The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy team experienced a challenging weekend at the Royal Rally of Scandinavia at the weekend, the fifth round of the FIA European Rally Championship.
Brothers Patrick and Stephen O’Brien were the only Irish finisher that completed all stages over the two days.
The Omagh brothers finished 15th overall in what was just their second event at European championship level at the wheel of their own Skoda Fabia. It was just their fourth event at the sport’s top level having contested both the Croatian and Sardinian rounds of the World Rally Championship in the Rally Academy’s Hyundai i20 Rally 2 earlier this year.
Their primary focus was to work with new supporter Hankook Tires to develop optimum tyres and car set-up ahead of future European championship events later this year.
Josh McErlean and James Fulton’s run of good form in European Championship events came to an end in Sweden.
An off-road excursion, while running inside the top ten, ended their run on Friday. A trojan effort by the PCRS Rallysport mechanics had them back out for Saturday and they spent the second day setting their car up for the fast roads of Estonia later this month.
The Derry/Cavan crew is also contesting the FIA World Rally Championship Rally 2 Challenger competition and their next outing is the WRC’s Rally Estonia on July 20 to 23.
Despite Friday’s misfortune the Hyundai i20 Rally 2 crew left Karlstad armed with loads of new car and tyre information that will be put to use in the Baltic nation in little under two weeks.
William Creighton and Liam Regan’s primary focus for the remainder of the year is to maintain their lead in the Junior World Rally Championship.
They were seconded into the M-Sport Poland team for the Royal Rally of Scandinavia at the weekend following the promotion of Jon Armstrong into Rally2 machinery.
A double puncture on stage four, on Friday, ended their promising run but they returned under Super Rally rules. Like their Rally Academy teammates, McErlean and Fulton, they spent day two on a data-gathering exercise that will be put to good use in Estonia later this month.
However, a determined drive on Saturday saw them win the ERC 3 class in what was their first European championship outing since Rally di Roma Capitale in 2021.
“We had a very enjoyable weekend in the Ford Fiesta Rally3 Evo with M-Sport Poland on some crazy flat-out stages! It was nice to set some strong times against the Rally2 cars and show the pace of the car,” said Creighton.
“Of course, I wanted a better overall result for the team after having the opportunity to drive the car but it has still been a very positive weekend as we now feel well prepared for the next round of the JWRC at rally Estonia in a couple of weeks.
“A big thank you to the Academy for the opportunity to work with M-sport Poland this weekend, all the mechanics and Jakub my engineer.”
The unluckiest member of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy team was Aoife Raftery. The Galway driver and co-driver Arthur Kierans suffered the same fate as McErlean on Friday.
Despite the best efforts of the PCRS Rallysport team, she was unable to complete the rally due to the unavailability of spare parts in the service park.
Arthur’s son Mac guided Max McRae 11th place in the FIA Junior Rally Championship category, but they, too, had to rely on Super Rally rules to make the finish. The Opel Corsa crew were running as high a third in the class on Friday when broken steering forced retirement for the day.
Text by Sean Moriarty
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