Belfast Telegraph

Devine turns attention to 2020 Euro rally goal

Josh McErlean
Josh McErlean

By Sammy Hamill

Three aspiring young Ulster rally drivers, led by Callum Devine who is targeting a full European Championship campaign, outlined their plans for 2020 at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham.

Alongside Devine were James Wilson and Josh McErlean, the three of them the most recent winners of Motorsport Ireland's lucrative Billy Coleman Award and all British Junior champions in the past three years.

And while Devine heads for Europe, McErlean and Wilson are stepping up from their R2 class cars to the R5 four-wheel-drive category in the British and Irish Forestry Championships respectively.

All three will drive i20 Hyundais, a sign of the Korean manufacturer's growing presence in the Irish rally market.

Devine, who won the British Junior title in 2017, already has experience of World Championship events but is now switching his attention to the European series after a breakthrough season in 2019 when he emerged as the top challenger to Craig Breen and Alastair Fisher in the Irish Tarmac Championship.

His performances at home and in Rally Hungary, where he finished third, earned him the accolade of Motorsport Ireland's International Rally Driver of the Year. It was the Hungarian experience in which he drove an R5 Hyundai for the first time that encouraged the 25-year-old from Claudy to plan a full European campaign.

"Hungary opened our eyes last year," he explained. "To set competitive times in a new car, in horrendous conditions, made us realise we can mix it at this level.

"I'm under no illusions about how tough this year will be, but everything is coming together at the right time to give this a go," said Devine.

"The realistic aim will be to push on the tarmac events and keep learning on the gravel events and above all, get finishes. Points win prizes and if last year's ERC showed us anything, it showed us that."

Fellow Co Derry driver McErlean, the 2019 Coleman Award winner, is moving up to the overall British Championship after winning the Junior title last season. He will tackle all six rounds which include the West Cork and Ulster rallies on this side of the Irish Sea.

He made the move up to R5 at the end of the year, impressing on both Wales Rally GB and the Monza Rally Show in Italy.

"I never dreamed when I started rallying that I would win the Billy Coleman Award, let alone be involved in a programme that will enable me to compete for a full campaign in a top spec R5 like the Hyundai," he said.

Wilson, from Armagh, is taking a measured approach to his move to R5, aiming to build experience by tackling the Irish forest series and selected rounds of premier Tarmac Championship.

"I have been fortunate in having the opportunity to drive the R5 as part of the Coleman Award programme and managed third overall at my first loose surface event in the car," he said.

"Now I am looking forward to running the car for a full campaign and progressing my career."

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