WRC Sunday Report: Challenging experience for Irish competitors

Photo credit: Ali McKee

Rallye Monte Carlo is never meant to be easy and so it proved for the seven Motorsport Ireland licence holders entered in the opening round of the World Rally Championship. Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnson and his Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta finished sixth overall despite a final stage scare that could just as easily ended in retirement. The Toyota Gazoo Racing crew reported at the stage end that their car “washed out on the mountain.”
They damaged the rear of their Toyota Yaris Rally1 car, the incident also affected the car’s engine performance, and they fell dangerously close to the Hyundai i20 Rally 1 car of seventh-placed Dani Sordo. Nevertheless, it was a positive weekend for the Toyota Gazzo Racing World Rally team members.

"Happy to come to finish with sixth place overall, we had really good speed this weekend and everything was working well inside the car, we will use this and build on the experience we have gained to keep pushing forward in the future, next up Sweden, really excited to get back on snow in our Toyota Yaris Rally1,” said Aaron the finish in front of the landmark Monte Carlo Casino on Sunday night.

William Creighton and his co-driver Liam Regan had to rely on SuperRally rules to get to the finish. Their car developed a fuel starvation problem on Saturday evening caused by the excessively cold temperatures in the high mountains. The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crew failed to finish Saturday’s final stage. The issue reappeared during Sunday’s four-stage loop and they were eventually classified as finishing 45th overall – a disappointment for the crew who had been running inside the top 25 over the opening three days.

Their Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy teammates Josh McErlean and John Rowan were also out of luck. They damaged an exhaust system component over a heavy landing on the day’s second test. The damage forced retirement for the day, but their PCRS Rallysport mechanics worked hard to get the car repaired and ready in time for Sunday. They eventually finished 57th – a poor reward for a massive effort that also saw them run inside the top 25.

"It has been an incredible journey to get here with a two-car Irish team, with Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy a lot of people making a huge amount of effort to make this one come together Sean McHugh, John Coyne and PCRS,” he said. “It has been an incredible week, from recce to going through these fabulous, famous stages,  starting with Col De Turini Thursday night it was a big challenge for the whole team – it has been a crazy week and very grateful for all the help."

He also praised the efforts of new co-driver John Rowan.

Bad luck comes in threes… Eamon Boland and Mickey Joe Morrisey Citroen C3 Rally 2 failed to fire up in Parc Ferme on Sunday morning and they were forced to retire without ever getting the chance to drive a final-day stage in anger. The Wexford/Waterford pairing were in sixth place in the WRC 2 Masters after Saturday’s full day of action but another Monte finish was not possible for the popular South Eastern crew.

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