Irish Motorsport history will be made during this weekend’s Rally Sweden. The second event in the World Rally Championship’s calendar is a counting round of WRC1, WRC2, WRC3, JWRC and WRC2 Masters championships. There is a least one Irish competitor entered into each category – the first time this has happened.
The four-day event gets underway from Umea, in the North East of the country, on Thursday evening, a new host town for the rally after its lifetime in the Torsby and Karlstad regions. The new location brings the rally closer to the Arctic Circle and the guarantee of more snow.
There are three Motorsport Ireland licence holders in the top-flight category – including one all Irish crew. Waterford’s Craig Breen and his Kerry co-driver, Paul Nagle will lead the M-Sport Ford World Rally team’s efforts on the only all-snow rally of the year. Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnston will partner Japanese ace Takamoto Katsuta as part of the factory-backed Toyota Gazoo Racing’s efforts in their Toyota GR Yaris Rally1. Breen is currently fourth overall in the drivers’ standings, thanks to a huge performance in the opening round, Rallye Monte Carlo, last month. He has a strong track record on snow to date. The Irishman is keen to show his ability on the high-speed snow tests in search of a second consecutive podium result.
“I’m really excited to discover a new rally in Umea. I’ve done the rally many times before in Torsby, but it’ll be completely new this time, and I’m looking forward to having some great conditions. This is the first rally on loose surfaces with the new cars and the Puma hybrid, so hopefully, it’ll be good,” he said. “We start near the front of the road on the first stage, so that will be something new for me to discover. Being second car on the road will not be the best conditions but honestly, it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. It comes with having a good championship position, so at the end of the day, it’s good for that reason. I’m hoping for a good event, trying to build more confidence with the car like we did in Monte Carlo, and to see if we can get another strong result; the most important thing is to keep the championship position strong heading into Croatia, so let’s see how it goes.”
Breen also paid tribute to Irish rally driver Eoin McCarthy who tragically lost his life competing in an event last week. “He was only 22, and just getting started in the sport. At that level, it’s all about pure fun and pure enjoyment, so for it to end that way is just such a tragedy. My heartfelt condoloences go to Eoin’s family and friends.”
There is plenty of Irish interest in the WRC2 category too. Sweden will mark the first of seven World Rally Championship events for Derry’s Josh McErlean and his Cavan co-driver James Fulton in their Hyundai i20 Rally2. Highlights from his 2021 WRC3 campaign include third place in the Rally de España last October as he steps up a category for this season. Thanks to support from the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy he will enter more events this season as he focuses on the WRC2 Junior category.
“It’s a big step-up compared to WRC3 last year. We are focused on the WRC2 Junior category. It’s great to have a championship in mind rather than doing individual rallies for experience like we did last year,” he said.
Former Irish Tarmac Rally Championship winner Eamonn Boland and co-driver MJ Morrisey are contesting the WRC2 Masters’ Category. They finished fifth in the opening Masters’ round, Rallye Monte Carlo, last month in their privately entered Ford Fiesta.
WRC3 & Junior World Rally Championship
Belfast’s William Creighton and Liam Regan, supported by the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy will compete in the Junior World Rally Championship which is moving up to four-wheel-drive Rally3 machinery this year. As many of the rounds overlap, they have also registered for the WRC3 Championship too.
“I am really excited to be part of Junior WRC again for 2022, last year was an amazing experience, I learned a lot competing on world championship events with M-Sport Poland. It gives me more confidence heading into this year with the new Fiesta Rally3, it’s great to make the jump to four-wheel drive which I am really looking forward to,” said Creighton.
Another Motorsport Ireland licence holder, Brian Hoy, will join Jon Armstrong, who is expected to be a frontrunner JWRC following a strong showing last year.
The rally gets underway on Friday morning and runs until mid-day Sunday taking in just over 300kms of competitive sections.
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