Motorsport Ireland-backed driver Josh McErlean says that the chance to be part of the Rally Finland action this week is a “pinch me moment” having harboured ambitions of competing there as a young boy.
Finland is the latest stop in McErlean’s World Rally Championship 2 Junior programme, arriving on the back of a first podium that came in last month’s Rally Estonia despite a roll on the penultimate stage.
Famous for its fast-flowing gravel roads, monster jumps and jaw-dropping average speeds, Rally Finland promises to be the most exciting challenge the 23-year-old from Kilrea has faced in his career so far.
“I always feel very privileged when I think about my campaign this season, and coming to Rally Finland is a real pinch me moment,” said McErlean, who will be navigated by James Fulton and receive on-site help and support from Hyundai Motorsport mechanics and engineers.
“It is the most iconic rally I am likely to contest this year and has classic stages with incredible roads. In a way, our approach is directly relevant to Rally Estonia in as much as the roads are high-speed and have little margin for error, so we are in the right mindset for sure.”
Preparations behind the scenes have been rushed, with the penultimate stage accident in Estonia last month requiring the Rally2-spec i20 N supermini to be stripped right back to its bare shell and rebuilt again. McErlean was reunited with the car last weekend for a pre-event test and he gave it the thumbs up.
“Philip Case Rally Sport has done an incredible job getting the car re-prepared in time. Every one of them has worked in overdrive and I would like to say a huge thank you to all of them for their efforts,” he said. “We have all been working hard to be as prepared as possible for Finland this week.
“This rally is one of the toughest in the world and we will be lucky to get another podium on my first trip to Finland. It is a childhood dream to compete here. I know it won’t be easy, but I want to enjoy the challenge ahead and keep building up the experience and mileage as part of my career progression.”
McErlean currently sits eighth in the WRC2 Junior standings. He is one of more than 20 Rally2 entries received for the three-day competition, which gets underway this evening with a short Super Special in Harju city before the real action commences tomorrow.