McErlean Stage win a Highlight in Mixed Weekend for Irish Crews on Rally Portugal

Josh McErlean and James Fulton took a remarkable stage win on Stage 16 of WRC Rally Portugal on their way to fifth in the WRC2 Junior Category

Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean made history at the weekend, taking the first outright stage win for a Rally2 Hyundai on a WRC event. The stage win made up for disappointment on Friday where McErlean had to retire due to a steering issue. He rejoined the event on Saturday however and fought his way back to finish fifth in the WRC2 Junior Category.

McErlean's stage win proved a highlight in a difficult weekend for the Irish crews. Craig Breen and Paul Nagle started well in their Ford Puma Rally1 but were hampered by dust in the car and punctures before serious brake problems in the closing stages saw them drop to eight place. The pair also dropped to sixth in the Championship standings as Finn Kalle Rovanpera produced another dominant performace to pull clear of his rival with his third win in a row. Aaron Johnston and his Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta narrowly missed out in a podium in their Toyota Yaris Rally1 but their fourth place finish was enough to see them rise to third in the Championship.

Irish ex-pat Paul Rowley (who was making his WRC debut) and co-driver Andy Hayes retired on SS5 in their Hyundai i20N Rally2 but their fellow Hyundai crew of Pauric Duffy and Jeff Case managed to pick their way through the rock strewn stages to finish a very creditable 26th overall.

In the Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) there was more frustration for the Irish crews with William Creighton and Liam Regan having to retire on Friday's stages after collecting too many punctures to continue. They retstarted on Saturday and put in some very impressive times only to damage the rear suspension on their Ford Fiesta Rally3 on SS19 forcing them to retire for good. Brian Hoy guided Jon Armstrong to a fourth place finish in the category after they too had to retsart following an early retirement on Friday but eight stage wins ensure they keep their Championship lead, albeit by a single point. The remainig JWRC rounds will take place in Estonia in July and Greece in September.


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