McErlean storms to maiden World Rally Championship podium in Spain


Josh McErlean on the Spanish tarmac at Rally RACC Catalunya

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean stood on an FIA World Rally Championship podium for the first time last weekend, taking third place in the WRC3 category at Rally RACC Catalunya - Rally de España [14-17 October].  

McErlean, guided by co-driver James Fulton returned a faultless performance on his first visit to the Salou based event, to take the best result in his career behind the wheel of his PCRS Rallysport run Hyundai i20 R5, beating many more experienced WRC regulars in the process.  

The 22-year-old from Kilrea, Co. Derry coped admirably with the tricky and unpredictable conditions throughout the weekend, recording two top-three times on his way to the final podium spot in one of the most hotly contested categories on the event.  

“A podium on such a prestigious event like this is beyond words really,” said an elated McErlean.  

“It’s one of those events that is an iconic feature in the World Rally Championship and to come away with third place with all the local experts and WRC regulars around me is a great sign, even though this has essentially been a learning year for me. ”  

The Spanish outing would be McErlean’s third WRC jaunt of the season, having contested the gruelling gravel-based Rally de Portugal ahead of a sensational result at WRC Ypres Rally Belgium, where he finished fifth in WRC3 and twelfth overall. Like Ypres, Spain is considered a highly specialised event and would favour the local experts thanks to its unique characteristics.  

Super-fast cliff-hugging stages were offset by narrow mountainous sections and with the promise of large cuts and gravel-strewn corners, it all added up to one of the biggest challenges in the WRC tour. Gaining confidence early on in the event would be key to a good result and McErlean would use the opening loop of the rally to find his feet on the unique closed-road event.  

As his knowledge of the tests grew, his pace increased and by the end of the opening leg McErlean had found himself in seventh spot. The characteristics of the stages changed day by day, offering an additional challenge to his assault but the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy ace would acknowledge the need for consistency and his approach to the second day of the rally would arguably sow the seed for his impressive podium result.  

Staying out of trouble on the high-speed second leg and pushing only when he felt comfortable, allowed the Hyundai pilot to climb the leader board and by the time the event entered the final loop, he had a grip on third in the category. A hugely mature drive over the closing stages of the rally saw McErlean take a second and third fastest time, further strengthening his hold on his career-best result.   “It’s been a crazy weekend” he continues.  

“We had a plan to build our pace gradually throughout the rally and that’s exactly what we did. But when we had the chance of a podium we knew we would need to fight for it so adopted a slightly different approach over the final day to make sure we could hold onto it.“  

“It was such a rewarding rally for me personally and it really feels like a huge step forward. It bodes well for the future too of course, but once again I must thank John Coyne, PCRS Rallysport and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy for this incredible opportunity. It will take a while to sink in for sure.”

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