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Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy drivers set for breakthrough in 2020 after securing seats in Hyundai i20 R5 cars

Josh McErlean, Callum Devine and James Wilson were unveiled at Autosport International motorsport show today

Birmingham, 9th January, 2020: Three young Irish rally drivers are being given the chance to break through into the big time in 2020 after it was announced that they will drive Hyundai i20 R5 cars at domestic and international events.

Motorsport Ireland has announced that for the first time ever three members of the Rally Academy programme will have the opportunity to compete in one of the most hotly-contested rally classes (R5) this season, with all three driving Hyundai i20 R5 rally cars in domestic and international events throughout 2020.

The three drivers – Callum Devine, James Wilson, and Josh McErlean – were unveiled next to a Hyundai i20 R5 today (January 9th) at the Autosport International motorsport show at the NEC in Birmingham.

All three drivers have won the internationally recognised Billy Coleman Award for being named Ireland’s Young Rally Driver of the Year, while Callum is also the current holder of the Manley Trophy for Irish International Driver of the Year.

Callum Devine, from Co Derry, is the current Motorsport Ireland International Driver of the Year and in 2017 won the Billy Coleman Award for being the Young Rally Driver of the Year. He and co-driver Brian Hoy will compete in all rounds of the European Rally Championship, with the first six rounds counting for the ERC Junior U28 title, and the last two rounds for the Overall ERC Title. 

Callum Devine said: “I have experienced driving this car in a round of the ERC last year and I have to say that I can’t wait to get behind the wheel again. Having a full campaign in the Hyundai R5 will allow myself and Brian to target the Junior ERC for podium finishes and hopefully even championship honours as well.”

Callum Devine is the current Motorsport Ireland International Driver of the Year

James Wilson, from Co Armagh, the 2018 Billy Coleman Award Winner, and co-driver Arthur Kierans will compete in the National Irish Forestry Championship and selected rounds of the Irish Tarmac Championship, providing him with invaluable experience on mixed surfaces which will be required as he progresses his career onto the international stage. 

James Wilson said, “I have been very fortunate in that I had the opportunity last year to drive the R5 as part of the extended Billy Coleman Award programme and managed to secure a third place overall at my first loose surface event in the car. I am looking forward to running the car for a full campaign in 2020 and see this as a fantastic opportunity to further my career in Rallying.”

James Wilson is the 2018 Billy Coleman Award Winner

Josh McErlean, from Kilrea, Co Derry, who last month was named the Billy Coleman Award Winner for 2019, will compete in all rounds of the British Rally Championship which has been the launch pad for so many drivers now competing on the ERC and WRC stage. Josh impressed on his debut R5 drives last year on Wales Rally GB and at the Monza Rally Show and will be aiming to take that form into 2020. He will be supported in his endeavours by co-driver, Keaton Williams.

Josh McErlean said: “I have to thank everyone involved. I never dreamed when I started rallying that I would win the Billy Coleman award let alone be involved in a programme that will enable me to compete for a full campaign in a top spec R5 like the Hyundai. For a young driver like myself this is an opportunity I intend to grasp with both hands and prove to those supporting myself and Keaton that their confidence in us is justified.”

Josh McErlean was named the Billy Coleman Award Winner for 2019 last month

Leo Hassett, CEO Motorsport Ireland, said: “It is a great testament to the work of the academy that we are in a position to announce this today. These young men and their co-drivers have the opportunity to compete at the highest level in the sport both at home and internationally. 

“This unique opportunity is only possible because of the incredible support we have received from Sport Ireland, the Team Ireland Foundation, which is generously supported by, amongst others, John Coyne and John Campion. Of course, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing and their work with the academy also needs to be acknowledged. As important is the proven ability of the Billy Coleman Award process to identify talent and reward its participants with this type of experience that will be invaluable in their future careers as drivers representing Ireland on the international stage.”

Andrew Johns, Senior Sales Associate Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing , said: “We are excited by the prospect of these talented young drivers showcasing their skills in the Hyundai i20 R5, and delighted that the car can play a role in the development of these drivers’ careers. All three have already showed they are able to compete in the incredibly competitive R5 class, and I have no doubt that with a full season for each of them their skill behind the wheel will see podiums, and maybe even championships won this year.” 

Sean McHugh, coordinator of the MI Rally Academy said: “We are delighted to see these three young Irish drivers moving forward in developing their careers. Having the winners of the Billy Coleman Award for each of the last three years progress to top flight cars contesting major championships at home and abroad demonstrates the significant impact of the Rally Academy initiative”. 

“The MI Rally Academy, now entering its second year, is designed to develop, support and promote young Irish rally drivers as they climb the ladder to success at the sport’s highest level, representing the best of Irish talent on the world stage.”

About the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy 
The programme, is funded by the Team Ireland Foundation through support by philanthropist John Coyne. Those eligible to enter the high-performance academy are chosen from the Billy Coleman Award nominees, and the elite co driver programme. Drivers and co drivers who are selected undergo a rigorous training programme to develop their skills and discipline and move them up through the various competitive classes in Irish rallying through to the highest levels of the sport internationally.

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