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McErlean third in WRC2 after stellar opening day at Rally Poland



Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean put in a stellar performance on the first full day of competitive action at ORLEAN Rally Poland – his third World Rally Championship appearance of the season.


Co-driven by James Fulton the Toksport World Rally Team crew are third in the WRC2 category ahead of Saturday's loop of 124.10km competitive kilometres across seven stages.


Rally Poland commenced on Thursday evening with the famous Mikołajki Arena Super Special.




McErlean was 11th fastest on the spectator-friendly test but knew then that the real rally would not start until Friday morning.


“The crowds are amazing; they always are in Poland. Nice to get that one over and head into the forest tomorrow,” he said on Thursday night.


Friday’s itinerary featured two loops of Stańczyki (29.40km), Wieliczki (12.90km) and Olecko (13.20km) before closing with another run of Mikołajki Arena (SSS8, 2.50km).


McErlean and Fulton were immediately on the pace.


Setting the second-fastest time on the first run over Stańczyki propelled them from their overnight 11th to second in WRC2.


The Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crew engaged in a day-long battle with class leader Sami Pajari (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2) and local hero Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2).

Although two stages were cancelled over spectator safety issues, of the five that did run McErlean and Fulton were always very close to the front-running pace.



A highlight included another second-fastest time over the first run at the  Wieliczki stage.


“It has been a long day, with a lot of miles and a lot of fast stages,” he said at the Mikołajki Service Park on Friday evening.

“The pace has been good but the second pass in the afternoon has been tricky with the ruts.”



They end day one in third place, just 13.3 seconds behind Kajetanowicz and with fourth-placed Estonian Robert Virves  (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) j just 1.7 seconds behind.

It is all to play for on Saturday which is the longest day of the rally.



Seven stages lay in wait (Świętajno (SS9/13, 18.50km; Gołdap SS10/14,19.90km;  Czarne SS11/15, 22.40km and SSS12 Mikołajki Arena 3 2.50km).


Goldap is one of the rally's signature stages, running close to the Russian (Kaliningrad Oblast),  border, and is famous for its high-speed jumps and crests.


Sunday concludes the weekend with four stages, including the Power Stage: SS19 Mikołajki 2 (10.73km).


Text By Sean Moriarty / Reels video edits by @world

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