It is fair to say it has been a quiet usual start to the year for Irish rallying. While rallying in Ireland remains a distant hope there are plenty of crews to follow on events beyond home shores.
Craig Breen and Paul Nagle have kept us intrigued on two World Rally Championship rounds this year while Aaron Johnston’s progress with Oliver Solberg was curtailed on Arctic Rally Finland.
Jon Armstrong and William Creighton joined Breen on Croatia Rally list last month with the former picking up his maiden Junior WRC victory.
Josh McErlean and Callum Devine continue to lead Motorsport Ireland’s Rally Driver Academy with the pair kicking off their seasons on America’s Olympus Rally in April.
This has eased us into 2021 but the month of May will throw us into a busy period of rallying as the British Rally Championship gets underway before the European Rally Championship’s opening round in June.
Breen’s emotional return to Sicily
Craig Breen continues in the Italian Rally Championship this weekend on Sicily’s Targa Florio Rally. It will be the Hyundai driver’s first visit to the island since the tragic weekend in 2012 when he lost his co-driver and close friend, Gareth Roberts.
Breen has already competed in the Italian Championship’s opening two rounds this year, winning last month’s Sanremo Rally. However, he’ll be without Nagle this time with Beglian Louis Louka stepping in to fill the void.
The Irishman’s outings in Italy have filled the gaps in his WRC campaign as he continues to share Hyundai’s third seat with Dani Sordo. Breen and Nagle miss out on the next two rounds – Rally Portugal and Rally Italy – but there will still be plenty of Irish interest in Portugal which takes place on 20-23 May.
Irish competitors litter the Rally Portugal field with entries in WRC, WRC 2, WRC 3, and Junior WRC.
Northern Ireland’s Chris Patterson will be hoping to build on a promising debut with Gus Greensmith on Croatia Rally. Patterson’s wise counsel was an apparent theme in the M-Sport pairing’s smooth run to seventh overall on the asphalt event.
Meanwhile, fellow Ulster co-driver Aaron Johnston, will return to WRC action alongside Oliver Solberg after missing the Swede’s last WRC appearance on Arctic Rally Finland.
Johnston has since navigated for Hyundai’s young protege on the Sanremo Rally but their asphalt appearance came to an early end on the third stage. Solberg and Johnston will tackle the arduous Rally Portugal stages in a Hyundai i20 R5 before June’s Rally Italy where they will get another shot in a World Rally Car.
Josh McErlean, who knows all about Johnston’s navigational skills, will also take on Rally Portugal in an R5 Hyundai. The Hyundai junior steps into WRC 3 following a promising warm-up event on last weekend’s Terras d’Aboboreira Rally.
McErlean had been running eighth overall before a sliced brake pipe on the penultimate stage dropped him out of the top ten.
Pauric Duffy is another R5 driver ready for action in Portugal. Duffy got his season underway alongside McErlean in another Philip Case Rally Sport Hyundai last weekend.
Ensuring the Emerald Isle is represented in every Rally Portugal class, Jon Armstrong and William Creighton are eager to continue their positive starts to this year’s Junior WRC. Only four weeks separate JWRC’s first two rounds with Armstrong leading the championship standings after Croatia Rally.
Ireland gunning for BRC glory
Irish crews look set to litter the entry list for the British Rally Championship’s opening round – the Neil Howard Stages – which is based at Oulton Park.
Desi Henry, Joe McGonigle, and Martin McKenna have been revealed as BRC contenders in their varients of R5 while the Junior BRC is filled with extremely talented young drivers.
Brian Brady, David Kelly, Eamonn Kelly, and Casey Jay Coleman will all be fighting amongst each other in Ford Fiesta Rally4s while Northern Ireland’s Kyle White enters in his Peugeot 208 R2.
Garry Jennings and Alan Carmichael have also been revealed as R5 runners but will compete for the National Championship in their right-hand-drive vehicles.
The BRC opener takes place on Monday 31st May.
Photos courtesy of ACI Sport and Chris Daley