WRC Saturday Report: Johnston heads Irish contingent in Monte Carlo

Photo credit: Gabry Ghersi

It was a day of mixed fortunes for the seven Motorsport Ireland competition licence holders who are contesting this weekend’s Rallye Monte Carlo. The traditional World Rally Championship season opener is notable for an almost a complete lack of snow and ice. 

Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnson and his Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta continue to climb the leader-board. They finished Thursday night in ninth place after a handbrake issue prevented a proper attack on the many hairpin bends that littered the opening two stages. By Friday night they had improved to seventh and continued that improvement over Saturday’s six-stage loop in the Hautes Alps. Heading into to Sunday’s final four-stage leg, the Toyota Yazoo Racing crew hold sixth overall. 

Speaking at the midday Regroup in Puget-Théniers, Aaron said he and Takamoto were happy with the day’s progress and reported a trouble-free run through the morning stages. They were the model of consistency over the reaming Saturday stages to bring their Toyota Yaris Hybrid Rally1 home in sixth place ahead of the final day of action. The rally concludes on Sunday with two passes each of Lucéram / Lantosque (18.82km) and La Bollène-Vésubie / Col de Turini (15.12km), with the second of the latter acting as the Power Stage. 

William Creighton and his co-driver Liam Regan lost valuable time to a front-right puncture on Saturday’s second stage. But worse was to follow later in the day. Mechanical trouble forced them near the start of the final test of the day near Entrevaux. They have been recovered from the stage and their Hyundai i20 Rally 2 will return to the service park in Monte Carlo where his team will assess the issue and, hopefully, get them back out under SuperRally rules on Sunday morning.  

Their Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy teammates Josh McErlean and John Rowan also had a day to forget. They damaged an exhaust system component over a heavy landing on the day’s second test. The damage forced retirement for the day, but their PCRS Rallysport mechanics worked hard to get the car repaired and ready in time for tomorrow’s loop of stages. 

Eamon Boland and Mickey Joe Morrisey continue to enjoy their Rallye Monte Carlo experience. This is Eamonn’s 18th attempt at the rally, and they compete on a new Citroen C3 Rally 2. The Wexford/Waterford pairing are holding sixth place in the WRC 2 Masters, a category that is being led by French legend Francois Delacour. 

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