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Barum Czech Rally Zlin interim report

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McElrean ended day one of the Barum Czech Rally Zlin in the the top ten.

He and co-driver James Fulton are tenth overall in their PCRS Rallysport-prepared Hyundai i20 Rally2.

The event is the seventh round of the FIA European Rally Championship but McErlean’s first tarmac rally since January’s Rallye Monte Carlo.

“It has been a very solid day,” said the Derry man. “We have been building our pace all day and have been trying a few different things with the car and they seem to be working.”

The rally officially got underway on Friday evening with an opening super special stage in the streets of Zlín.

Saturday’s schedule comprised of six stages, three stages repeated in the morning and in the afternoon.

Another six stages take place on Sunday, making 13 stages and 200km of competition.

McErlean will start in fifth place on the road for the final loop of stages.

“Sunday is a tricky day,” he added. “There is a lot more gravel on the roads.”

Galway’s Aoife Raftery is third in the ladies’ race. That category is being led by Rachel Somaschini who is driving a Citroen C3 Rally2 car instead of Raftery’s less-powerful Peugeot 208 Rally4.

The Galway woman and her Armagh-based co-driver Ronan Comeford – both Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members – can still win the lady's award for two-wheel drive cars.

Ahead of them sits Hungarian Adrienn Vogel who is just 28 seconds clear of the Irish driver.

However, Raftery has been quicker on four of today’s five stages (one stage was cancelled due to an accident) and Raftery’s target for Sunday is to overhaul her Hungarian rival.

“My target for tomorrow is to continue to improve our driving style on these very specialised roads, keep improving our pace and splits times, which we were doing today,” she said.

“And includes being the fastest female in the RC4 classes too. Huge thanks to my sponsors and the Academy for making this happen and to Ronan who did a great job on the notes today too.”

Her co-driver Ronan Comerford added: “The stages are really challenging for a co-driver, you have to be on top of your game, but looking forward to Sunday and putting everything we learned today into practice.”

Monaghan co-driver Mac Kierans, who is on pacenote duty for Australian Max McRae ended the day second in the FIA European Junior Rally Championship.

They were as low as fourth pace after the opening loop of Saturday stages after an off-road excursion.

Local spectators helped them re-join the road and a string recovery drive in the afternoon sees them just 42.9 seconds off the class leader Timo Schulz ahead of Sunday’s final loop.

Text by Sean Moriarty



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