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WRC Rally Italia Sardegna Motorpsort Ireland Rally Academy Day 2 report

McErlean’s shows true grit with masterful recovery drive in Sardinia

Leading the three Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crews competing in WRC Rally Italia Sardegna, Josh McErlean and James Fulton demonstrated a never-give-up attitude on the second day of this extremely rough and tough event.

A puncture on stage six, the second test of the morning, cost over two minutes as they had to stop and change the wheel, but they fought back and set a string of top four WRC2 stage times over the second half of the day.

The Toksport  Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crew started the day in sixth place in the WRC2 category and less than seven seconds off third place.

Rally Italia Sardegna is their second appearance of the year behind the wheel of the Toksport Skoda and they were hoping to build on their fine second-place finish in Portugal last month.

Saturday was the longest day of the event, with the crews covering  149.00km in the space of 12 hours and without the benefits of a midday service.

"We got a puncture. A lot of hard hits in there. Not ideal, we'll try to survive,” he said at the end of the test.

The issue dropped them to 12th in the class but rather than let the disappointment get the better of them they accepted the challenge and set about on an impressive recovery drive.

A string of top four stage times, including going second quickest on stage nine the 25.33km Monte Lerno - Monti di Ala test has moved them back into the top ten in the WRC2  category.

The crew’s masterful performance in the afternoon has moved them back up to eighth in the WRC2 class and 13th overall at day’s end.

“It's been a day of two halves for us, this morning we struggled with the tyres and this afternoon we showed good pace. It's been enjoyable this afternoon, the stages have been great and we're looking forward to another push tomorrow,” said McErlean at the end of the day’s final stage.


William Creighton and Liam Regan suffered a worse fate. A technical issue on the same sixth test and the lack of a midday service meant they had to retire for the day.

The M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 crew will return to action on Sunday morning under SuperRally rules but all hopes of a top result have evaporated.

Junior WRC driver and Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members  Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan also endured a tough second day on demanding roads and in soaring temperatures.

Their rally got off to a difficult start on day one. They drove SS1 in road mode in their Ford Fiesta Rally3, suffering a puncture as well as water temperature problems.

Kelly recovered and started the Saturday leg in fourth place and had been setting top-five Junior World Rally Championship class times early in the day until two more punctures scuppered his plans.

The Donegal/Monaghan crew then retired on stage eight but they will restart Sunday’s final leg.

“It's absolutely gutting to retire on stage eight after something in our steering broke, which put the car off the road, damaging the suspension. It’s even more frustrating as we were only nursing the car through due to having no spare wheels left as we already had two punctures,” explained Kelly. “It just goes to show how rough and challenging this event is. We will restart tomorrow and try to finish on a positive note.”

Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnston was as high as third overall alongside Takamoto Katsuta before technical gremlins ended their fine run.

The Toyota Gazzo Racing crew will restart on Sunday under SuperRally rules.

Sunday’s finale is based north-west of Alghero and includes two loops of two tests, ending with the bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage, which finishes amid spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea. The four stages cover 39.30km.

Text By San Morairty

Photos by Andre Lavadinho, Conor O’Neil, Sean Hassett, and MI Rally Academy



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