There were emotional scenes at the finish of the final stage of Rally Catalunya – the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship – as it marked the end of co-driver Paul Nagle’s career at the top of the sport.
The Killarney man has called time on his 18-year World Championship career – five win and 18 podium finishes are just some of the highlights.
He and his driver Craig Breen finished ninth overall in their M-Sport Ford Puma.
“A bit emotional. It’s been an incredible journey. I came into this sport as a young lad and I followed the dream. I have five wins and I leave as a husband and a father with so many memories. This man beside me [Breen] has been like a brother to me – he’s brought me so much success. I also have to mention Kris Meeke – without these men, I’d be nowhere, so thank you.”
Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnston and his Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta finished in eighth place in their Toyota Yaris RC1. The crew were happy with their improving pace on tarmac but a Saturday puncture thwarted efforts.
However, Johnston was full of praise for Nagle who mentored him when Johnston first started out in the sport.
“He was instrumental in getting me to where I am today,” he said. “A huge thanks to him. I am sad to see him go.”
Josh McErlean and James Fulton were celebrating too after it was confirmed that the Cavan co-driver is the WRC 2 Junior world champion.
The Hyundai i20 R5 crew finished 22nd overall.
“It is a nice thing to have and a great way to finish the partnership with Josh,” said Fulton who will replace Nagle alongside Breen from Rally Japan onwards next month.
William Creighton and Liam Regan are also on their maiden outing in a Hyundai i20 RC2 car- a prize for winning the Junior British Rally Championship last year. They finished in 29th position.
“It has been a fantastic week, from the test to the rally, to everything,” said the Moira County Down-based driver. “It was nice to show we can jump into the car and be on a good pace straight away.”
Both cars are run by Irish ream PCRS Motorsport.
Privateers, Eamonn Boland and Michael Morrissey finished in 42nd place overall. They were using a different Ford Fiesta RC2 as their usual one has been shipped to Japan ahead of their maiden appearance in the final round of the WRC next month. , Morrisey narrowly missed out on winning the WRC2 Master title. Title rival Laurent Migat who was calling notes for Jean Michael Raoux needed to only finish the rally to claim the crown and did so some eight places ahead of the Irish team.
“The Els Omells and Ruidecanyes stages here in Spain are up there with the Col de Turinin as the best stages in the world,”said Morrissey
Ryan Caldwell and Grace O’Brien made their European Rally Championship debut at the event by driving a Ford Fiesta RC4.
They finished the rally in 14th place overall in the European Championship category. Their rally concluded on Saturday.
“I am exhausted but delighted,” said the Cork-based co-driver, “It was some weekend and some experience, it was difficult, but this is what we aspire to. We enjoyed every bit of it.”
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