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Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy’s Italian Job 


The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy is targeting more top results on a tough gravel challenge when Rally Italia Sardegna hosts round six of the 2024 World Rally Championship this weekend. 


Similarly to round five, in Portugal, Rally Italia Sardegna is comprised of fast gravel stages that frequently alternate between wide and narrow roads. 


Set in front of a picturesque backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea, the idyllic setting does anything but reflect the nature of the rally. 


McErlean participating in Rally Italia Sardegna last year


Deep ruts and extreme heat push both driver and machine to the limit, with the rough surface creating extremely abrasive conditions. 


Three drivers representing the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy have entered the rally and the trio are full of confidence following a recent spate of top performances in the World Rally Championship and other events. 




William Creighton and Liam Regan had little time to celebrate last weekend’s second-place finish on the Jim Clark Rally. Driving their M-Sport-supported Ford Fiesta Rally2, their result in Scotland propelled them to the top of the leaderboard of the British Rally Championship. 



Less than 24 hours after their Scottish success they arrived in Italy in preparation for their fourth WRC appearance of the year. 


“We went straight from Scotland to Sardinia for a test on Tuesday,”  said the current Junior World Rally Champion.


“Sardinia is another different style of driving but it is all time in the car,” 

Watch:


Josh McErlean and James Fulton also arrive in Sardinia on a crest of wave. 



Following their outstanding debut drive for Toksport and Škoda Motorsport in a Fabia Rally2  - they finished second in the WRC2 category in Portugal – the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crew won McErlean’s home Tour of the Sperrins rally. 



Despite these recent successes, McErlean’s focus is firmly on the future and the next rally. 


“It’s great to be back in the Škoda so soon after Portugal. Sardinia presents a different challenge, more technical, tougher, and potentially more loose rocks than Portugal” he said. 


“We still have good experience in Sardinia, it will be a case of managing pace over reward. We are in a good position; the team is ready and we are looking forward to another successful week. We must keep focused, Portugal’s result is over now, we must keep learning and keep progressing.”


Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan resume their Junior WRC campaign in Italy. 


Since their last outing in Croatia, they contested the Border Counties Rally in Scotland to gain more gravel rally mileage ahead of this weekend’s third championship round. 


“I needed seat time on gravel, not that the Border Counties Rally is representative of Sardinia, but Greece last year was my last gravel event, I needed to keep sharp,” he said after finishing sixth in a hired Ford Fiesta Rally3. 


Kely is fifth in the Junior World Rally Championship standings after two (Sweden and Croatia) of five rounds. 


Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnston is also on the entry list and resumes his regular position alongside Takamoto Katsuta in their Toyota Yaris GR Rally1. 



Rally Italia Sardegna’s service park switches back from Olbia to the historic city of Alghero on the island’s northwest coast and, after shakedown takes place on Friday morning at the nearby Ittiri rallycross circuit, the rally starts in the afternoon with two stages to be driven twice on the northern coast. 


The rally will follow a new format for 2024 - a more condensed route will pack the 266.12 kilometres of competitive action  into just 48 hours



Saturday heads further east and features over half of the competitive distance, with 149 km to be driven without mid-day service. 


Two stages will be run twice in the morning, before a tyre-fitting zone and another two stages are tackled twice in the afternoon. On Sunday there’s a return to two repeated stages along the northwest coast.


Circuit of Munster 


On the home front, two Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crews are competing in Sunday’s Circuit of Munster. 



Keelan Grogan’s main focus this season is the Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup. 

After three rounds the Peugeot 208 Rally4  driver holds second place in the one-make series.

With round four of the championship, the Donegal International Rally, just a matter of weeks away Grogan and co-driver Ayrton Sherlock are using the latest Triton Showers Motorsport Ireland National Rally Championship counter as a high-speed test.


“It will be good to get some more seat time and mileage in before heading to Donegal,” he said.


“The gap between Killarney and Donegal is quite long so Munster should help keep us sharp in the meantime. I am looking forward to being back in the National Championship where there’s been some really good racing between the Rally4 crews so far this year.”


Craig Rahill and Conor Smith are chasing National Rally Championship Class 2 points this year. Victory in the Rally4 category in the National Championship would assure Rahill of a Billy Coleman Award nomination at the end of the year and that is the priority for now.

 

“We really need to be getting a win this weekend to put us back into championship contention, but as always in this class , hat’s not going to be easy. We will try our best” said Rahill who is in third place after four rounds. 


“I am looking forward to the  Munster stages this weekend, the stages look very good, with a few tricky sections but a lot of good fast-flowing sections too.”

The Lyons Motor Group  Circuit of Munster takes place on Sunday in the general Cappagh, Askeaton and Pallaskenry areas of County Limerick. There are service breaks pencilled in at the Northern Trust facility on the Ballysimon Road in Limerick City throughout the day.


Text By Sean Moriarty / Pics by MI Rally Academy

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