Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh Mc Erlean discovered the extremities of rallying’s high and low this weekend. Derry-based McErlean and his co-driver James Fulton entered last weekend’s Rally Hungary, the final round of the FIA European Rally Championship.
The rally attracted a very strong entry including defending European Rally champions Efren Llarena and multiple Rally Hungary winner Mads Ostberg. The strong entry gave the Irish crew an ideal opportunity to showcase their true potential and they delivered in spades on Friday morning.
The Hyundai i20 Coupe Rally 2 crew went third fastest on the event’s qualifying stage and that allowed them to choose their starting position for the three-day rally.
The event's opening stage, on Friday, was a spectator-friendly Super Special at a local kart racing circuit.
Unfortunately, McErlean’s rally ended on the event’s shortest stage. Halfway through the test he clipped an anti-cut device on the stage and damaged the left front suspension and steering arms.
McErlean and Fulton are also entered in the Rally of Central Europe, the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship, at the end of October.
With that in mind and in the absence of any possibility of a good result, it was decided to withdraw the crew from the rally on Friday night and, instead focus on the final European-based WRC event at the end of the month.
He said: “After a small mistake on SS1, we didn’t make it back to service within the time limit. I apologise to the team and all my supporters. We will now regroup, conserve our budget, and focus on ending the year on a high note at the Central European Rally.”
FIA Rally Star - Saaremaa Rally, Estonia
The FIA Rally Star Training Season resumed in Estonia last week with the Saaremaa Rally.
The two-day event offered more learning and progression for some of rallying’s brightest prospects for future success.
The event marked the first of three gravel contests on the FIA Rally Star Training Season calendar and comes ahead of this weekend’s Spanish event and a rally in Germany in November.
Once the FIA Rally Star Training Season has concluded, the process of deciding the names of the four drivers and co-drivers who will progress to the FIA Junior WRC Championship in 2024 will enter its final phase.
Ireland’s Ronan Comerford is on co-driving duty for Oman driver Abdullah AlTawqi.
Speaking after last weekend’s Estonia event and ahead of this weekend’s rally in Spain, the County Armagh man said:
"We had a very positive weekend overall. We felt more confident with the car and with the development of various things we set out to work on. It was great to be back on gravel and learning the car on this surface. Deep Ruts and very wet stages greeted us so it was nice to manage the situation
"Thanks, as always, to the FIA RallyStar team for their hard work and efforts and to the MI Rally Academy for their work and efforts. It is great to be back on gravel and a good test as we prepare for Rally RACC Catalunya Spain in a week's time.”
Text by Sean Moriarty // Photos by Radiö Turner on behalf of FIA