Josh McErlean has got his 2021 season off to a flier, finishing third overall and top R5 car on the American Rally Association’s Olympus Rally. McErlean’s Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy team-mate Callum Devine was forced to retire his Ford Fiesta Rally2 after the rally’s ninth stage.
McErlean and co-driver Keaton Williams were fourth after six stages, before a fastest time on Stage 7 pushed their Hyundai i20 R5 into the top three. The Hyundai Motorsport junior driver, who had borrowed Enda McCormack’s car, held onto his first-ever podium finish thanks to four consecutive top three times on Sunday.
In fact, McErlean was Mr. Consistent in Washington with a fifth-fastest time on Stage 4 his lowest ranking all weekend.
The 21-year-old’s fastest-time on the 30 kilometre Wildcat stage was his highlight of the two-day rally. McErlean beat the powerful Subaru Imprezas of famous Americans Travis Pastrana and Ken Block to secure his maiden overall stage win.
“We got into a nice rhythm,” said McErlean, “and yeah Wildcat – it was a good feeling to get a stage win against these guys. It has been a phenomenal experience.”
Devine was battling mechanical gremlins throughout the opening day before stopping after one stage on Sunday.
“It has been a disappointing rally for us,” said Devine, “challenging from the word go really.
“We have been lacking a bit of power all weekend, it’s a bit unfortunate as the McKenna Motorsport guys have been working and changing stuff all weekend.
“I’m disappointed for them but we have still got good mileage in and I’ve enjoyed the stages out here.”
The Olympus Rally had a true Irish flavour to it with MI Rally Academy patron John Coyne rounding out the top five in his R5 Fiesta.
The academy was also represented on Croatia Rally, the latest round of the World Rally Championship, as William Creighton and Liam Regan finished fifth in their Junior WRC debut.
Creighton saved his best drive to the final stage of the rally. The Moira man started the 14 kilometre test just 1.1 seconds ahead of Sami Pajari who was charging up the leaderboard after an opening day roll.
Pajari had already set an astonishing nine fastest stage times but Creighton’s effort on Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec was 0.1s quicker than his Finnish rival – enough for a second-fastest time, sealing his fifth-placed Junior WRC finish.
The one-make Ford Fiesta Rally4 series-opener was won by Northern Ireland’s Jon Armstrong. It was the Fermanagh native’s maiden Junior WRC victory, an impressive feat considering his lack of recent rally experience.
Check out Rally Insight’s short Croatia Rally reviews below:
Photos by Chris Daley and Marek Pleha