Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy drivers set for breakthrough in 2020 after securing seats in Hyundai i20 R5s
- Callum Devine, James Wilson and Josh McErlean unveiled at Autosport International motorsport show.
- All three drivers are winners of the prestigious Billy Coleman Award.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
Callum Devine is from Park, Co Derry, and Brian Hoy is from Eniskillen, Co Fermanagh.
Callum won the Junior British Rally Championship in 2017. He was also selected to win the internationally recognised Billy Coleman Award and as such qualified for two years in the elite Team Ireland programme which now includes the MI Rally Academy. He finished fourth in the 2018 Junior World Rally Championship after competing in events in Sweden, Corsica, Portugal, Finland and Turkey.
Josh McErlean from Kilrea, Co Derry won the Junior British Rally Championship in his Peugeot 208 R2 following victories in the West Cork, Pirelli International and Ulster rallies. Josh is in his second year studying Mechanical Engineering at Ulster University.
James Wilson, Co Armagh, won the opening round of the 2019 Junior British Rally Championship on the Cambrian Rally before making the step up to R5 machinery. He took a top 10 finish on the Rally of the Lakes on his first drive in a Hyundai i20 R5 before going on to secure a podium finish on the Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally and a fourth place on the final Round of the British Rally Championship (BRC) in Scotland.
The Hyundai i20 R5 is built by Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing to R5 regulations and is aimed at those wishing to compete on international events. R5 cars use a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine limited to 7.500 rpm and are equipped with a five-speed gearbox and four-wheel drive transmissions, passive front and rear differentials and no centre differential.
Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy: The programme, is funded by the Team Ireland Foundation through support by philanthropist John Coyne. (see below for more details)
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.
John Coyne: John is resident in California, is a former Irish National (1977) and Irish Tarmac (1982) rally champion. He also has championship wins to his name in Malaysia (Group N-1999) and California (Open-2016). A mechanical engineering graduate of UCD, John retired in 2013 from the CEO position at Western Digital, one of the world’s top digital storage companies, having worked for the company for some 30 years. Since his retirement, John has returned to rally in Ireland and abroad using both his 1982 Irish Tarmac Championship winning Talbot Sunbeam Lotus and a Porsche 997 R-GT, which has proved to be a real crowd favourite.