Josh McErlean restarts his World Rally Championship marketing campaign this week on Rally Portugal. The 22-year-old has had a quiet couple of months however that’s set to vary as he tackles two WRC 2 occasions within the subsequent three weeks.
Rally Portugal might be McErlean’s second WRC 2 spherical of 2022 however he’ll knock off his third when he tackles Rally Sardinia for the primary time at the beginning of June.
Whereas McErlean and co-driver James Fulton will profit from the momentum of doing two gravel rallies in fast succession, it does add some additional stress to their journey to Iberia.
“Going into Portugal realizing we have now Sardinia a few weeks later signifies that we should be fairly smart right here,” admitted McErlean. “We wish to get to Sardinia with a great mindset and every thing in good situation.
“Portugal is finally the precedence in the mean time, I ready for Sardinia even earlier than I began making ready for Portugal. It’s a must to plan long-term.
“Sardinia might be tough and difficult, it’s all the time like that. onboards, phases, and stage feedback; it will likely be a miracle if you’re not engaged on the automobile in some unspecified time in the future through the rally.”
Rally Portugal is dwelling to some good recollections for McErlean. It was his first WRC 3 occasion of a profitable 2021 season, securing a maiden top-five end within the class.
McErlean ready for final 12 months’s occasion by competing on the Terras d’Aboboreira Rally which relies in the identical area as Rally Portugal.
Happy with the result 12 months in the past, McErlean and his Philip Case Rally Sport crew replicated the method this 12 months.
In actual fact, McErlean was a sensation on the favored nationwide rally, main after 4 of the rally’s 9 phases. Sadly, his spectacular run got here to an finish on Stage 5 but it surely’s a promising signal forward of the all-important Rally Portugal.
“Our tempo was good,” described the Motorsport Eire Rally Academy driver. “Particularly on the primary day after we had been main after the second stage.
“In the end we had been operating first on the street the following day which most likely wasn’t best for Portugal as a result of we’re going to be twenty fifth on the street there.
“It was good to have the tempo, know that we had the tempo, and operating first on the street we had been nonetheless setting the quickest stage occasions. That’s a bit exceptional in Portugal.
“What occurred on the fifth stage was merely an error on my behalf. The stage modified rhythm and the floor grew to become very unfastened, I misjudged the grip, slid barely vast on a nook, and clipped a rock.
“That’s the way it ended, it was very arduous to take whereas main our first rally. It was fairly comfy as properly as a result of getting by means of that stage we’d have had the arduous work finished of cleansing the street.
“Now we have to take some positives however we have now to be taught from it as properly.”
As for Rally Portugal, the Hyundai i20 Rally2 pilot appears quietly assured that his preparation places him in a great place for his second WRC 2 occasion of the 12 months. With confirmed abilities like Marco Bulacia, Chris Ingram, Jan Solans, and Erik Cais all in his WRC 2 Junior class, McErlean has a pleasant likelihood to show what he’s able to on gravel.
However as he tasted on his warm-up occasion, these infamous Mediterranean roads are all the time able to chew.
“The phases within the south have extra bedrock, they’re rougher, and you may count on a better threat of getting a puncture.
“Because the rally strikes north on Saturday it turns into extra mushy and sandy. You will get this on the Amarante stage but it surely’s 40 kilometres lengthy so there are quite a lot of completely different roads in 40 kilometres.
“The traits and rhythm are all the time altering.”
With over 330 kilometres of aggressive stage motion, Rally Portugal continues its type as a correct cornerstone world championship occasion.
The place higher for McErlean to kick off his subsequent chapter in WRC 2.
Photographs by RedPoint Portugal