Callum Devine will compete in all eight rounds of the European Rally Championship in 2020. The plan was revealed at the Autosport International Show by Motorsport Ireland who is supporting Devine’s campaign alongside Hyundai Motorsport.
Devine will drive a PCRS-prepared Hyundai i20 R5, as he did when he made his ERC debut in Rally Hungary last November.
“We’re very thankful to get the support from these sources,” explained Devine. “We wouldn’t be able to compete otherwise.
“I said to myself a long time ago that if I ever got the support and the chance to compete outside Ireland in the ERC or WRC, I’d be taking it.
“I just need to grab it with both hands. It’s nice to get out and see the world, when you’re in a rally car it’s even better.
“I remember this time last year I didn’t think I’d be rallying, and even when Galway [Rally] came around I was watching it on Facebook Live.
“It’s nice to announce our plan and goals at the Autosport Show.”
The 25-year-old qualifies for ERC’s Junior 1 championship and Devine admits this is his and his backers’ main goal for the season. The class for R5 drivers under the age of 28 is fought over the championship’s first six rounds.
“I would obviously love to go and win that, but we have to be realistic. These events are used consistently every year which is a killer.
“The good thing is that I went to Hungary last year. I think I proved what I could do once I was settled in, around the top three.
“However the championship has been visiting the likes of Poland and Azores for many years, so I’ll have to make sure I get as much preparation as I possibly can through tests to learn as much as possible.
“Usually if you’re fast enough in the Junior class, you’ll fall into the main championship quite well, going by previous results.
“Obviously Chris Ingram did that last year but it depends who comes out to the championship this year.
“I want to be in there and able to fight. It would be good to get some positive results for Hyundai and make improvements for them too.”
Brian Hoy will continue as Devine’s co-driver, a partnership that proved successful in their development during last year’s Irish Tarmac Championship. However, it looks unlikely that the pair will compete in many Irish rallies in 2020 due to their ERC commitments.
“We’re planning on doing the Cambrian Rally but it isn’t confirmed yet. I would really like to do the Cambrian as I know I need to do as much testing before Azores to get back into gravel driving.
“This is the only rally before Azores that works for me and allows crews to make their own notes.
“The Circuit of Ireland in April prior to the Canary Islands Rally in May would tie in well with the change of surface from gravel to tarmac. I would like to do this but at the moment it isn’t within our budget.
“Obviously we thought about Donegal but it doesn’t really tie in with the calendar.
“The Cambrian is probably the most realistic for me at the moment. You can’t do it all unfortunately, but it will be a busy year anyway.”
Motorsport Ireland is backing Devine’s ERC challenge and is the most recent example of how it is increasing its support for Ireland’s young rally drivers.
“It really is brilliant to see Ireland supporting drivers like this. It is thanks to John Coyne, as an injection of cash is what is needed to get things started.
“Of course, there is a team around him who put it all together, like Sean McHugh, who puts a lot of work into it.
“It’s very easy to criticise but it’s a lot different when you have to put up the money. Plenty of people can say this and that but to give money and not ask for anything in return is something special.
“It’s great to see Josh McErlean’s development for his age and progressing to R5. In the past, the Billy Coleman Award was 50,000 EUR which was great, but it was still difficult to move out of the R2 category with that. Now they have doubled the prize money which opens up the ballpark for them.”
The Azores Rally will be Devine’s first test in his ERC campaign. The stages are some of the most challenging in the world with high banks on either side of narrow roads making it difficult to navigate through.
“Azores looks very specialised. It’s like when we went to Ypres for the first time and I had to get my head around the cuts.
“I think once you get one over you, let it all digest and then go back the next year, then you start to get a feel for it.
“Poland and Latvia should be fast, but, plain and simple, I’ll just have to keep my foot to the floor.”
Photo: Conor Edwards