The fight for the Junior World Rally Championship is set to go right to the wire and Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy William Creighton remains in the thick of the battle.
He and co-driver Liam Regan entered this weekend’s Rally Estonia with an outside chance of claiming the title with one round to spare. However, they endured a troubled weekend, a broken steering arm ruled the Irishman out of contention on Friday.
Despite retiring on Friday with a broken steering arm, there was still plenty of motivation for championship leader William Creighton to restart on Saturday with points available for every stage win.
The Rally Academy driver went on a mission by going quickest on six of Saturday’s nine stage. At the finish, he managed to take his total stage wins for the weekend to 11 including bonus points for winning the PowerStage.
“No better way to end a tough weekend than with a Power Stage win! We pushed like hell to get that one,” said Creighton.
“Since Friday we have done our best to gather as many stage win points as possible and we take some solace in grabbing 11 from the weekend. Massive thanks to the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy [mechanic] Marcus and of course Liam - it was a bumpy ride.”
The series will be decided at September's EKO Acropolis Rally Greece where double points are on offer.
There are 70 points on offer in Greece, Creighton has a 21-point advantage over Frenchman Laurent Pellier with Paraguayan Diego Dominguez a further six points adrift.
Anyone of them can claim the title.
Rally Estonia featured 21 stages totalling a competitive distance of 300.42km.
Friday was the longest day of the event with a total distance of 133.38km from the day’s seven stages
Saturday’s itinerary totalled 102.61km and presented nine more stages for the crews to tackle
Sunday marked the shortest day of the event, with just 61.08km of stage to round off the rally.
Josh McErlean and James Fulton put in another solid performance to bring their PCRS Rallysport-prepared Hyundai i20 N Rally2 home in 16th place overall and sixth in the WRC 2 challenger category.
Their rally got off to a bad start on Friday morning when they lost time with both a puncture and an intercom problem, but they kept their heads and put in a solid performance over the reaming 19 stages.
“Very happy to have completed a tough Rally Estonia and see a positive turnaround after a difficult opening day,” said the County Derry-based driver.
“We kept the foot in, which meant it was a physically and mentally demanding weekend but it was certainly worthwhile. Thanks to James and the entire team for a great job.”
There was heartbreak for Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan who were forced to retire their Ford Fiesta Rally 3 on the rally's final stage.
The Donegal/Monaghan crew were on the back foot since the event’s second stage. An off-road excursion cost over 30 minutes but they persevered and were running in seventh place in the Junior WRC category when they were forced out of the rally within sight of the finish line.
Other Irish interest
National rally championship regular Brendan Cumiskey got to the end of his maiden World Rally Championship driving a similar Fiesta Rally 3 car to the junior category contenders.
It was the third International rally in as many weeks and in three different countries for co-driver Arthur Kierans. He arrived in Estonia direct from the United States of America where he contested the North East Forest Rally in Maine. A week prior he was alongside Rally Academy member Aoife Raftery in the Royal Rally of Scandinavia.
Co-driver Aaron Johnston and his driver Takamoto Katsuta spent the weekend hovering in and out of the top six. The Toyota Yaris crew were pipped into seventh position on the final stage by the Ford Puma of Pierre-Louis Loubet.
“We were involved in an exciting battle for sixth for most of the weekend, but particularly on Sunday morning, which went right down to the wire,” said the Tyrone-based co-driver.
“And while we're a little disappointed to miss out on sixth by just 0.3 of a second we're pleased to have gotten so close given the difficulties faced over what was a very challenging few days. We're now looking forward to Finland in a couple of weeks when we'll push hard once again.”
The WRC remains in northern Europe for another fast gravel road fixture at Secto Rally Finland next month. Round nine of the season is based in Jyväskylä on August 3 to 6.
Text: Sean Moriarty
Pics: Timo Anis Photography & MSPORT