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From the Canaries to Killarney and on to Portugal, a busy week for the Rally Academy

Updated: May 9

Strong Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy performance in Canaries

The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crew of Jon Armstrong and Eoin Treacy recorded their best result of the FIA European Rally Championship season so far by taking a deserved seventh place in Rally Islas Canarias over the weekend.

The all-tarmac rally was the second round of the 2024 campaign and the M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 crew improved on their eighth place on Rally Hungary in April. 

They were sixth overall after Friday's opening day but an intercom issue on Saturday cost them valuable time but also allowed them to show their ingenuity. 

“We started well on Saturday and we were setting top five times from the get-go. That was really good as we were trading times with all the frontrunners,” explained Treacy. 

“The margins were still tight on Sunday morning, then we had an intercom issue so we had to resort to shouting and hand signals. We had a strong finish in the PowerStage and finished sixth on that, it was a  very strong weekend and we are very happy.”

Such was their pace over the weekend the Irish team finished just behind reigning FIA European Rally Champion Hayden Paddon and held off a late event charge by Mads Ostberg, a multiple-event winner at this level. Just two seconds was the margin between seventh and eighth place after nearly 200 km of competition. 


Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Aoife Raftery has moved into third place in the FIA Junior Rally Championship after another strong performance on Rally Islas Canarias. 

The Craughwell-based driver is in her second year of FIA European Rally Championship competition.

After a career-best fourth-place finish in Hungary in April she arrived at the Spanish event in the same position in the championship’s standings. 

The only female driver in the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy prefers gravel roads and loose surfaces as opposed to the challenging asphalt on offer in Gran Canaria.


She had to adapt her driving style to cope with the relentless amount of corners on each stage and spent a day learning the nuances of roads that are paved with lava.

The sensible approach netted dividends and by finishing ninth overall (out of 14 starters) she scored in the FIA Junior Rally Championship for the second event in a row. The two top-ten results in a row mean that the Peugeot 208 Rally4 driver leaves the Canary Islands in third place in the championship. 

“We always knew coming to the Canaries that we would not have the same speed on this specialised tarmac as we had on the gravel roads in Hungary. The target was to finish the rally, the top ten finish was great and it is even better that we are now third in the championship as it returns to my preferred gravel in Sweden in June,” she said at the finish line in Gran Canaria on Sunday evening. 

Raftery, who was co-driven by Antrim’s Hannah McKillop was the leading female driver in the event too.


Watch: ERC Canaries Event Summary

Grogan best of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy drivers in Killarney 

Keelan Grogan and his co-driver Ayrton Sherlock were the best of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy drivers at the Assess Ireland Rally of the Lakes International Rally over the weekend. 

The two-day Killarney-based rally was the fourth round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and also a round of the Stellantis Rally Cup. 

There was an immense battle for Rally4 class honours all weekend. The lead changed umpteen times over the course of the 13-stage rally. 

At the end of the Saturday leg, only a handful of seconds covered the top five crews which included Circuit of Ireland winner Cian Caldwell and the Peugeot 208 Rally4 of Kyle McBride.

Caldwell jumped into the lead on stage three, Cod’s Head, when 0.8 seconds covered the top four crews.

Ryan MacHugh slipped into the class lead with the fastest time on Saturday’s penultimate Ardgroom test and ended the day with a 4.3-second overnight advantage over Grogan.

Kyle McBride was also in the mix but a gearbox problem hindered progress on Saturday’s last test. 

The battle continued on Sunday and while MacHugh held the upper hand for most of the rally, a rare mistake on the final loop ended the Ford Fiesta Rally4 driver’s hopes of Rally Academy bragging rights. 

“It was a small spin but we squashed the exhaust and ended up down on power, we managed to fix it some, but we were more or less in road mode for the last stage,” said the Donegal man who was co-driven by Declan Boyle. 

This allowed Grogan and Sherlock back in front. The Peugeot 208 Rally4 crew finished second in both the Rally4 class and the Stellantis Cup. 

“We had no real dramas all weekend, a spin on the second last stage cost a bit of time,” said Grogan. “And we had no intercom for the second run over Cod’s Head. 

McBride and co-driver Darragh Mullen, after their earlier gearbox issues, eventually finished third in the Stellantis Cup and fourth in the Rally4 class. 

“I am happy, it was my first time driving this Peugeot on dry tar,” he said. 

Caldwell retired on Sunday evening. 

Creighton and McErlean go head-to-head in Portugal

Two Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members are set to go head-to-head in WRC2 machinery for the first time this year on Vodafone Rally de Portugal which gets underway on Thursday.

William Creighton, the current Junior World Rally Champion, will start this third World Rally Championship event of the year on board a M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2.

He will be joined on the gravel event by Josh McErlean who will get his 2024 WRC campaign underway as he will pilot a Toksport World Rally Team Skoda Fabia RS Rally2, with returning co-driver James Fulton alongside. T

The difficult gravel event will mark a new era in McErlean’s career, as he starts his third season in the World Rally Championship, but his first behind the wheel of a Škoda and his first in a new team.

The event marks Creighton’s third event of the year, and while both drivers have gone head-to-head in the past – most notably in the 2023 Rallye Monte Carlo when they both drove PCRS Rallysport-prepared Hyundai i20 Rally2 cars, this will be the first time they will race each other on opposing teams.

The two drivers are backed by the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy and the fact that both are driving for two of the most respected teams in the WRC service park shows what opportunities are available to young Irish talent under the academy’s development programme.

“I am super excited to start our WRC season and I feel comfortable in the relationship with Toksport and Škoda Motorsport which has started really well. It’s all so professionally run and a very positive environment,” said McErlean who will be navigated by James Fulton, another graduate of the programme.

“It’s now full speed ahead into WRC Portugal and it’s great to have James back by my side. We know Portugal can turn into a game of survival at times, so we have to use our heads, as always, and manage any situations presented to us. But it feels like a long time coming and I can’t wait to get stuck into the thick of it at the weekend.”

Creighton is dovetailing his WRC2 programme with an assault on the British Rally Championship.

He said: “This is my first WRC event on gravel in the Rally2 car, we did the Severn Valley [British Rally Championship round] a couple of weeks ago which was fantastic. I have done Portugal twice before; it is an event I always look forward to. The weather looks good for the rally week, so it is going to be warm, which is another factor to consider inside the car. I am looking forward to another rally with M Sport and continuing to build on our WRC2 campaign. We have good speed on tarmac so we just need to work on trying to translate that speed on to the gravel.”

Vodafone Rally de Portugal offers over 337 kilometres of special stages, spread across four days. Thursday [9 May] houses the opening super special stage, before Friday’s eight tests, separated by just one tyre fitting zone. Saturday is the longest of the rally at 145 kilometres, before Sunday’s four tests, including the world-famous Fafe stage, round out the weekend.

Text by Sean Moriarty 

Pics by M-Sport/PCRS/D Harrigan/Richard O’Rourke/Rally Academy

Instagram reels by Fenix Productions / M-Sport

Event summary edits by



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