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“The pace is crazy, to be fighting with these guys who are former Rally1 Drivers is quite insane” McErlean said, after a tough and demanding day two at Rally Poland

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean surely had an eerie feeling of Deja Vu at Rally Poland on Saturday.

The County Derry-based driver had been in the thick of the WRC2 battle since the start of ORLEAN Rally Poland on Thursday in what is his third World Rally Championship appearance of the season.

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

The battle for third was hot and heavy with the position being held by Robert Virves, McErlean and Oliver Solberg respectively, over the first three stages of the day. However, Vivres and Solberg, who are also driving Skoda Fabia Rally2s, were on absolute missions across the day’s seven stages with the Latvian ending the day in third place and the Swede moving up from seventh starting the day to second position at day's end.

McErlean is more than happy to end the day in fourth place, despite an overshoot on Special Stage 13 which cost the Tok Sport World Rally Team driver valuable time.

Last year, when the event was part of the FIA European Rally Championship, McErlean and then co-driver John Rowan were 1.5sec ahead of Mads Østberg in the battle for fourth, only for a high-speed spin 1.6km from the start of SS13 dropped him to seventh.

Stage 13 bit again this year and such is the tight competition in the  WRC2 category that one small mistake is severely punished and a small overshoot cost the Irish crew the best part of eight seconds.

"The pace is crazy. It was a good stage, good to get into the rhythm again after our overshoot earlier,” he said at the end of Saturday’s final test.

“We are still battling; it is going to be good fun tomorrow.”

They ended the day in 12th position overall, fourth in the WRC 2 category and maintained third place in the WRC2 Challenger class.

Teammates Oliver Solberg and fifth-placed Pierre-Louis Loubet, who sits just 0.9 of a second off McErlean, are former Rally1 Class drivers.

"To be fighting with these guys who are former Rally1 Drivers is fantastic” he added.

 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 which propelled them from their overnight eleventh to second in WRC2. They ended  Friday in third position.

“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.

For McErlean it's still all to play for over Sunday’s 63Kms of stages.

He will be keeping a watchful eye over Sunday’s final competitive leg. In the WRC2 Challenger category, third-placed Nikolay Gryazin sits just 9.7 seconds in arrears in his Citroën C3 Rally2.

Text by Sean Moriarty / Reel edit by @World



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