Junior British Rally champion, Josh McErlean, will compete for overall BRC honours in a Hyundai supported i20 R5. The news was announced at the annual Autosport International Show with McErlean receiving backing courtesy of winning the Billy Coleman Award.
The 20-year-old had a brilliant 2019, winning Motorsport Ireland’s young rally driver of the year following his JBRC dominance. McErlean tied up with Hyundai at the end of the season to make his first R5 starts on both Rally GB and Monza Rally Show. His 2020 BRC campaign will be his first championship drive in a four-wheel-drive car, a PCRS-run Hyundai i20 R5.
“This is another huge step in my career,” described McErlean. “But I mustn’t stand still, I have to keep improving and gaining experience with every stage-mile.
“Of course, I have one eye on the future and that forms a huge part of this plan for me.
“Keaton and I are one of the youngest crews to compete in an R5 at this level but we have already been in this situation so we know how to deal with it.
“Solid finishes are the main aim this season but it would be great to get some good results under our belt too.”
McErlean started his rallying career in J1000, winning the championship in 2016. The following year he moved to JBRC, learning his trade in an outdated Citroen C2. He continued in the JBRC in 2018 before winning the championship a year later in a Peugeot 208 R2.
“The JBRC was our objective at the beginning of the year and to eventually win it on our home rally [Ulster Rally] was special.
“Winning the championship taught me a lot, it’s not always about being fast, you have to be mature and get finishes – this is hard when you are competing with top drivers.
“Then to compete in a Hyundai R5 was incredible, this was a dream for me about a year ago.
“For it to happen for the first time at a test in France, with a works team was something else – definitely a day I will remember for a long time.
“I have now sampled the car both on tarmac and gravel which gives us a good foundation moving forward this year.”
Opportunities and support offered by Motorsport Ireland and the Billy Coleman Award have been improving over the past couple of years. McErlean is now looking forward to maximising the support he has received in order to progress his rallying career.
“Winning the Billy Coleman Award takes my rallying career to the next level. We’ve been on a ladder of progression to get to this point.
“A lot of hard work has been put in behind the scenes from the J1000 days and now it is paying off.
“Now I am working with professionals within Motorsport Ireland and it’s Academy, the future is looking very promising for Ireland’s up and coming drivers.
“I’m relishing the challenges that lay ahead and the start line of the Cambrian Rally is all that I am waiting for now.”
Image: British Rally Championship