| 7.8°C Belfast

Armstrong among quartet taking on new challenges abroad


William Creighton

William Creighton

William Creighton

With rallies in Ireland and the UK still in lockdown, four of Ulster's brightest young drivers are refusing to be kept off the road and are launching ambitious plans for the year ahead.

Former e-sports world champion Jon Armstrong and two-time British Junior Championship runner-up William Creighton are heading to the World Championship, starting with Rally Croatia later this month, and Billy Coleman Award winners Callum Devine and Josh McErlean are off to America, a prelude to beginning the European Championship in the Azores.

For Fermanagh man Armstrong, a driver who is equally accomplished in a rally car as he is on a games console, it is a return to the WRC Junior series after the pandemic forced him to call a halt early last year.

A real-life rally winner at home, his skills on a simulator led to him being recruited by Codemasters as a games consultant, and now he has been included in their DiRT rally team to drive an R4 Ford Fiesta in this year's championship.

Armstrong - who also has previous WRC experience, contesting two rounds in 2017 in an R5 Ford Fiesta as a DMACK Cup winner - said: "Being back at WRC level was what I always wanted to do, I believe that is where I should be and I am capable of performing there.

"It's such a buzz on WRC events and they are really tough both physically and mentally. I can't wait to get started."

Creighton, from Moira, has been a serial winner across the UK since his schoolboy days but is now taking his first step up to world level, joining Armstrong in the R4 division.

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

He drove his new M-Sport Poland Fiesta for the first time in the Czech Republic at the weekend, finishing in the top-20 and taking runner-up spot in R4 in the Valasska Rally.

"I'm only 23 but time does tick by very quickly, and we really did see this year's Junior WRC as a great opportunity in so many ways," he commented. "It is the pinnacle of the sport for aspiring young drivers."

Devine, Ireland's International Driver of the Year in 2019, and reigning British Junior champion McErlean, both from Co Derry, have seized the opportunity to begin the season in America with entries in the Olympus Rally, a forest event based in Washington state.

They see it as ideal chance to prepare for the opening round of the European Championship, which begins with the Azores Rally next month.

The trip, which has been facilitated by the Motorsport Ireland Academy and encouraged by American-based Irish drivers, will see Devine switch from his Hyundai Customer Racing supported i20 R5 to a Ford Fiesta supplied by Barry McKenna, the Olympus winner last year.

Devine has already taken delivery of a new M-Sport Fiesta R5 in preparation for his European campaign.

McErlean, part of the Hyundai Junior driver programme, will be on board the Philip Case Rally Sport i20 Enda McCormack used on earlier rounds of the American Championship, the first time car had been seen on American stages.

"It's a busy few weeks ahead as we will fly straight from America to the Azores, which means we will be very fresh heading into the first round of the ERC," said 21-year-old McErlean.

Top Videos