Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver William Creighton will aim to get his FIA Junior World Rally Championship campaign back on track at this weekend’s Rally de Portugal [19-22 May].
Creighton, 24 from Moira in Co. Down has endured a rollercoaster of a season so far with an opening-round podium at Rally Sweden followed closely by a moderate fifth place at Croatia Rally in April.
Now, the third round of the hotly contested series will see a shift onto a gravel surface for the first time in 2022 and despite the challenges that the rough, tough Portuguese gravel brings, Creighton and co-driver Liam Regan will be looking to the event to put their Croatia misfortunes behind them.
“We were fortunate that Rally Portugal was part of last year’s Junior WRC which means I have some decent knowledge of the stages and what we can expect this weekend,” says Creighton.
“That’s always a bonus when you are competing at this level but of course, it just needs some slightly different weather or running position to negate that advantage. Despite that, I really enjoyed the rally last year and although we had mechanical issues on the opening day, we had a positive pace, and the split times were encouraging so we hope that bodes well for this time around.”
Creighton claimed his maiden Junior WRC podium on the snow-bound Rally Sweden after an impressive performance saw him start his campaign with third place. The super-fast asphalt of Croatia followed, but an impact on day one tumbled him down the leader board.
But Creighton was eager to fight back and kept his focus throughout the remainder of the rally. An inspirational drive over the rain-soaked Sunday leg saw him set a 12th overall fastest stage time on the penultimate test, beating a string of Rally2 machinery and WRC2 regulars in the process.
The move onto gravel brings its difficulties, as running behind the Rally1 and Rally2 cars mean the stages are often rutted and broken up by the time the Rally3 Fiesta protagonists attempt the tests. And Rally Portugal is as brutal as it gets, with no service at all during the opening day loop of nine stages.
The Amarante stage, run twice, offers a gruelling 37 kilometres of flat out driving on Saturday with Sunday’s shorter, but no less demanding leg often providing a sting in the tail. Nevertheless, Creighton cites the weekend as pivotal to claiming a positive result.
“This rally is very unforgiving and amplifies any mistakes at all. But I do feel confident heading into the rally and excited to be heading back. The fans are amazing there and that gives you a real boost both on and off the stages. It is a privilege to be lining up alongside such a stellar entry list and thanks to the support of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy I feel as ready as ever to tackle a rally. It’s going to be a marathon, but we are ready for the challenge.”