James Wilson is determined to progress his R5 driving ability in 2020 with an Irish Forestry Championship campaign courtesy of backing from Motorsport Ireland, Michelin, and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing.
The 2018 Billy Coleman Award winner made his R5 debut last year on Killarney’s Rally of the Lakes before making a further three appearances during the year. 50,000 EUR has been granted to him from the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy to compete in the Forestry Championship as well as selected tarmac rallies.
“The main goal this year is to learn the Hyundai R5,” said Wilson. “I want to get to know the suspension, the different differential settings and more things like that.
“I want to learn as much as I can but mainly I want to enjoy it.”
The move to an R5 means Wilson will move away from the British Rally Championship after two seasons in the JBRC. His campaign got off to the perfect start in 2019, taking the Junior win on the opening round, the Cambrian Rally. Wilson continued in the championship before switching to R5 competition.
“Things went downhill after the Cambrian as far as my JBRC campaign was concerned. Engine troubles in West Cork meant I finished fourth and then the car suffered engine failure on the Pirelli International Rally.
“Then Killarney in the Hyundai R5 was an amazing experience. The build-up, the excitement. Basically the first ever fully funded drive from Motorsport Ireland. We suffered from some mechanical issues at the beginning of the event but when we got it sorted we had some encouraging times towards the end.
“Cork Forestry Rally was just a dream come true. The weekend couldn’t have gone any better really, I clicked with the Hyundai in the initial gravel test. Finishing third overall and swapping seconds with the best of them which was fantastic.”
Killarney now has a place in Wilson’s heart. He is aiming to go back to the Rally of the Lakes this year and build on his previous experience there.
Wilson’s announcement was one of three made by Motorsport Ireland at its state-of-the-art stand at Autosport International. The governing body is breaking new ground as along with Wilson it is supporting R5 campaigns for Callum Devine and Josh McErlean.
“The value of Motorsport Ireland support speaks for itself. As more and more young drivers take notice of the new academy it’s clear to see it’s an obvious path to follow.
“For me, it has opened up more doors in terms of seeking sponsorship.
“Today at the Autosport Show, Hyundai Motorsport Team Director, Andrea Adamo, came along for our programme launch. He knows exactly what is going on here and that says a lot about the academy.”
Photos: Rally Through a Lens