The debut in the Hyundai i20 R5 for James Wilson and co-driver Arthur Kierans ended in triumph, as they arrived back at the finish ramp of the Cartell.ie Killarney International Rally of the Lakes with a top ten position, and an invaluable amount of experience gained in the four wheel drive machine. It was triumph too for Motorsport Ireland and its new Rally Academy, as Billy Coleman Award winner- James was the first driver to be fully supported on a rally by Motorsport Ireland.
“It was a truly amazing weekend. The buzz around the event was incredible, the weather was perfect, the organization slick and the stages were as ever simply stunning. Our main aim was to finish and get the miles and we achieved that and more.” The event started well for James and Arthur, with a respectable twelfth fastest over the opening Molls Gap stage, and that was despite the car cutting out a little towards the end of the test. “We had an issue with the water pump, so we had to ease off through stages two and three and get the car to service where the team changed it and the car was healthy once again.”
Indeed the Philip Case Rally Sport R5 Hyundai was to run perfectly for the remainder of the event, as James pulled back time to end the first leg in tenth position overall. “It was getting better and better for me on every stage, and on the last test on Saturday we had a good time. I had to make some adjustments to my driving style from the R2 car and it was just all the time being amazed at how late you could brake and the sheer corner speed of the car. The torque, the force on the braking and pull out of the corners was outstanding. Everything was different than the R2, but it felt easier to drive in many ways and the Hyundai was very easy to control when it was sliding or on the handbrake for tight hairpins.”
The crew rested a little easier overnight, and on Sunday’s opening loop they had pulled up to eighth as the dramas began to unfold around them. However James was about to have his own drama on second run of the day over Molls Gap. “In hindsight I should have put new tyres on for that loop but I didn’t. We had begun to up the pace and on the Sheen River test, we had a great time, and if we hadn’t have caught two cars, I believe we were even on par with our PCRS team-mate Manus Kelly. Going up Molls Gap however the back end let go on a fast corner. We had a big spin damaging the left rear suspension and putting it all out of track, so we had to limp through the Sheen River test and back to service.”
The PCRS team changed the bent components and sent the car out of service on track and with a new set of Michelins. “We had always planned to start the weekend on used tyres and build up the pace, but once we went out with the new tyres and car back in line I could notice the difference. We had great assistance from Bill Adair and Tim Hoare from Michelin to call on also. We continued to learn and push on through the afternoon, and improve the pace and it was with great joy and a bit of relief that we made the finish on our four wheel drive debut. I felt that I progressed with the car quicker than I expected and with more miles it will get even better. It was a fabulous first R5 experience and it certainly won’t be the last!”
The fortieth anniversary Killarney Rally of the Lakes was a special event and the crowds had flocked to the May bank holiday weekend spectacular, with a stunning array of R5 competition, and WRC ace Craig Breen leading them all home. “It’s a weekend that I will always remember. From the moment we arrived we realized how special this event is, and the welcome we got from the multitudes at the start and finish ramps highlighted that. After the start there was a press conference in Scotts Hotel and it was quite something to be sitting alongside Craig Breen and famous actor Michael Fassbender talking about the rally ahead. Thanks to Motorsport Ireland, John Coyne and the enthusiasm of Billy Coleman Award co-coordinator Sean McHugh it was all made possible. Congratulations also to fellow Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members Michael Hamilton for winning the Junior event, and to Colin O’ Donoghue who set some good times in his MK2.”
For now it’s back to work for the County Armagh engineer with the next planned rally at present the fourth British Rally Championship round on the tarmac of Ypres-Belgium on the 28th-29th June with the R2 Peugeot 208.
Header Image from Rally Through a Lens