Tuesday, May 21, 2024

WRC: Josh McErlean takes first WRC2 podium in Rally Portugal

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Northern Ireland’s Josh McErlean says he “gave it everything” as he narrowly missed out on his first WRC2 victory in the World Rally Championship round in Portugal.

The Motorsport Ireland driver was pipped to victory by Spain’s Jan Solans by a margin of just 3.2 seconds.

McErlean, 24, was faster than Solans in a final stage shootout but came up just short of victory.

“An incredible experience,” said TokSport Skoda driver McErlean.

“We have our first WRC2 podium, and no finer man to have beside me than James Fulton [McErlean’s co-driver].

“Thanks to TokSport and Skoda for a great car but most of all, thank you to the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy for always believing in me.”

McErlean, who was making his first WRC start of the season for TokSport Skoda, had swapped the lead with Solans on several occasions throughout the rally.

The 24-year-old led by 0.1 seconds with two stages remaining, but Solans hit back and was fastest by 6.5 seconds on the penultimate stage.

McErlean posted the fastest time on the final run by 3.2 seconds, but fell short of a first win by the same margin.

Solans and McErlean had capitalised on accidents from experienced leaders Oliver Solberg and Gus Greensmith earlier in the event but, in truth, the pair showed great speed throughout the rally and were deserving of podium finishes.

McErlean’s performance was enough to finish ninth overall in the rally, which was won by the Rally1 machine of Sebastien Ogier.

There was misfortune for Northern Ireland’s William Creighton and Kris Meeke, who both retired on Saturday.

Junior WRC champion Creighton restarted to finish the rally in 12th place in WRC2.

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