Josh McErlean takes second overall in WRC2 in Portugal

May 13, 2024 13:22 By Sean McCaffrey
Josh McErlean takes second overall in WRC2 in Portugal
Josh McErlean and James Fulton on their way to 2nd overall in WRC2 in Portugal
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Cavan's James Fulton was in the navigator seat

Josh McErlean delivered a career-best performance on the World Rally Championship Vodafone Rally Portugal by claiming second in WRC2 at the weekend.

Co-driven by James Fulton, Josh challenged strongly for the class victory over the final two days of the three-day event.

The lead swapping back and forth several times before, ending the event in second spot. Just three seconds down after 337 kilometres of intense competition.


The Motorsport Rally Academy duo were piloting a Toksport World Rally Team Škoda Motorsport Fabia RS Rally2 for the first time.

They quickly got to grips with their new mount, setting a string of ultra-competitive times over the challenging gravel stages of the Porto region of Portugal.

Whereas, Rally de Portugal began on Thursday morning with Shakedown. This was followed by a 2.94km super-special at Figueira da Foz in the evening.


Friday’s challenges were presented across eight stages covering 126.90km and over some of the most demanding roads of the season. McErlean finished the opening day in fifth place in the WRC2 category.

Ahead of McErlean was Jan Solans in Toyota Yaris Rally2. Solans Toksport teammates Oliver Solberg and Gus Greensmith and Citroen driver Yohan Rossel.

On day two, Josh kept out of trouble as those around him suffered all sorts of misfortune. Solberg and Greensmith both hit trouble and Rossel punctured.


Meanwhile, McErlean and Solans found themselves fighting for the category lead.

We tried to avoid punctures all day, one puncture and the day was over.

The Motorsport Ireland crew moved into the category lead on stage 14; holding it until after stage 16, the 37-kilometre Amarante test.


McErlean and Fulton, took a cautious approach; fearful of punctures in the rough conditions over the second run of the long test.

Cautious approach punished

Solans used the opportunity to overtake the Irish driver and while both traded stage times over stages 17 and the fan-friendly Superspecial at Lousada. Josh ended the day eight seconds adrift of the Spaniard's Toyota Yaris Rally2.


McErlean promised to go for it on Sunday morning and regained the lead with just two stages left to run. Entering the penultimate test, just 0.1 of a second separated the Irish and Spanish crews.

Solans went 6.5 seconds faster on the second last stage, leaving McErlean with a mountain to climb over the 11km Fafe stage.

McErlean went fastest by 2.9 seconds, meaning Solans took victory by 3.2 seconds after a total of nearly four hours of rallying.

Fellow Academy athletes and 2023 Junior World Rally champions William Creighton and Liam Regan who stepped up to WRC2 in an M-Sport Fiesta Rally2 for 2024 also competed in Portugal.

Both ran competitively in the top-10 in WRC2 before a broken suspension component forced them to retire on Friday afternoon.

They re-joined on Saturday under SuperRally rules and worked their way back up to 23rd overall and 12th in WRC2.

Motorsport Ireland licence holder Aaron Johnston, was co-driving for Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta in WRC1. They had been in an opening-day battle for the overall lead.

The Toyota Gazzo Racing crew led for much of Friday but were overtaken by team-mates Kalle Rovanpera and Sebastien Ogier. Just 3.7 seconds separated the three Toyota drivers ahead of Saturday’s even more demanding route.

Unfortunately, a suspension failure caused retirement from third place early on Saturday, re-joining under super rally rules on Sunday to finish 29th overall.

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