Not since the halcyon days of Rosemary Smith has an Irish woman contested the FIA European Rally Championship.
That will change this weekend as Galway’s Aoife Raftery will make her ERC debut in Poland.
She will become the first female Irish driver the enter the European championship since Smith’s exploits in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Raftery is a member of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy and is one of several Irish competitors tackling the Mikołajki-based event which gets underway on Friday night.
She will drive a Peugeot 208 Rally 4 in the Junior ERC element of the rally and championship and will be run by Irish team PCRS Rallysport.
“I am really looking forward to the event, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I can’t thank the Rally Academy and my sponsors enough,” she said.
“It is nice to get a chance to represent Ireland on this kind of stage.”
She paid tribute to Craig Breen who previously contested Rally Poland as an ERC counter or when it was a round of the World Rally Championship in his Citroen days.
“It is nice to be flying the Irish flag in Poland and in memory of Craig and carry on his legacy in Poland and other countries. It is special for me to be able to do that.”
In another historic first her co-driver Claire Williams will become the first female Welsh co-driver to commit to a full European Rally Championship campaign.
Raftery’s teammates will be Josh McErlean and co-driver John Rowan.
Driving the Rally Academy’s Hyundai i20 Rally2, they finished an outstanding 12th overall in last weekend’s Rally Portugal.
They went straight from Porto to Poland – their first time doing back-to-back rallies.
“It was a quick turnaround,” said McErlean who is also contesting WRC Rally Sardegna in a few weeks’ time. “Three in rallies in five weeks, it is good for experience and seat time but more important is good for making notes. Poland is a fast rally and new roads and new pacenotes [for us].”
Australia-based co-driver Mac Kierans is also taking part in Rally Poland, alongside Max McRae in an Opel Corsa Rally4.
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