Just two weeks after tackling the iconic undulations and super-fast gravel of the Secto Rally Finland, Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean will return to the asphalt as he tackles the Ardeca Ypres Rally [18-21 August] in Belgium.
The Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Junior Driver will head to the tricky sealed surface event fresh from a challenging Rally Finland which saw the progressive youngster take his Hyundai i20 Rally2 to a finish. Despite finishing down the order due to some complications over the weekend, McErlean will head to Belgium in a re-invigorated mood despite just a short gap between the two events, thanks to securing a sensational result on the rally in 2021. His previous experience on the blisteringly fast countryside roads will come into play as he enters the next phase of his World Rally Championship campaign this season.
“I`m really excited to be heading onto the asphalt and for the first sealed surface WRC event of the year for us and there is no better place to do that than the Ypres Rally,” says McErlean. “I have fond memories from last year where we finished in an incredible twelfth overall. That was a really special moment for me and what I learned from my Junior BRC days on the rally came into play, and that reaped rewards. Heading back for a second succussive year is a real confidence boost and I`m feeling positive heading into this one with the Rally2 car”.
The 23-year-old from Kilrea, Co. Derry has had a busy inaugural WRC2 campaign which has seen a sensational pace and even an overall WRC stage win. But in a self-confessed “learning year”, McErlean has approached each event with maturity and thanks to the support from the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy and the team around him, he has continued to build his experience and pace as the season progresses.
A highlight came at Rally Estonia where he and co-driver James Fulton claimed a sensational podium, taking third in the category. With Rally Finland just a fortnight later, the PCRS Rallysport squad worked flat-out to ready the car for the “gravel grand-prix” and McErlean’s debut on the world-famous jumps and crests. But the legendary roads would offer little time to ease in and after a challenging weekend behind the wheel, he was able to bring the Hyundai to the finish. Now, McErlean has had to adapt and refocus on the challenge of the Ypres Rally just a handful of days later.
“It’s important to look forward and focus on the next challenge as you can easily lose valuable time looking at things between events that now, you can’t change” he says. “We had a lot to analyse and delve into, but for now we must put our full effort into the next rally. Clearly there are things we can learn from Finland; these are unique events and every one of them has their own challenge. Ypres is such a fantastic event and has huge potential for us to secure a good result. Finland was hard as it was our debut, but Belgium offers the chance to really put into practice what we have learnt over the years and that excites me. The whole team has been sensational once again and repaying them with a good result this time around is high on my agenda. I’m excited to see what we can do.”
The Ardeca Rally Ypres is based in the city of West Flanders and offers over 280 kilometres of driving on the closed roads in the region. The rally kicks off on Friday with three full days of action ahead before the ceremonial finish back in Ypres.