Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean has revealed his next competitive outing behind the wheel will be next month when he contests the opening round of the FIA European Rally Championship, at Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras [11-12 March].
McErlean will join a sizeable list of top-flight drivers at the notorious gravel event, as he re-joins the popular series for the first time since 2021. He will be joined by FIA Junior World Rally Champion co-driver Brian Hoy in his PCRS Hyundai i20 N Rally2 for the event.
The 23 years old from Kilrea, Co. Derry started his season in January, contesting the legendary Rallye Monte Carlo as he kicked off his FIA World Rally Championship WRC2 Challenger campaign at the gruelling Monaco-based event. Despite a technical issue, he recovered to set some encouraging stage times on his debut at the `Monte` and gain vital experience for the future.
Now, McErlean will head to the sandy and mountainous gravel stages of Portugal and the Fafe region, joining the ERC series on their first round of the 2023 season.
“I`m really excited to be heading to Fafe and joining the European Rally Championship at the opening round of 2023 with the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy squad” he says. “Kicking off our season with my debut at Rallye Monte Carlo in WRC2 was a fantastic experience for me but our attentions now turn to gravel. I guess ultimately Portugal offers the opportunity to get more seat time under our belt whilst obtaining further experience on some well-known WRC stages. The ERC is a fantastic championship that attracts some rapid, world-class drivers with a plethora of national home heroes, so putting myself up against that challenge is good for my development.“
McErlean is no stranger to the style of stages found in Portugal, having contested four events in the country in the past, at both ERC and WRC level. But a star-studded entry list will embark on the ERC title trail this season and McErlean is eager to spread his wings.
“Recently I have been concentrating on a WRC programme but as a team, we want to keep progressing and increase the pace; the ERC is the perfect format for this. Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy is putting a lot of resources into the event so we want to have a solid rally, get the kilometres in and ensure progressive performance over the weekend.”
The event will also see a change of co-driver as Rallye Monte Carlo note man John Rowan has a rather important event on the same weekend.
“Brian Hoy will step into the codriver’s seat for this event as John Rowan will be walking up the aisle to get married, so that will be one change we will see in Fafe, but I already have a close relationship with him as he was part of my route note crew at Monte Carlo. He is a great guy and I have full belief in him. I`m looking forward to the challenge and to getting back onto the gravel in the PCRS Hyundai i20 N Rally2. I hope it’s a strong event for us.”