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Development is key in Hone’s R5 debut

Jordan Hone’s R5 debut at the Cork 20 International Rally was very much a story of two days. The 2018 Billy Coleman Award runner-up bounced back from a frustrating first day of mechanical woe to end the rally consistently setting impressive stage times among the top five drivers.

Challenging stages and adverse weather conditions made the Irish Tarmac Championship’s concluding round testing for all the crews with half of the top ten crews retiring before the end of the event.

Patience and persistence were critical for Hone on Saturday as he endured brake and fuel pressure issues. As a result, the 23-year-old only experienced one uninterrupted stage on the rally’s first day.

Thankfully the PCRS team managed to resolve every issue effectively and Hone brought the car home on Sunday evening after an extremely promising performance. “I’m really happy with how the weekend went for us,” says Hone. “Yes, we had a difficult and challenging opening day in the car but that was quickly forgotten about by the end of the rally. After day one, we reset and put it down as a learning day. For day two, I just wanted to go out and learn the car and get every mile possible in the car. I can be content that we learned a huge amount on Sunday’s eight stages and be very happy with our pace in the car considering it was really our first full day in the car. To be setting top-four fastest overall times consistently across the majority of the stages was something I was really happy with. I felt comfortable in the car and my driving over the final day.”

Hone used Sunday’s opening loop of stages to get comfortable with the Ford Fiesta R5 and the improvement in times was immediately seen. On Sunday’s opener, Stage 6, Hone was 46.7 seconds off the pace but by Stage 8 he was only 26.9 seconds off the pace of stage-winner Marty McCormack.

“We really learned a huge amount in the opening loop and laid some good foundations that we could build upon for the rest of the rally. We improved our pace as the loop progressed and posted two top-six fastest times along the way.”

After some adjustments in service, Hone went out again on Sunday’s second loop of stages to continue learning and developing his pace in the car. In the final five stages of the rally Hone managed to set four fourth-fastest stage times. Considering the three drivers ahead of him were R5 and ITRC regulars Hone was really making an impression.

“I discussed some different techniques with Philip Case to try going forward and these seemed to work. Driving the car became a lot more comfortable and really allowed us to push on at quite a comfortable pace. For the final loop we decided to try a harder compound of Michelin tyre which didn’t really work as it started to rain and became quite slippery in places. However, it was still a good loop for us as we managed to get within 0.4 sec/km of the fastest times. This is something we can be very happy about for our first full day in the car.”

The drive was a one-off for Hone who is normally seen in his front-wheel-drive Opel Adam R2. It has been two years since Hone has driven a four-wheel-drive car, a Group N Mitsubishi Evo IV.

“Everything happens so much faster in an R5 car as the car generates so much mechanical grip. It is as if the car is willing you to drive it faster and faster. I would say that driving the R5 at ten tenths would be a lot easier than the R2 because of that mechanical grip. Also with four-wheel-drive and a turbocharger, the R5 has a lot more torque and in some cases that makes it more forgiving. The car is really impressive in a lot of areas and it’s a credit to PCRS Rallysport for getting the car to work as well as it did. From the minute you press the “Stage Mode” button and launch control, the car just becomes a different beast. The acceleration off the line and the kick it gives you is just unbelievable and when you get to the first corner you’ve braked 20 metres too early because the braking power is just as impressive. After the recce, I thought all the stages were very tricky and challenging with a lot of bumps, but the car just soaks them up. It turns in that well I didn’t have time to think about how it happened. It beggars belief! It was a real pleasure to drive that car over those stages. I really enjoyed the fast nature of parts of the stages, my driving style seems to suit this, and I would say the car really suited it too. So, getting to drive the car on those stages was a pleasure and put a real smile on my face.”

Hone has been part of the inaugural Motorsport Ireland Rally Driver Academy which gave him an opportunity to test a Hyundai i20 R5. The latest test day lined up nicely, a week before his Cork 20 drive. With Callum Devine there as an instructor, it’s a great example of how the development of young Irish drivers is improving.

“I would say we were able to develop a lot of what we learned from the development days as part of the academy. One example that comes to mind is when the stages became a lot slippier over the final loop while we were on the harder tyre. The car was moving around a lot more but having learned how to slide the car during the development days, it just gave me the confidence in the car’s ability. During the rally, I didn’t feel like I had to back-off like I would have if I didn’t learn that at the development day. It’s all the small things that we learned in the run-up to the event. From adjusting my style of note-making to suit an R5 car to learning how to drive a four-wheel-drive car on tarmac for the first time. We can take a lot of things forward from the weekend and hopefully we can get to apply them in another opportunity to drive an R5 car again in the future.”

As the 2019 rally season draws to a close, Hone is unsure of what lies ahead. One thing that is certain is that he is hoping to build on this experience and everything else that he has learned in what has been a very busy year.

“This weekend has shown how important seat-time is. All the driving techniques I have talked about are things that you can’t really prepare for until you’re in the situation. It takes trust in what the car is capable of doing. If the opportunity ever arises to be in an R5 again, we’ll be better prepared because of the lessons we learned from the weekend. I have a good idea of what I want to do next year but a lot of things need to line up and come together for those to happen. But whatever I do, I’d like to just go out and enjoy driving a rally car as I did in Cork. My Dad and I came to the end of every stage with a smile on our face and for me, that’s pretty special, so I want to keep that feeling going forward.”

Jordan has revelled in his R5 opportunity and would like to thank everyone who has made it possible.

“My amazing weekend in Cork was really only because of all the guys who have helped me out. As I’ve mentioned Motorsport Ireland, the Billy Coleman Award, MI Rally Academy, PCRS Rallysport and Michelin Motorsport were all responsible for helping me improve my stage times through Sunday’s stages. Sean McHugh and John Coyne have been instrumental in making it all happen as well. I’m also extremely grateful for my own sponsors, Premier Car Parts, Rallyhire, TOC Utilities and Curley Cars. They’ve stuck by me and made my 2019 season one to remember. The opportunity has been something I would only have dreamed about before. Now that it has happened, I want to do my best to ensure I continue to develop and weekends like this aren’t just a one-off.”

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