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Creighton becomes first Irish driver to win Junior World Rally Championship since Craig Breen’s 2011

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

The tremendous behind-the-scenes work of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy paid dividends this week as William Creighton was crowned Junior World Rally Champion at the EKO Acropolis Greece Rally.

His result is even more significant as he is following in the wheel tracks of the late and great Craig Breen who claimed the title for Ireland 12 years ago.

The fact that Creighton and co-driver Liam Regan had to dig deep to take the title, lady luck did its best to conspire against them, demonstrated the same determination that made Breen an enormously popular character added even more to their achievement.

Torrential rain in the days leading up to the rally brought a different complexion to the event but made it no less difficult, with drivers encountering a wide variety of conditions in the stages: from thick mud to rough and rocky sections as the weather dried out.

County Down-based Creighton entered the event as championship leader and title favourite.

However with double points on offer and additional bonus points for each stage win, in reality, any one of the top six drivers could have claimed the title.

Creighton’s title bid took a turn for the worse on Friday morning when his Ford Fiesta Rally3 developed a cooling problem. It was a serious blow – ahead of the rally he said he just wanted to get through the Friday leg without any drama.

Despite Creighton’s and Regan’s best efforts – they pushed the rally car for 3kms to avoid SuperRally but when the car would not restart at the subsequent tyre change zone it looked like their event and title aspirations were in disarray.

Their M-Sport Poland mechanics worked hard to get the car ready for Saturday but with Creighton’s main rival, French man Lauren Pellier leading the rally it looked like his recovery task was insurmountable.

However, on Saturday, it was Pellier’s turn to hit trouble and he was forced to retire with transmission problems.

That gave Creighton a provisional one-point lead in the championship as the odds were slowly turned in his favour.

Later in the day Hamza Anwar rolled his Ford Fiesta out of the rally and Creighton climbed another position, elevating his provisional championship position which was mathematically unbeatable – provided of course he could complete the Sunday leg.

On Sunday Irish crew did everything that was asked of them, including winning the event-closing PowerStage to claim the world title and the prize of a Rally2 drive in selected rounds of the World Rally Championship next season.

Creighton, who joined the Rally Academy in 2020, and the following year won the coveted British Junior title, praised the efforts of the background team that helped him claim the world title.

“We had to push like hell to get as many stage wins as we could,” he said at the event finish on Sunday.

“We started in WRC a couple of years ago, in the Junior WRC with a project with the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, It was relatively fresh at that stage, now only a couple of years later look what it has produced, and for sure I can’t thank them people enough for what they have done.”

Co-driver Regan was equally thankful for the help they received from the Rally Academy.

“The help we have got all year from the Motorsport Ireland Academy has been second to none,” he said. “They put us in the position where we can do these things.”

It was a very proud day for Academy founder and patron John Coyne.

“I’m delighted to be here in Greece to see William and Liam clinch the 2023 FIA Junior World Rally Championship,” he said.

“We established the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy four years ago to identify, develop, support, and encourage young Irish athletes who have the talent, passion, and determination to compete effectively on the world stage. To have William and Liam bring the Championship home to Ireland for the first time since Craig Breen won in 2011 is a strong endorsement of the Academy project and I’m looking forward to continued success in the years to come both for William and Liam as they develop their careers and for our other Academy athletes.”

"This is an incredible achievement for William Creighton and Liam Regan. What a proud day for Motorsport Ireland and especially the Motorsport Ireland Academy which was founded and developed four years ago by John Coyne to identify, develop, support, and encourage young Irish athletes who have the talent to become first in class and best in the world, " said Motorsport Ireland President Harper.

Video edits below by WRC

There was a double celebration for Rally Academy crews after Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan took second in the Junior WRC category in Greece.

Kelly ended the season in fourth place in the championship while Mohan is the third-placed co-driver in what is their first full season competing at the sport's top level.

“I am also delighted with the second-place JWRC finish in the EKO Acropolis Rally achieved by Eamonn Kelly and Conor, in what is arguably the toughest rally of the year. Another developing Academy crew to watch for the future” added Coyne.

Tyrone-based co-driver Aaron Johnston finished sixth alongside his regular driver, Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta.

“We endured some bad luck with a spin, two punctures and an overshoot but overall we're happy to be coming away with some hard-earned championship points after finishing sixth overall,” he said.

Text by Sean Moriarty // Pics by M-Sport Media

Watch William and Liam speak about their win below

Video edits above by Video clips filmed by WRC Media and John Coyne

Check out some additional content around this story below on:

William is interviewed on RTE 2FM (35 minutes into the show)



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