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From Portugal, straight to the Canaries, no time to rest for Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy co-driver Eoin Treacy will experience back-to-back weekends working with two of the biggest teams in the World Rally Championship.

His hectic programme of events got underway last weekend when he partnered with fellow Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean to an incredible fifth overall in Rali Terras d'Aboboreira in Portugal.

This was McErlean’s first taste of his new-for-2024 Toksport World Rally Team Skoda Fabia RS Rally2 which he will drive in Rally Portugal in little under two weeks. The Portuguese National Rally took place on Friday and Saturday and covered over 100km of gravel roads across seven special stages in territory very close to the WRC event.

Treacy, who is partnered with Jon Armstrong for the FIA European Rally Championship, previously worked with McErlean on last December’s Classic Safari Rally.

It was both crew members' first time working with the Toksport World Rally Team, the reigning WRC 2 championship-winning team, in a rally environment and it is something that will stand to them both in the future.

Their fifth-place result was all the more impressive considering the list of drivers who finished in front of them, it reads like a who-is-who of the WRC 2 World Rally Championship. They included five-time WRC event winner Kris Meeke, former WRC 1 driver Pierre-Louis Loubet and current WRC 2 lynchpins Yohan Rossel and Nikolay Gryazin.

“Portugal went quite well. Conditions were very tricky. It was another steep learning curve for me. It was a very impressive drive from Josh in a new car and with a new co-driver” said Treacy. “It was great to sit with him and I learned a lot from both Josh and the team with all their experience. It was great to work with Toksport, a very professional team who ran a faultless car and helped me get up to speed with everything.”

It is over six months since McErlean last contested any event in a Rally2 car – the Central European Rally – so last weekend’s event gave him the perfect opportunity to get dialled into their new machine and work with their Toksport World Rally Team engineers for the first time.

“It was brilliant to get to do this event and a great experience” added Treacy.

“Huge thanks to the academy for bringing me on board it was a huge experience and will stand to me going forward for the rest of the year.”

Fellow Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members Craig Rahill and Conor Smith also contested Rali Terras d’Aboboreira.

This was the Ford Fiesta Rally4 crew’s first overseas rally and only their sixth rally ever on a loose surface.

And while a time-consuming puncture prevented a better result, their prime reason for attending the Portuguese rally was to gain international experience.

“Delighted to make it to the finish of the rally, which was our goal for the weekend, one of the toughest rallies we've ever done It was our first time writing notes on gravel and they were some of the trickiest stages to write notes on, but was happy with them,” said Cavan-based Rahill.

“It was a very enjoyable rally on unreal stages and lots of valuable experience gained, huge thanks to the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy for their support and advice and to all our sponsors for this incredible opportunity, hopefully, we'll get overseas again this year, it's a different ball game altogether than rallying at home.”

Rally Islas Canarias

Treacy had no time to celebrate his Rali Terras d'Aboboreira as he went straight to the Canary Islands for round two of the FIA European Rally Championship.

There, he will reunite with Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Armstrong and the M-Sport team where they begin preparations for this weekend’s Rally Islas Canarias.

“I am very much looking forward to the challenge of Canarias. I can’t wait to get back in the Fiesta and experience it on tarmac. I am looking forward to getting the test started to build the week. It’s also great to head to a rally in which Jon has some experience,” added Treacy.

“The stages look extremely challenging and will be very busy! While the forecast is good the island can be susceptible to fog and changeable weather, which of course can add to the challenge.”

Armstrong and Treacy will be joined in the Canaries by the two Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy drivers contesting the Junior FIA European Rally Championship.

Aoife Raftery arrives at Rally Islas Canarias on the back of her best performance to date at FIA European Rally Championship level.

Following a successful debut season last year she returned to the Junior FIA European Rally Championship this season at the wheel of a PCRS Rallysport-prepared Peugeot 208 Rally4.

Raftery put the experience gained last year to good use at Rally Hungary, the opening round of the 2024 campaign.

The first and so far, only female driver to be selected by the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, narrowly missed out on her maiden category podium by 6.1 seconds following a fine drive on the event’s challenging gravel stages.

“I am looking forward to the fast and windy roads of the Canaries. It is very different to roads we would have experience on, but we will do our best to make good notes, have a good pre-event test and feel confident going into it,” she said.

“We are in the Canaries to learn these style of [asphalt] roads and hopefully see some good stage times over the weekend with a focus on improving on each stage.”

Raftery will be co-driven by County Antrim’s Hannah McKillop on Rally Islas Canarias and they are the third Junior seeds for the rally.

Jack Brennan’s FIA European Rally Championship adventure also continues this weekend on the Rally Islas Canarias.

The Billy Coleman Award Young Rally Driver of the Year winner is contesting the European championship for the first time this year.

He is on a steep learning curve but has already proved his capabilities at an international level having finished fifth in the Junior category on the gravel roads of Rally Hungary a few weeks ago. Driving a Peugeot 208 Rally4, Brennan is the fourth seed for the Junior element of the rally, he is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

“Coming off the back of a very good Rally Hungary with a great result to top it off so the confidence is good going into the Canaries,” he said.

“But we also know what we have to do. We are going into this European tar and it is a lot different from at home. So we definitely will be taking our time yet again, it is a new surface, a new rally and lots of new things to learn.”

Brennan from Moincoin and his Enniscorthy-based co-driver John McGrath have called on the experience of fellow Motorsport Rally Academy drivers like Jon Armstrong and Josh McErlean who have experience with this and similar events across Europe.

“I hear from a couple of people, the likes of Jon and Josh, and they say that this is a very challenging rally, how long the corners are, the roads do not have many straights in them. It is going to be a very technical rally and an extremely hard recce but we are looking forward to it,” he added.

The rally, which is based in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, begins with a short spectator stage on Thursday night ahead of two days of intense competition across a further 12 special stages. After nearly 200 km of competition, the event will draw to a close around 6 pm local time on Saturday.

Text by Sean Moriarty / Pics by MI Rally Academy



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