Josh McErlean. (Pic: Jakob Ebrey )
Kilrea's Josh McErlean's reward for an 2019 to remember is a shot at the BRC in a Hyundai i20 R5 this season.
The 20 year-old, currently the Billy Coleman Award winner, will take the next step of his career in 2020 after securing a deal to drive a Hyundai i20 R5 in the 2020 British Rally Championship backed by Motorsport Ireland, Sport-Ireland and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy.
The reigning Junior British Rally Champion will compete in the six-round series, marking his first season behind the wheel of a four-wheel-drive machine.
"It's great to be in this position right now," McErlean told Derry Now.
"The support shown from Motorsport Ireland is simply something else. Everyone is pushing forward and are looking to acheive the same goal.
"We must maximise the opportunity...I can't wait to get started."
McErlean has enjoyed a rapid rise into the latest R5 category after securing the Junior British Rally Championship title in 2019. Three wins and two fourth places in his Woodland NI backed Peugeot 208 R2 secured him victory with one round to spare.
His reward was a supported drive on Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship [WRC], Wales Rally GB, backed by the British Rally Championship [BRC] and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing. Despite making his WRC debut, McErlean set a string of impressive times before being forced to retire.
A further outing came in December when he was offered the opportunity to contest the iconic Monza Rally Show in Italy, once again in a Hyundai i20 R5. In a star-studded entry list, McErlean finished an impressive 18th overall and third spot in the hotly contested Hyundai i20 R5 Trophy.
His season was rounded off by winning the coveted Billy Coleman Award for the Motorsport Ireland Young Rally Driver of the Year after being nominated for his performances from January to April. This prestigious accolade has netted the youngster support to the value of €100,000 towards his 2020 season and McErlean will use the funding for his British Championship campaign.
The Kilrea ace has honed his craft in the sport from a young age, sealing the F1000 British and Northern Ireland titles before stepping into a Citroen C2R2 Max and the Junior BRC the following year. McErlean enjoyed some giant-killing results in the outdated Citroen, whilst the switch to the Peugeot 208 R2 brought most success.
His outings in the Hyundai saw McErlean’s raw pace come to the fore and despite his lack of experience in four-wheel-drive machinery, he feels he is ready to take on the British Championship.
2020 British Rally Championship Calendar
8 February – Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, Llandudno, Wales
14/15 March – Clonakilty Park West Cork Rally, Clonakilty, Republic of Ireland
25/26 April – Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton, Clacton-on-Sea, England
25-27 June – Renties Ypres Rally, Ypres, Belgium
21/22 August – Today’s Ulster Rally, Newry, Northern Ireland
19 September – Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally, Castle Douglas, Scotland
Reserve Round – Wales Rally GB – Date TBC
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