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McErlean dedicates Latvian result to returning co-driver Fulton

Updated: Jun 19, 2023

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean dedicated his best-ever FIA European Rally Championship result to his co-driver James Fulton. The Hyundai i20 Rally2 crew finished an incredible fourth overall in the Tet Rally Liepaja in Latvia over the weekend.

It was McErlean’s third outing in the ERC this year and his best performance to date, following his equally impressive run to seventh in Poland last month.

However it was Fulton’s first FIA European Rally Championship appearance since Rally Fafe in March, his penultimate rally with Craig Breen.

His return to the top flight was cut short when he and Kirs Meeke failed to finish the Portuguese round of the World Rally Championship in May.

Fulton and McErlean reunited for Latvia this weekend – their first rally together since Rally Spain last October – and the partnership immediately returned to successful ways.

"The past couple of months for [James Fulton] has been hard but to come here and do the tremendous job he's done. This is for him,” said McErlean at the finish.

As an added bonus the Irish crew, who are run by the PCRS Rallysport team finished third on the PowerStage, netting three championship bonus points in the process.

“Very happy with the result- fourth overall, James did a tremendous job all weekend and it was good to get the result for him,” added the County Derry driver.

“It has been a crazy week, started very dusty on stage one and we tried to find a rhythm from there, and ended with a third overall [stage time on Sunday] so it has been a strong day.”

Watch Josh speak about the rally below

FIA Junior World Rally Championship frontrunners Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan were another Rally Academy crew who contested the Latvian round of the ERC.

They had two very different but equally important reasons for entering the event in a locally sourced Ford Fiesta Rally3. They wanted to get some experience of high-speed gravel roads ahead of the Junior WRC counting Rally Estonia next month. Rally Liepaja will be included in next year’s Junior WRC and Kelly and Mohan had always said that this year was a learning year ahead of a more serious attack in 2024.

It was a case of mission accomplished, a solid 24th overall and sixth in a class that was won by Northern Ireland’s Jon Armstong.

“ERC Latvia done, good event really fun stages, superfast, obviously we came here to learn, first time on really, really fast gravel so happy with the progress, ok the result was not great but we can build on it. We came here to gain experience, we got it, so let’s see if we can take it to Estonia,” said the Donegal driver.

Watch Eamonn speak about the rally below

Aoife Raftery and her Welsh co-driver Claire Williams made their second Junior European Rally Championship appearance of the year after a successful maiden outing in Poland last month driving a PCRS Rallysport-prepared Peugeot 208 Rally 4.

Another progressive weekend for the Galway woman, she scored her first FIA Junior European Rally Championship top-ten finish. She finished ninth position, driving for the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy and leaves Latvia in seventh place in the championship standings.

“Delighted to get the finish of Rally Liepaja, it is great to get to the end of a challenging rally, the stages were so fast, thanks to everyone who got us here, the Rally Academy, Claire my co-driver and PCRS, and especially my dad as well, everyone has been a great help,” she said. “It has been a great weekend and I can’t wait for the next one.”

Watch Aoife speak about the rally below

Motorsport Ireland licence holder Australia-based Mac Kierans was on pacenote duty for Max McRae in an Opel Corsa Rally 4. They finished sixth in the Junior category.

They led the category- by 0.1 of a second - after Saturday’s opening leg but a one-minute time penalty after an early check-in for a technical zone shoved them down the order. They were unable to recover the lost time and eventually finished fifth.

“It started off very well, we were straight on the pace of the junior competitors, then the final super special stage of sat evening we took the overnight lead. It was very short as I clocked in a minute early into a technical zone on Saturday evening, this gave us a one-minute penalty dropping us from first to seventh overnight,” said the Monaghan man.

“Sunday, we went on a charge to try and make back some time but unfortunately with a number of quick stage times we could only climb back up to fifth overall in the Junior ERC.”

“It was good to get to the end, stages are unbelievable, cut up on 2nd pass on Sunday but very good, good event for us overall.”

After two rounds, they hold sixth place in the FIA Junior European Rally Championship meaning there are two Irish licence holders in the top ten.

Text by: Sean Moriarty