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Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy Rally Estonia preview



Irish co-drivers Treacy and Hoy work together ahead of Rally Estonia

A collaboration between co-drivers Eoin Treacy and Brian Hoy could be the key to success on this weekend’s Rally Estonia.


Supported by the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, M-Sport pilot Jon Armstrong and co-driver Eoin Treacy are contesting the fourth round of the FIA European Rally Championship this weekend.


It is the first time that the Tartu-based event has been included in the European Rally Championship, but it has featured in the FIA World Rally Championship for the last four years.

This will be Armstrong’s third attempt at the rally but Treacy’s first. Two years ago, the current Ford Fiesta Rally2 driver finished 18th overall and third in the Junior WRC element of Rally Estonia with Hoy alongside.


Preparations for this year’s event have revealed that many of the stages used in 2022 are either the same or very similar to the 2022 rally.


“I've done most of the stages previously in some form. I think there's a couple of stages which might have a different direction or go down a different road but come back out on the same stage I've done before, so have a good idea of my surroundings,” Armstrong said.


That knowledge encouraged Treacy to contact Hoy and get a copy of the 2022 notes to ease the workload during the recce on Thursday and Friday this week.


“We got some pacenotes we are reusing as well from 2022 that me and Brian Hoy made together. We can reuse those, and we can improve them,” added Armstrong.

“We have been sending them across to Eoin who has been able to write them out. Then we'll go through them together and make sure they're all looking perfect before we start the recce.”


“I like the event. The surface is quite sandy, and it gets quite rutted on the second pass.But you can really push on into the gravel and use the ruts to sort of lean on. I think there are some places that you will need big courage and you need to have a good rhythm with the car, and with the pacenotes. There are some big jumps for sure, it is one of the best events on the calendar. It is one of the proper rallies. We want to get closer to the front pace compared to our last rally in Sweden.”

 


Junior FIA European Rally Championship

 

The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy will also field a Peugeot 208 Rally4 for Aoife Raftery and Hannah McKillop.


The Galway/Antrim pairing holds fifth place in the Junior FIA European Rally Championship - out of 17 contenders – after strong performances in Sweden, The Canary Islands, and a career-best fourth-place finish in Hungary at the start of the season.



Raftery’s preferred surface is gravel and following last month BAUHAUS Royal of Scandinavia she is looking forward to another fast and flowing loose-surface rally.


As the rally is new for all Junior competitors, she is hopeful for a more level playing field given her lack of experience in the Swedish event compared to her championship rivals.


“Hannah and I are really looking forward to Rally Estonia and to get back into the car again after Sweden,” she said.
"The fast gravel stages do look similar to Sweden. As it is a new championship round for the juniors and new roads for everyone, there is a good chance to see where we are against the other drivers. Hopefully, we can build up our pace over the weekend. From reviewing on-board video from the stages, they look challenging and fun, so I am looking forward to that.”

Delfi Rally Estonia 2024 will be held on the roads of Tartu and Southern Estonia from July 5 to 7.


Rally Estonia's start and finish podium with a unique entertainment programme will be held at Tartu Town Hall Square, and the rally HQ and service park will again be hosted by the Tehvandi Sports Centre in Otepää.

 


WRC Rally Poland

 

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean was on the brink of another top WRC2 category result in Poland over the weekend until Lady Luck had other ideas.


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



McErlean and co-driver James Fulton started the final day in third place in the WRC2 Challenger Category in their Tok Sport-prepared Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.


However, on Sunday’s opening stage, just after the Flying Finish, the Škoda ran wide, clipped a bale and damaged the car’s suspension beyond repair. Their rally ended there and then.



On Saturday they were in a fierce battle with some of the best Rally2 pilots in the world. They ended the day in 12th position overall, fourth in the WRC 2 category and third in the WRC2 Challenger class.


Fellow Škoda drivers third-placed Oliver Solberg and fifth-placed Pierre-Louis Loubet are former Rally1 Class drivers.


"To be fighting with these guys who are former Rally1 Drivers is fantastic,” said McErlean on Saturday evening.


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.

Next up for the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crew is championship newcomer Rally Latvia from July 18  to 21.



Text By Sean Moriarty / Pics by WRC, M-Sport, Red Bull Content Pool, MI Rally Academy and Kerry Motorsport News 

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