2018 Billy Coleman Award winner, James Wilson, has wasted no time in preparing for his biggest season so far in his young rallying career.
The 24 year-old has taken Arthur Kierans onboard with the change in co-driver doubled up by a deal with Philip Case Rallysport. Both deals show Wilson’s intent on continuing his climb up the rallying ladder.
Wilson received the Billy Coleman Award at the end of 2018, taking the honours from ’17 winner Callum Devine. Like his predecessor, Wilson has proved his speed in the R2 category on both asphalt and gravel surfaces.
Perhaps the surprise of last year was Wilson’s success in the Irish Forestry Championship, a surface he had no experience of. Scoring a class victory on his championship debut got the ball rolling and a second place finish on the final round, the Bushwhacker Rally, gave Wilson the Junior Forestry Championship.
“2018 was certainly a great year for me,” says Wilson. “I think my driving improved with each rally I competed in, especially on gravel but also tarmac as well.”
Wilson came into the 2018 season off the back of R2 success in the Irish Tarmac Championship. While it was his competitiveness on gravel that earned Wilson his Billy Coleman nomination, the Armagh driver continued to develop his talent on asphalt rounds. The summer started perfectly but the highs of standing on the JBRC podium in June’s Ypres Rally were all too quickly brought back to ground at the start of the Ulster Rally in August.
“I have to say going to Belgium for the first time and getting a Junior BRC podium on the Ypres Rally was simply amazing,” recalls Wilson. “The feeling of standing on the podium with thousands and thousands of people was amazing.
“The Ulster Rally was very difficult for me this year, there was a high expectation on me to do well and I put myself under too much pressure to perform.
“My rally hopes ended in a bad crash on the shakedown stage but looking back that was a lesson well learned.”
Wilson’s JBRC assault in 2019 will take a slightly different approach. While he keeps hold of his faithful Peugeot 208 for a third consecutive season, it will be prepared professionally by PCRS and the experienced co-driver Arthur Kierans will guide him through the stages. Having worked with Billy Coleman Award winners such as Daniel McKenna and Stephen Wright in the past, Kierans will add an extra dimension to Wilson’s driving.
“I’ve never had a co-driver that has as much experience as Arthur and I know I still have plenty to learn, so that will be a big benefit to me.
“I can see myself improving even further this year down to PCRS running the car for me, the guys all have the experience to help me get the last out of the car’s set-up and it will give me more time between events to commit to my fitness work.”
Like many other young rally drivers, Wilson hopes to make the most out of his support following his Billy Coleman Award success. These small steps are moulded into Wilson’s grounded attitude to rallying and added to the experience picked up throughout last year, 2019 promises to be his most effective yet.
“2019 is turning out to be a very exciting year, there are some very exciting things in the pipeline that I can talk about at a later date.”
“For now, the set plans are the Junior BRC and selected rounds on both tarmac and gravel in Ireland with the 208 R2.
“There is also a good day coming up where all of the nominees of the Billy Coleman Award will get the opportunity to test an R2 and an R5 car.
“This just shows how versatile the Billy Coleman Award is this year and will give driver development opportunities to not just myself as the winner but all nominees which is fantastic.
“It’s a privilege to be able to support Irish rallies this year and I would like to thank the Billy Coleman Award team, Motorsport Ireland, Sport Ireland and all the clubs associated with the award.”
Photos and words by Adam Hall