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Eamonn Kelly third in Junior World Rally Championship season-opener 



Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Eamonn Kelly got his second season of the Junior World Rally Championship off to a perfect start by taking third place in Rally Sweden at the weekend.


The result matched his Acropolis Rally Greece performance last September and sets him up nicely for round two in Croatia in April – an event he won in 2023.




One of a record 19 entrants, Kelly found himself in a battle with eventual winner, local ace, Mille Johansson and FIA Rally Star program member Romet Jürgenson as the Donegal man completed the podium in the category for identical Ford Fiesta Rally3s run equipped with Pirelli tyres.



“It was really good to be on the podium in Sweden this year. It is a fantastic start for our championship to finish third [amongst 19 drivers] is something we can be really happy with.”


Kelly and co-driver Conor Mohan called on all their previous Rally Sweden experience.


“We came here this year with a plan,” he added.



“We knew what we were up against in terms of the scale of the event. We were able to show what we had learned and then back it up and it is something that I am personally happy about.


“It was a just a good weekend in general we showed speed in places and then we were maintaining a fairly consistent pace for the rest of the time.”


“We drove a very consistent race and always close enough to the top part of the table so we are happy. It is a mega event. The stages are unbelievable, especially Saturday and Sunday when we had the clear weather as opposed to Friday which was a complete challenge with the heavy snowfall which was extremely dazzling with the light bar.



 “Someone compared it to the opening scene of Star Wars which is pretty accurate to be fair. That was a challenge. It caught a lot of people out,  including ourselves. We had a spin and dropped 40 seconds.



Kelly and Mohan won the junior element of Rally Croatia last season and the focus for the months ahead is preparation for the first tarmac rally of the season


“I would like to go there this year and show some speed. I want to go there and try and be much much faster and closer to the top position in the table. That is going to be the main focus over the next two months.

 






WRC 2

Fellow Academy crew William Creighton and Liam Regan had a challenging start to their WRC 2 programme.



Armed with an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2, and with support from the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, Creighton endured an eventful weekend.

 

The Irish winner of 2023’s Junior WRC and co-driver Regan increased their learning of the Fiesta Rally2.



Further back in the running order, conditions were often very rough on the stages but the pair would consistently set top 15 times in the highly competitive WRC2 class.



A double puncture on Friday’s penultimate stage dropped Creighton considerable time, but he would compensate with an eighth-fastest time on the Umeå sprint stage.

A spin on Saturday’s SS10 saw him stuck in a snowbank, but the pair dug themselves out and continued the weekend stress-free. Creighton would finish his first Rally Sweden in the Fiesta Rally2 14th in class and 26th overall.

 



“I am happy to get all the kilometres in and to get to the finish. I have learned a lot and I just need to keep working on my side with the driving to try and get the most out of these cars. It is not going to happen overnight so I just need to keep working on it,” said Creighton.

 



“It has been great working with M-Sport, with the support of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, here at Rally Sweden and it has been so much fun with these conditions. The last two weekends have been very different and I am looking forward to the next event to try to keep on improving and see where we go.”

 

“I am delighted to get to the finish of Rally Sweden and get that experience under our belt on our first WRC2 rally.




“It is always enjoyable to drive in these conditions so the last two weeks have been, particularly in a Rally 2 car with M Sport, really fantastic.


“It was a brilliant opportunity to get the grips with the car so huge thanks to everybody at the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy that has helped over the last few months. I am really happy that we could start the year on a positive note and keep progressing from here.”

 






WRC1

Co-driver Aaron Johnston and his driver Takamoto Katsuta were the stars of the Friday leg and led the rally for periods during the first full day of competitive action in Umea.

However, the Toyota Yaris Rally1 crew got sucked into one of Rally Sweden’s notorious snowbanks on Saturday morning and were forced to complete the rally under SuperRally rules.

 

“[On Saturday] morning we were fighting for the lead and pushing hard. We had a good first stage and got much closer to the lead, and I wanted to continue pushing to try and gain more time,” explained Katsuta.


“Unfortunately, in one corner in SS10, I was probably carrying a bit too much speed and I lost the rear, hit the snowbank and we got stuck there. I feel very disappointed and I am really sorry for the team because it could have been a very good weekend. I just need to learn from this kind of thing.”


Team Ireland at Rally Sweden Eamonn Kelly, Liam Regan, William Creighton Conor Mohan and Aaron Johnston. Photo: MI Rally Academy 


Text By Sean Moriarty / Pics by Msport and MIRallyAcademy



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