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Aaron Johnston hails 'amazing weekend' despite missing out on Rally de Portugal podium by just 2.2 seconds

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Aaron Johnston. Credit: Toyota/McKlein

Aaron Johnston. Credit: Toyota/McKlein

Toyota Gazoo Racing / McKlein

Aaron Johnston. Credit: Toyota/McKlein

Fintona’s Aaron Johnston was denied the chance to visit the World Rally Championship podium for the first time after narrowly losing out on third place in the closing miles of Rally de Portugal.

Takamoto Katsuta and co-driver Johnston steadily worked their way into silverware contention across the three full days of competition, their approach promoting them six places to third overall by Sunday morning.

But over the final leg they came under sustained pressure from WRC veteran and Rally1 debutant Dani Sordo and on the end-of-rally Power Stage the two crews traded places, the difference between them after 21special stages and 206 competitive miles 2.2 seconds.

The outcome was still good enough to place the Toyota crew third in their respective drivers’ and co-drivers’ title battles on 38 points – two more than Hyundai Motorsport’s Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja.

“It was an amazing fight all weekend and we gave it our all, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be on this occasion,” said Johnston.

Craig Breen’s Portuguese exploits proved less fruitful as his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 was dogged by a catalogue of problems. A loss of brakes did the most damage yesterday as he finished down to eighth.

In WRC2, Josh McErlean made a piece of history by recording an outright fastest time by 2.7 seconds at the wheel of his Hyundai I20 N. That came on Saturday’s day-ending super special after he threaded his Motorsport Ireland-backed car quickest through the streets of Porto.

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It was the highlight of an otherwise frustrating weekend for the 22-year-old whose hopes of a positive result alongside co-driver James Fulton were dashed on Friday by a power steering failure.

And in the Junior World Rally Championship, Kesh’s Jon Armstrong maintained his lead by virtue of coming home in fourth and setting eight scratch times in the one-make series. Moira’s William Creighton shed a wheel on the first run through the famous ‘Fafe’ test on Sunday and had to bow out.

Meanwhile, at round four of TCR Europe yesterday, Belfast’s Jack Young lost further ground in the title race with a thirteenth-place finish. The 20-year-old was demoted to the back of the grid following an overnight engine change but did succeed in clawing back nine positions over the 10-lap race at Circuit Paul Ricard in France.

In Saturday’s round three sprint, he retired when he collected a rear puncture.

“It’s been a tough weekend,” said Young who plummets to tenth in the drivers’ standings on 66 points.

“Starting last in race two meant the best we could do was get into the points, so at least that is mission accomplished with thirteenth. We’ll be back stronger for Spa-Francorchamps next month,” he added.


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