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Busy times for Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members in Scotland, America and Ireland  



Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members are flying the flag for Irish motorsport in three different countries this week.


TOUR OF THE SPERRINS


Fresh from their outstanding performance on WRC Vodafone Rally Portugal the previous week, Josh McErlean and James Fulton enjoyed success on home ground on Saturday.


They entered McErlean’s home rally, the Tour of the Sperrins in a Volkswagen Polo Gti R5 and duly led the event from start to finish.



With his FIA World and European Rally Championship commitments taking priority it is a long time since McErlean competed at a local event. The Northern Ireland Rally Championship counter served as a homecoming for the Toksport World Rally Team crew following their success in Portugal.



It was McErlean’s first outright win too.


“Fantastic result and finally a win,” he said at the finish.


“Local support, local people, local rally and what a way to finish it off. Thanks to James McCarville, Connor McCloskey and IN Sport for making it all happen and Magherafelt and District Motor Club for an incredible day out on mega stages. We’ve created a lot of memories over the past weeks. Fuzzy [James Fulton] has been awesome.”

 

BRITISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP


The Probite British Rally Championship resumes this weekend with Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally, where three Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crews are set to contest the highly regarded two-day event.


A total of 14 stages, (six on Friday and eight on Saturday) across over 100 km of closed roads await the Academy crews in the Duns area of Scotland.



Fresh from WRC Rally Portugal William Creighton and Liam Regan have enjoyed an impressive British Rally Championship form with two second-place results so far this season.


The M-Sport Ford Rally Team crew will be back in their Ford Fiesta Rally2 and with a stellar asphalt pace of late, may well be looking at a maiden BRC win.



This will be Creighton’s first attempt at the Jim Clark Rally – the event did not form part of the British Rally Championship during his J-BRC days, but has completed hundreds of kilometres of asphalt rallying this year in West Cork, WRC Croatia and the North West Rally which formed the opening round of the BRC this year.


Many of these events used night stages and Creighton is looking forward to putting that experience to good use on Friday night.



“It is an event that I've heard a lot about but never actually competed at. It is one of the classic events in the UK, so really looking forward to getting over and competing this weekend,” he said. “It is probably one of the slightly longer events in the BRC calendar. Starting on Friday evening and going Into darkness, but we've done a few rallies that have used stages in the dark so hopefully, we can put those experiences to good use this weekend.”

 

RALLY 4


Ryan MacHugh has been turning a lot of heads with his pace in Ireland this year.

Regularly the pacesetter in the highly competitive Rally4 class in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship this year, he is set to broaden his horizons on the Jim Clark Rally.



Now, thanks to Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy backing, the Ford Fiesta Rally4 driver is set to make his overseas debut in Scotland this weekend.


“I am excited to get overseas for the first time, preparations are going good,” he said.


“The roads over there are a lot different to what we have here in Ireland. From chatting to a couple of drivers who have been there before, they say that it is a very challenging rally. If it is wet it can be extremely slippery over there. I am feeling confident and just seeing what we can do, not really putting any pressure on ourselves, but we are going over there to compete too.”


He will have the experienced Arthur Kierans alongside.


“He has done the rally five times, so he will be a great help to me,” added the Donegal-based driver.

Kyle McBride is last year’s Junior British Rally Championship runner-up and has less than fond memories of the rally, but is on strong form at present with Darragh Mullen alongside.



“It really is an iconic event. The stages they have are very goodand very fast and they're very demanding in places,” said McBride.


“It is shaping up to be a great event. I can't wait to get back to the BRC, having competed in the BRC championship the last two years.

“Unfortunately we have had a few issues which hampered our progress lately, but looking forward to a nice clean run and a good weekend in Scotland.”


OREGON TRAIL RALLY


For the second American Rally Association national championship event in a row, Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy patron and founder John Coyne finished fourth overall.


Driving a PCRS-Rallysport prepared Hyundai i20 Rally2 on the Oregon Trail Rally, Coyne backed up his identical Olympus Rally result last month with another top performance.



The event also marked Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy Eoin Treacy's ARA debut as part of a Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy development programme designed to enhance his knowledge of international competition.


“I really enjoy these fast-flowing Oregon Trail stages and this was my best finish in three attempts. Eoin did a great job with the organisation and on the notes,” said Coyne who finished second in the RC2 class.


The rally action started Friday night at Portland International Raceway with two Super Special stages. The mixed tarmac and gravel stages of PIR always make for an exciting start to the three-day event, and this year was no different.



Saturday Oregon Trail visited the Goldendale, Washington stages for 80 kilometres of competition, and the event concluded following another similar distance on Sunday.



Coyne and Treacy’s next event together is the Southern Ohio Forest Rally in early June.


“It was a great opportunity to learn how events are run in the US and adapt to the subtle differences in the rules. The atmosphere was very welcoming and the stages and the scenery were stunning. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and am looking forward to the next round of the championship in Southern Ohio in a few weeks.” said the Cork-based co-driver.

Donegal co-driver Gary McElhinney was also competing in the Oregon Trail Rally. He guided his Atlanta-based county man Seamus Burke to sixth overall and second on the Open Two-Wheel Drive class in a Ford Escort Mk2.


CARLOW RALLY

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Craig Rahill took the top points in the Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Series, at the Carlow Rally on Sunday.




The Ford Fiesta Rally4 driver came within 3.4 seconds of winning Class 2. He was reeling in eventual winner Matthew Boyle over the final stage, but the last test was cancelled and he ran out of competitive miles. With Boyle not eligible for MIJRS points, Rahill took a maximum score that should propel him into championship contention.



Carlow marked Rahill’s first event in Ireland since he and co-driver Conor Smith’s Portuguese adventure last month.



This pic is by Ruairi Nash



Text By Sean Moriarty / Main pics By Rally Academy

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