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Kelly wins Rally Croatia as Creighton retains Junior World Rally Championship lead

Updated: May 5, 2023

A Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crew has won a round of the Junior World Rally Championship for the second event in a row.

Billy Coleman Award winner Eamonn Kelly and co-driver Conor Mohan have, by winning Rally Croatia, followed in the footsteps of Rally Sweden victors William Creighton and Liam Regan.

And despite having to rely on SuperRally rules to get to the finish, Creighton and Regan have maintained their lead in the JWRC standings.

It was a difficult weekend for the Motorsport Ireland competition licence holders who chose to continue with the rally in memory of Craig Breen who was only laid to rest days before the event started.

Kelly took his maiden win in the JWRC and dedicated his victory to Craig’s memory.

“It's been a mad week and weekend and just can't believe it.

“It is the stuff that dreams are made of.

“You grow up watching all that's going on and never thought I'd be part of something like this,” he said.

“It's been an emotional week for everyone Irish as well so there's no question about who you could dedicate this win to. There was a man up there in the sky shining down on us and this win is for him.

Creighton and Regan have extended their JWRC championship lead over the French crew of Laurent Pellier and Marin Pelamourgues who failed to finish in Croatia.

“The weekend started strong on Friday; we fought back well in the afternoon to gain the lead. Unfortunately, we rolled out on Saturday morning after losing the rear of the car over some gravel. We reset on Sunday morning. I wanted to have a clean run on Sunday with no mistakes and show our pace to try and pick up stage win points. We managed to get all four stage wins and pick up seventh-place points which helps extend our championship lead.

“I’m sorry to Laurent and Marine who were unable to finish with mechanical issues. Huge congrats to Eamonn and Conor on the win. This weekend was so difficult for everyone competing and we only had one person in our mind. It’s still hard to take in what happened last week. My thoughts, and those of the entire motorsport family, continue to be with Craig’s family.”

Galway co-driver Martin Brady got the late call-up to sit alongside Kenyan Hamza Anwar in the JWRC element of the rally. They finished two places ahead of Creighton in the class.

Brothers Patrick and Stephen O’Brien made their World Rally Championship debut in Croatia.

They were driving the Rally Academy’s Hyundai i20 n Rally 2, run by Irish team PCRS Rallysport, as part of the academy’s progression plan which allows members to share the use of the car on events throughout the season.

They finished 19th overall.

“We learned so much from this event it was fantastic,” said Patrick. “Emotions were very high for this event, but I think the Irish have done our dear friend Craig proud.”

Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnston was the best-placed of the Irish competitors at the event.

He guided Takamoto Katsuta to sixth overall as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRC Challenge programme.

Aaron praised the efforts of his Toyota teammates Elfyn Evans and Scott Martin who won the rally and dedicated their win to Craig.

“It was great to see Scotty and Elfyn win the rally especially given Scott’s connection to Craig. I am sure Craig would have been looking down fondly to make sure that Scott got the victory this weekend,” he said.

Privateers Eamon Boland and MJ Morrisey finished 28th in their Citroen C3 Rally 2. It was their second WRC event of the year.

“The rally was long and tough, we found hard tyres didn’t work, no grip in dry stages, the tyres wouldn’t heat, much better on soft tyres. A huge amount of gravel and mud pulled out onto the stages, the cuts were insane at times,” said Morrisey.

“It was very emotional, I’m not ashamed to say I had a lump in my throat many times. The amount of tricolours, posters, photos even roads painted, unbelievable. It is so sad; I can’t get my head around it.”



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