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Devine's difficult run compounded as crash ends chances in Latvia

 

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Callum Devine

Callum Devine

Callum Devine

Callum Devine's season goes from bad to worse and his European Championship hopes have been left in tatters after a huge crash on day two of Rally Liepaja in Latvia.

Already struggling after he was forced to miss the qualifying stage while repairs were carried out to his R5 Hyundai i20, the 26-year-old Co Londonderry driver had battled his way into the top 10 when he misjudged a fast right-hand bend, the car flying off the road and rolling several times.

Fortunately, Devine, Motorsport Ireland's International Diver of the Year in 2019, and co-driver Brian Hoy were uninjured.

The setback followed an abortive trip to Italy, where he was forced to retire from the opening ERC round, Rally di Roma, when a rock holed the car's sump and, although Hyundai Customer Racing stepped in, arranging for a replacement from an Italian team for the non-championship Rally di Alba a week later, it stopped with an electrical issue.

The Latvian rally proved tough, too, for Craig Breen who had been off the pace on day one but had battled back to fourth, 20 seconds off a podium place, only drop back to sixth when his Hyundai suffered a puncture on stage seven. He and Paul Nagle eventually regained fifth.

There was also disappointment for Irish forestry champion Cathan McCourt, who made a strong showing on his European debut only to retire his Hyundai three stages from the end.

But there was the joy of a first ERC win for fellow Tyrone man Aaron Johnston, co-driving the VW Polo of the prodigiously talented Norwegian teenager Oliver Solberg.

Son of former World champion Petter Solberg, the 18-year-old won the rally last year but this time there was a full European field and he led from start to finish to beat the highly experienced Mads Ostberg with two-time European champion Alexey Lukyanuk third.

Meanwhile, Charlie Eastwood and the TF Sport Aston Martin team kept themselves in the running for the World Endurance Championship's GTE/AM division with a battling third place as the series resumed in Belgium.

The trio of Eastwood, Jonny Adam and Salih Yuloc faced typical Spa conditions of downpours and safety cars in the six-hour race but came through to land their fourth podium in six rounds.

Andrew Watson's Gulf Porsche team were a further four laps behind as the LMP1 Toyota of Mike Conway, Jose Marie Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi took the overall victory.

Belfast Telegraph