Josh McErlean’s positive debut outing in new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 at FIA World Rally Championship ACI Rally Monza
Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean secured a promising debut in the new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 at the weekend, taking sixth in the WRC3 at the final round of the 2021 FIA World Rally Championship, ACI Rally Monza [18 – 21 November].
McErlean, guided by co-driver James Fulton would be using the all-new PCRS Rallysport run Rally2 from Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing for the very first time after a brief test the week before. Tackling the brutal WRC finale’ based at the “Temple of Speed,” the pairing continued to learn the characteristics of the new example in readiness for a 2022 campaign and gained all-important knowledge and experience for the future.
“I’m really pleased to bring the new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 home on such a demanding event and grab a positive result in the process,” said McErlean.
“We have worked really hard throughout the weekend to adapt to the new car and gain valuable insight into how it works under various conditions that were thrown at us. This year’s event was completely different to last year’s Monza with such different weather conditions, it was like starting from scratch and it was important to secure a solid result and not make any big mistakes as that would not have helped us going forward”.
The 22-year-old Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Junior Driver from Kilrea, Co. Derry has enjoyed a stellar season behind the wheel with outings on both side of the water in 2021. Thanks to the efforts of the Team Ireland Motorsports Foundation and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, McErlean would head to the United States in May to contest the Olympus Rally, taking third overall in the process.
Outings in both the European and World Rally Championships followed throughout the year with some blistering performances in the bag. The young ace scored his very first WRC podium in Spain last month, taking third in WRC3 after a scintillating run.
The Italian event would mark the last round of the World Championship and offered a dynamic mix of stages both around the circuit’s perimeter roads and into the foothills of the surrounding mountains.
Going head-to-head against a plethora of local experts would always mean a top result would be an uphill challenge but McErlean adapted beautifully to the new machine. Despite stalling on the fifth test which saw over 30 seconds lost to the leaders, he responded perfectly on the final stage of the leg to secure third fastest WRC3 time.
The second leg brought additional challenges as McErlean continued to hone the setup to the conditions. Admitting it was “taking some time to get everything to click,” a slight excursion on the penultimate stage of the day meant he would start the final three stage blast on Sunday in seventh spot.
A trouble-free run through the final leg saw McErlean clinch sixth place to round out his WRC season on a positive note.
“The i20 N Rally2 is sensational and I`m looking forward to getting more seat time in it, the car has huge potential and I’m very excited for the future, but for now I have to reflect on what a superb season I`ve had and I`m so grateful to everyone for all their support, it’s been amazing” he says.
“Thanks to John Coyne, PCRS Rallysport and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy we have taken a huge leap forward in 2021. Now, I must work hard over the winter months and focus on the specific areas I know I need to improve as a driver. Experience from this season means I have a fair idea what I need to do to achieve that. I want to be ready to hit the ground running in 2022 and I`ll be doing all I can to make sure that happens”.
McErlean’s plans for next season will be announced in the coming months.