There are three crews for Irish rally fans to follow on Italy’s Rally di Alba this weekend. Josh McErlean and Pauric Duffy continue their seasons in Philip Case Rally Sport prepared Hyundai R5s while Aaron Johnston is set to sample World Rally Car action alongside Oliver Solberg.
Rally di Alba will be McErlean’s first asphalt rally of 2021. The 21-year-old has competed on three gravel rallies in America and Portugal so far this year.
McErlean’s most recent event, Rally Portugal, can be considered as one of his best drives to date. The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver finished 17th overall on the World Rally Championship round – fifth in WRC 3.
The experience left McErlean with a taste for WRC events but his focus for this season is on building a platform of different surface events for his future progression.
Alba ticks the asphalt box for the young driver from Kilrea and it also gives him a chance to gauge his development since his visit last year.
McErlean and co-driver Keaton Williams finished 17th overall on Rally di Alba last August; they’re seeded 12th for this year’s edition.
Pauric Duffy and Jeff Case continue their season in another PCRS Hyundai. They finished 29th on both the Terras d’Aboboreira Rally and Rally Portugal this year.
Seeded 26th for Rally di Alba, they’ll be looking forward to their first sealed surface rally since the Canary Islands Rally last November.
Aaron Johnston will be grateful to finally step into a Hyundai i20 WRC on Rally di Alba. Coronavirus has stopped his WRC debut with Oliver Solberg twice already so making the start-line on Sunday morning will feel like an achievement in itself.
Solberg and Johnston had planned to man a World Rally Car on Rally Italy last weekend but a positive Covid-19 test for Oliver’s father Petter, forced him into isolation and out of the rally.
Rally di Alba has a separate category for the latest generation of WRCs which takes the competitive edge off Johnston’s weekend.
However, Hyundai team-mate and 2019 World Rally Champion, Ott Tanak, is driving another i20 WRC on the event. He’ll provide a benchmark for wonderkid Solberg whose overall asphalt experience is still relatively limited.
Tanak will be looking to find a positive feeling with his Hyundai as Croatia Rally revealed he wasn’t 100% confident with the i20 on tarmac.
Three loops of three stages make up a 105-kilometre event this Sunday with Rally di Alba’s first stage starting at 8:10 am (Italy time).
Photos courtesy of Hyundai Motorsport and ACI Sport