Callum Devine and James Fulton will compete on the European Rally Championship’s fourth round this weekend – Barum Rally Zlin.
Before travelling to the Czech Republic, Devine spoke to Rally Insight about his season so far and what he is expecting from ERC’s second asphalt rally of the year.
“Anybody that has been there before says it is quite similar to home,” commented the Motorsport Ireland driver, “with the bumpy terrain, broken tarmac, and surface changes.
“This is probably the rally most similar to home so we are looking forward to it in that way.
“From onboards, I expect it to be extremely fast. It could be very challenging if it is wet, to get our heads around the surface changes coming in and out of trees.
“It is going to be a very tricky rally but it is one that I’ve been looking forward to since last year.”
Gearbox trouble, suspension damage, and an impromptu puncture have all hindered Devine’s chances of scoring solid ERC results in Poland, Latvia, and Italy so far this season.
The 27-year-old, however, is focusing on the positive pace that he can carry forward from last month’s Rally di Roma.
“The puncture in Rome really just upset our whole rally. It was our first tarmac event in the new Fiesta so it was always going to be a learning curve.
“We thought we managed well going into it, trying to find our pace and trying to find a set-up as well. When we were getting up to speed the puncture hit and cost us three minutes which in that championship means your rally is beat at that point.
“It turned into a test rally after that. We picked up our pace on the second day with a third-fastest stage time which was good.
“It was nice to see our speed building in the car and we knew that from previous events too.
“At least now we have back-to-back tarmac events so we can push on in Barum with the speed we had on the final day in Rome.”
Confidence works wonders for a rapid rally driver like Devine. Those who watched stage-side in Ireland as he battled Craig Breen and Alastair Fisher in 2019 can vouch for that.
Finally, with an asphalt rally now under his belt in M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta Rally2, Devine is feeling more at home despite the new surroundings.
“I am feeling a little bit more comfortable in the car. Starting off on high-speed gravel, which is not our strongest surface, wasn’t so easy. After getting our first tarmac event in the car we feel a lot more comfortable.
“The pace was there in Rome and we built our speed up rather than going mad. We had no moments at all during the rally which was good.
“I’m starting to get to grips with the car and I think the Fiesta will be nice when we get to Barum with similar terrain to home. Barum’s stages look a bit bumpier and that was where the old Fiesta was quite strong.
“It’s encouraging and I’m looking forward to getting the car out to Barum and hopefully back home as well.”
As for Barum Rally this weekend, one can sense Devine’s desire for a strong showing but he remains focused on his own development. After all, with nine Czech flyers inside Barum’s top twenty, it is perhaps a rally to ease into.
“We’re under no illusions as we are going to Barum for the first time. Still, we are hoping for a strong result this weekend, inside the top ten at least. Home knowledge from those Czech drivers will be tough to beat but we’ll see.
“We’ve been told the rally can be completely different if it is wet and muddy with the cuts and change of surfaces but we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“I would like to push on from where we were in Rome. If we can get up to speed quickly with a good test and a good recce we’ll know where we are then.
“We’re trying to get some miles in the Fiesta and hopefully we can put in some good times throughout the weekend. If we’re more consistently at the front-end then we will be happy.”
Barum Rally starts on Friday night with a nine kilometre stage in Zlin before 14 tests on Saturday and Sunday. Alexey Lukyanuk leads ERC after three rounds, one point ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen.
Photos courtesy of European Rally Championship