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Flying the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy flag in Mexico  

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy founder and patron John Coyne allowed two academy members to learn the World Rally Championship from the inside on last weekend’s Rally Mexico.

Coyne entered the rally and invited Eoin Tracey to guide him through the incredibly challenging four-day event. It was the Cork co-driver’s WRC debut.

Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean stepped in as team co-ordinator, a role usually filled by John, and it gave the Derry driver a unique insight into a different side of the WRC

“What an adventure. The stages, the people- awesome! The enthusiasm for this rally is amazing both around the rally campus and out in the country on the rally route. So many people out to cheer us on. Something really special,” said John.

The Ford Fiesta Rally 2 crew were as high as 19th overall on Saturday until they hit trouble in monstrous 36-km Otates on Sunday morning.

“About 9.5 km from the end we clipped a rock and broke a rear suspension bottom arm. A subsequent excursion into a ditch saw us stuck fast until rescued by stage sweep. We got to the start of the next stage but due to the large gap between us and the previous car the organisers were concerned about spectators thinking the stage was already finished and sent us in under red flag transit mode and gave us a notional time,” he added.

“We were forced to stop and change the bottom arm at that point as it had completely let go. Having changed it we made it on time to the final El Brico power stage and had a nice clean run through this super-fast stage and flew over the big jump at the finish into 24th overall.”

While it was John’s first rally in over 18 months, his main priority was to give Treacy World Rally Championship experience and it was a case of mission accomplished.

“Eoin did an outstanding job in preparing for the event, doing a gruelling two-day recce, and providing faultless delivery on the notes throughout the rally. Keeping on schedule with some very tight road sections was no mean feat,” said John.

“His mechanical skills were also tested with the suspension arm change.”

McErlean also learned a lot over the four days.

“Josh was having his first experience as team leader and coordinator. He got to experience what goes on behind the scenes to make sure all is organised to minimise stress on the crew. He did an outstanding job of recce support and event management and made our weekend very easy,” said John.

“A special word for Dommy Buckley’s RSC team which supplied a faultless car which ran trouble-free throughput, in a very tough environment. His three service men Kevin (Kev) Fowler, Peter (Peanut) Roberts and Peter (Pete) Proteus did sterling work to keep the car in tip-top shape and always with a smile and a laugh.”

John chats in more detail about this event on the Krunching Gears Podcast below

Watch some video footage here:

Meanwhile, Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy co-driver Grace O’Brien had a trying weekend at the South Belgian Rally.

The Cork-based co-driver is contesting the Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup Belux alongside Niall O’Sullivan.

The five round-championship got underway with the South Belgium Rally on Saturday.

Despite many things conspiring against them they finished 11th in the category and feel much better prepared for the next round in the middle of May.

It was Niall’s first time in a left-hand drive rally car, his own Peugeot was not ready in time for the event, he used a borrowed Opel Corsa Rally4 instead. Despite the Clare man’s extensive Belgian Rally experience, this was his first time entering a rally in this region of Belgium.

“We had a lot to learn coupled with the fact that our knowledge of the region and road conditions were limited,” she said.

“The stages were incredible though, fast and flowing with a mixture of good grip and very slippery conditions with huge cuts. It had everything!

“We did get caught out with two punctures on one stage, leaving us with a mountain to climb, but we have lots of information to build on for round two, the Sezoens Rally in May.”

Meanwhile, her father James won the Category 3 class in the historic Costa Brava Rally in Spain over the weekend.

He was co-driving for Ernie Graham in a Ford Escort Mk1.



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