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Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members dominate Rally4 class in Donegal



Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy drivers dominated the Rally4 and Stellantis Cup elements of the Donegal International Rally.


The three-day rally – the biggest rally event in Ireland – proved to be its usual challenge but when the dust settled Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members had taken the top three places in Rally4 and the top two positions in the one-make championship.



Irish Tarmac Championship Rally4 class leaders Ryan MacHugh and Declan Boyle in a Ford Fiesta Rally4 were once again the dominant force in the class, holding a 5.7 second lead after Friday’s stages.


MacHugh’s primary challenger, Kyle McBride in his Peugeot Rally4, had set the front-wheel-drive pace throughout the opening day and was unfortunate to lose his 12.1-second lead to MacHugh, on the final Friday stage. after picking up a puncture two kilometres into the 12.1-kilometre test.



MacHugh grew his advantage over his Donegal compatriot to almost a minute by Saturday evening and held on to the class lead through Sunday to finish 17 seconds clear of the strongly chasing pack.



“It was a good weekend,” said MacHugh. “We were slow to start on Friday but picked up the pace on Friday evening. We were able to build up a lead over Saturday. I was slow again on Sunday morning and we spun the car on the first run over Fanad Head losing around 15 seconds. The gap was down to 20 seconds, but we held on, and we are delighted to get it over the line.”


Keelan Grogan, in another Peugeot Rally4, dropped 19 seconds after a big moment on stage one and had an overshot on the next pass of Malin Head but finished day one on a high with the second-fastest time in the class on stage six.


At the end of day two and after a total of 183 km and 14 stages of rallying just 1.9 separated the top two in the Stellantis category.



Grogan moved into the lead from McBride after the Donegal man’s Peugeot had an impact with an Armco barrier.


Grogan got caught in the rain and lost a chunk of time, and coupled with McBride's chargeback, the duo went into day three with nothing between them.



McBride fought back over Sunday’s five-stage loop. He and co-driver Darragh Mullen took their maiden Stellantis Cup victory and second in the RC4 class after a stellar battle with Grogan and co-driver Ayrton Sherlock.



“A very good weekend overall and I am happy with my result,” said McBride at the finish.


“It was unfortunate to get a puncture on the last stage on Friday. We had really good stage times on Friday up to that point. It was a great weekend learning the car and trying new things and just to get more kilometres in the car and get more comfortable as the weekend went on.”


Grogan was upbeat after the rally. He said: “It was a very long and challenging weekend in Donegal. In the end, we came away with third in the RC4 class and second in the Stellantis Cup. It was a shame we dropped a lot of time on Friday’s stages, but we still come away with great championship points.”

The results put Grogan provisionally, on top of the Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup standings and McBride moves into second.



In the Historic section current Junior World Rally Champion and WRC2 Ford Fiesta Rally2 driver, William Creighton enjoyed his first attempt as a co-driver. He teamed up with his regular navigator Liam Regan and they brought their Skoda Estelle 130L home third in class.


“It was a weekend of pure enjoyment and no pressure. It was as really good to experience how things work at the other side of the car and a nice introduction to my first-time co-driving,” said Creighton.


“It was quite interesting, and I enjoyed it. Thanks to Liam and his team for having me along. They looked after us well and the car did not miss a beat all weekend. It was such a joy. I think I have worn the horn out; everyone was waving on the side of the road it was good to give them a big beep and a wave. It was such a fun weekend. Well done to the organisers for pulling off such a big event for such an enjoyable three days for the main field and two days for us".



McErlean returns to Poland for round seven of the World Rally Championship


Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean will be able to count on previous Rally Poland experience when he tackles the seventh round of the World Rally Championship this weekend.



The rally will mark McErlean’s third WRC outing of the year at the wheel of a Toksport Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.


After an absence of seven years, Rally Poland makes a comeback to the FIA World Rally Championship from 27 to 30 June 2024. In the intervening years, the rally was a round of the FIA European Rally Championship.



Last year McErlean and co-driver James Fulton finished seventh after a spin on the rally’s second day cost them the chance to challenge for third or fourth place.


The Derry/Cavan crew will make good use of that experience as they step up to WRC level again this weekend, but they are fully aware that the rally is also using some roads not visited since 2016.



“We were here last year with the ERC. Only a fifth of the stages are the same as last year, and the rest have not been used since 2016 or 2017. It is nice to have last years’ experience of the Polish stages which will allow us to go hard from the start” said McErlean.


“The rally has many high-speed ruts as well which can be quite a challenge. Having so many new stages, requiring new notes pace notes, levels the playing field. It is going to be a big commitment, but we are looking forward to it. We want to continue the momentum from our pace in Portugal and Sardinia. We will have to push and make the make the most of our prior experience here.”


Rally Poland is the first true high-speed gravel rally of the year, with fast stages, deep ruts and a bountiful supply of crests and jumps. Based in the northern town of Mikołajki, in the heart of the Masurian Lake District, the area is famous for its fast, flowing, and unforgiving gravel stages. The sandy surface can also drastically change in an instant thanks to the unpredictable Polish weather; rain can transform a trouble-free, dry loop into a potentially rally-ending mud bath. Whatever the weather the Polish stages pose a world class challenge to man and machine.



Text By Sean Moriarty / Pics By D Harrigan, M-Sport and MIRally Academy

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