There is a massive Irish contingent tackling this weekend’s Rally Spain and the hundreds of Irish fans who made the trip to Salou will have plenty to keep an eye on over the next few days.
The penultimate round of the World Rally Championship doubles as the final round of the European Rally Championship. There is Irish interest in both categories.
It will be co-driver Paul Nagle’s final outing in the World Rally Championship and after this Rally Spain swansong he will bow out after 18 years at the top of the sport.
“I suppose you have to retire at some stage in your rallying career and 2022 was the year for me.
“I have been at it now 18 years at the top level of the sport more or less and the workload involved in 14 rounds next year and a long time away from the family. The commitment and workload is phenomenal. I had a great run. I suppose like all careers, with some ups and downs. I needed to work this out on my own terms. It has been my own decision
and I have always had doubts about it. I will miss the sport and the company and miss my friends in the World Championship,” said the Killarney man who has been surrounded by well-wishers all week.
Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnston and his Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta hold fifth place in the World Championship in their Toyota Yaris RC1, One place ahead of the all-Irish team of Craig Breen and Nagle
Josh McErlean and James Fulton return to the WRC2 fray, their first outing since Belgium in August.
Fulton has been announced as Nagle’s replacement in Breen’s Ford Puma. The Cavan man could also win the Junior WRC2 title this weekend.
“It would be a very cool this to win and a nice way to finish off with Josh,” he said.
They will be joined in the RC2 ranks by Will Creighton and Liam Regan who are driving a similar Hyundai for the first time as part of their prize for winning the 2021 Junior British Championship.
Both Creighton and McErlean are run by Irish motorsport preparation firm PCRS and the team is also running Phillip Allen in a Hyundai i20 RC2.
“It is a real privilege to be here and the atmosphere is just class,” said the Tyrone-based drover who is making his WRC debut.
Privateers, Eamonn Boland and Michael Morrissey have entered their Ford Fiesta RC2 in the event. The Wexford/Waterford crew are chasing WRC Masters points and have also placed an entry for next month’s Rally Japan.
Ryan Caldwell and Grace O’Brien will make their European Rally Championship debut at the event by driving a Ford Fiesta RC4.
“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,” said Caldwell.
“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.
Several members of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy are in Spain to observe the inner workings of a WRC event.
Aoife Raftery and Geraldine McBride and Casey Jay Coleman and Adam Coffey did the full recce and will return to the Friday stages on Saturday to see how the roads change after two passes by around 80 rally cars.
Kyle McBride is working as a mechanic for PCRS and is assigned to Allen’s car while co-driver Ronan Comerford is working in the background and learning what goes on behind the scenes.
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