By Adam Hall
Irish Tarmac Rally Championship class winners, Ryan Caldwell and Grace O’Brien, will make their European Rally Championship debut on this weekend’s Rally Spain. The ITRC 3 champions were awarded the prize drive in conjunction with M-Sport Poland.
Caldwell claimed his ITRC prize drive after two Rally4 victories and six podiums in a nail-biting campaign against rival Jason Dickson.
The Irish duo will work with M-Sport Poland in their factory-prepared Ford Fiesta Rally4 throughout the rally week in Spain. The ERC event runs in parallel with the World Rally Championship, meaning Caldwell will experience the same stages as Rally1’s pacesetters.
The 20-year-old will compete against 11 Rally4 drivers from across Europe over Rally Spain’s 14 asphalt stages. While Caldwell and O’Brien were star performers this year on Ireland’s tarmac tests, Spain’s wide roads will be a completely different challenge.
Rally Spain’s opening stage takes place on Friday morning (21 October).
Ryan Caldwell, 2022 ITRC 3 winner:
“It’s a bit of a dream come true to be able to make my ERC debut so early in my career, especially with an M-Sport Poland prepared Fiesta Rally4 supported by the ITRC.
“I’d like to say a huge thank you to the ITRC and M-Sport Poland for this opportunity. At this stage of my career, I really couldn’t ask for more, I’m super excited and can’t wait to get started in Spain.
“I am looking forward to meeting the team and working together for me to learn as much as I can from the team and about the Fiesta Rally4.”
Paddy Flanagan, ITRC manager:
“It’s a pleasure to be here at Rally Spain to see Ryan and Grace make their international debut. A big thank you to Maciej Woda and M-Sport for providing the car.
“M-Sport has been a loyal supporter of the ITRC for many years and they must be recognised for the fantastic opportunity they have afforded Ryan and Grace.
“It has been a fantastic effort by the Tarmac Rally Organisers Association and its member clubs to help make this happen, but credit must also go to Ryan, Grace and their sponsors for their sterling efforts.
“I hope they have a successful rally and enjoy the experience.”
Colman Hegarty, TROA chairman:
“TROA has long been committed to supporting young crews and drivers. With the invaluable support of M-Sport Poland it became possible for our top Fiesta RC4 crew to have this huge opportunity to compete in the ERC section of Rally Spain.
“I would like to wish Ryan and Grace the very best of luck for the event and a huge thanks to all at M-Sport Poland and the member clubs of TROA for helping to make this trip possible.”
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