Josh McErlean will make his European Rally Championship debut on November’s Rally Hungary as Motorsport Ireland’s Academy team fields a two-car team for the asphalt event.
The reigning Billy Coleman Award winner will return to the PCRS-prepared Hyundai i20 R5 he used at the start of 2020. McErlean will partner Callum Devine in the Motorsport Ireland team that is making its fourth ERC appearance of the season.
McErlean had hoped to compete on the Ravens Rock and Wexford Stages rallies this month. Heightening Covid-19 restrictions put an end to both events’ hopes so Hungary will be McErlean’s first rally since August’s Rally di Alba.
“It is going to be a big challenge no doubt,” McErlean told Rally Insight. “We have a lot to learn, we’re not going expecting a result at all.
“This is all about experience and gaining miles for the future.
“If you look back to last year’s event, the weather made it quite tricky. There were a lot of punctures last year, a lot of cuts.
“To get a clean rally at all would be good and I think if we do get a clean rally with no issues we could have a half-decent result.
“That’s our plan, we’ll be taking no major risks.”
The MI Rally Academy’s ERC programme has gone full circle since its debut with Devine on Rally Hungary last year. An impressive third overall was the Devine’s reward 12 months ago and McErlean is keen to learn from his team-mate this time around.
“Callum was there with PCRS last year so they have some experience of the rally. It is definitely a good time to get involved in the whole ERC front.
“Callum is full of information, he doesn’t hide behind any closed doors, he tells you the way it is.
“It is definitely good to have him there especially with his experience last year. I don’t think we’ll be stuck for knowledge as such.”
The 21-year-old admitted Rally Hungary will almost be like a second restart to his season after his planned events in Ireland were postponed. Looking back to his 17th overall on Rally di Alba, McErlean was pleased with the experience he gained.
“Italy was completely different to anything I am used to. It was a good rally from our side of things.
“Okay, we had a slight issue throughout it but we dealt with it in a good way.
“We progressed and kept going so it was definitely a worthwhile trip.”
Keaton Williams will join McErlean in the co-drivers seat for the 191 stage-kilometres of Rally Hungary. Round four of the European Rally Championship takes place on 6-8 November.
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