Creighton secures valuable Junior World Rally Championship debut result
Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy member William Creighton made a positive start to his debut in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, securing fifth place at Croatia Rally (22-25 April).
Despite being his maiden World Rally Championship outing outside of the UK, Creighton, 23 from Moira in Co. Down overcame several time-zapping issues to secure an all-important finish on the opening round of the season in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally4.
The ultra-competitive single-make formula was littered with action throughout the weekend, with Creighton and co-driver Liam Regan bagging second fastest Junior WRC time on the final Wolf Power Stage to round out a positive weekend for the rapid duo.
As a new round of the WRC, Croatia Rally would be a largely unknown quantity for the eight Junior pilots who started the Zagreb based event. With 300km of special stage spread across three days of action ahead, each special test would offer a unique characteristic with narrow countryside roads, mixed with high-speed sections and undulating asphalt segments.
With dirt and gravel pulled out into the road from the front-running WRC cars, each corner would be a “lottery” and brought an additional unpredictability to the twenty stages on offer.
Friday’s opening leg would be a difficult baptism as Creighton settled into his Junior WRC maiden outing. With the aim of “collecting experience and points” during the weekend, the opening eight stages were challenging for the Moira man, ending the day in sixth spot.
“It's been a little frustrating today as I know we can go better,” said Creighton. “I couldn’t get the heat into the rear tyres this morning and then we had some brake issues this afternoon. That all caused a few overshoots today but it’s important to gain the mileage and not do anything silly at this stage of the rally. It’s a lottery out there and really tough stages but we are pressing on as much as we can”.
With over 120km of special stages during Saturday’s second leg, the focus for Creighton would be on emerging from the day unscathed and putting the issues of the previous day firmly behind him. Indeed, the confidence Creighton had been searching for finally arrived throughout the opening loop and with the brake and tyre issues resolved, a climb up the leaderboard came on the opening test of the day to end the leg in fifth.
Sunday’s final four stages were certainly not to be overlooked and despite being the shortest day of the event, would be no less notorious than any other. With the feeling in the car “a little inconsistent” over the first pass, Creighton was eager to have a positive but trouble-free run over the closing two tests.
The jewel in the crown of Creighton’s weekend came on the final stage of the rally, the 14 kilometre Wolf Power Stage. After a confident run through the previous test, Creighton felt comfortable with his pace and was able to continue that through the final stage. That performance netted an impressive second quickest time and a confidence-boosting end to the rally.
“That’s a really great way to end my Junior WRC debut I`d say,” said Creighton at the finish.
“Everything just felt really good and although I didn’t take any risks, I really found a pace I was comfortable with and that’s what I had been looking for all weekend long really, sadly it came pretty late but I'm still very happy with that”.
Creighton is eager to learn from his Croatian outing.
“I’m definitely pleased with the finish and it's been mission accomplished as far as the goals we had set out at the start of the rally. We always said we didn’t know what pace we would be on and that it would be a steep learning curve, the rally was extremely tough even for the top boys. It would have been nice to have one, trouble-free day but we know that’s how it goes sometimes. The points on the board are valuable and I`m feeling very positive for the next round.”
Round two of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship takes place on gravel, with the Vodafone Rally de Portugal taking place in less than a month’s time.
You can follow his progress throughout his Junior World Rally Championship campaign this season by following him on his social media channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.