – already an ERC podium-finisher this year in Gran Canaria and Rome – posted the fastest time on seven of the event’s 12 speed tests, with two cancelled due to red flag stoppages further up the order.
After pacing himself through the points-paying El Montmell 2 Power Stage – the longest of the rally at 24.18km – Bonato ultimately wound up 13.8sec clear of Llarena, the duo comfortably the class of the field as the ERC celebrated a seventh different winner from eight events this year.
Not only that, but the Citröen ace’s breakthrough triumph and hefty points haul was sufficient to vault him from ninth in the championship standings up to third – an impressive performance, having only entered half of the season’s events.
“Unbelievable!” he exclaimed. “I’m so happy. There are so many people to thank for this win, from my team to my co-driver and Michelin, who gave us perfect tyres here. An amazing result!”
Llarena was never far away from Bonato’s pace but equally never quite close enough to challenge, obliging the MRF Tyres star to settle for second place – his fourth podium of the campaign – in front of his home crowd, grabbing five bonus points courtesy of a big Power Stage push.
Team-mate and countryman Javier Pardo rounded out the rostrum in third, with the Spaniard’s first top three finish of 2022 elevating him to the runner-up spot in the final classification.
In just his second start in the top flight, Martin László made it three Škodas inside the top four following a solid run, with ERC Junior champion Laurent Pellier narrowly staving off ERC Open driver Alberto Monarri in the duel for fifth outright – the pair both winning their respective classes.
Pellier in particular turned heads with his giant-killing performance, maintaining his record of dominating every event he has finished this season to pip Andrea Mabellini to second in the ERC4 points table.
Joan Vinyes only needed to reach the end of the rally to clinch the ERC Open crown, which the multiple Spanish champion successfully did in seventh position overall, just over ten seconds ahead of Alberto Battistolli. The Italian used the event to try to rebuild his confidence following his accident in the Czech Republic last time out.
Mabellini wound up ninth, with fellow ERC4 competitor Roberto Daprà completing the top ten – while fourth in-class proved sufficient to secure Óscar Palomo the category title.
1. Y. Bonato / B. Boulloud (FRA) Citroën C3 1hr 56min 20.0sec
2. E. Llarena / S. Fernández (ESP) Škoda Fabia +13.8sec
3. J. Pardo / A Pérez (ESP) Škoda Fabia +2min 30.4sec
4. M. László / D. Berendi (HUN) Škoda Fabia +4min 18.5sec
5. L. Pellier / M. Pelamourgues (FRA) Opel Corsa +6min 06.7sec
6. A. Monarri / B. Odriozola (ESP) Suzuki Swift +6min 07.7sec