Peugeot ace lands R5 prize drive for Wales Rally GB

01 Oct 2019

Peugeot ace lands R5 prize drive for Wales Rally GB
Peugeot ace and Junior British Rally Champion Josh McErlean will contest Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB (3-6 October), in a Hyundai i20 R5 thanks to winning this years series in his 208 R2.

The Billy Coleman Award nominee sealed the Junior BRC honours with a round to spare and will now embark on the biggest challenge of his career as he contests his very first World Rally Championship event and his debut in a front-running four-wheel-drive machine for the very first time, competing against the best drivers in the world at the Llandudno based event.

McErlean, 20 from Kilrea in Co. Derry has been at the forefront of the battle for the JBRC title this season with three wins and two fourth places netting him the title behind the wheel of his Woodland NI backed Peugeot 208 R2.

He has enjoyed a rapid rise through the sport since first contesting the F1000 Junior Championship in a Peugeot 107 in 2015. In just his second season, McErlean sealed the coveted F1000 British and Northern Ireland titles which saw him leap into a Citroen C2R2 Max the following year.
Despite the car’s somewhat ageing technology against other similar specification machinery, McErlean enjoyed some giant-killing results in the outdated Citroen in 2017 before a spell in a Ford Fiesta R2T and the Junior BRC saw him secure second place at the Ypres Rally in Belgium.

However, a switch to the Peugeot 208 R2 brought most success and in 2019, he won three rounds of the Junior BRC to take the title at the Ulster Rally in August. His victory would also open a new opportunity, as taking the British title also landed McErlean and co-driver Keaton Williams the chance to drive an R5 in Wales.

“There is no doubting that this is the biggest and toughest challenge I’ve ever faced in my sporting career, but this doesn’t come around often and you really have to grab it with both hands. It’s going to be hard to relax and enjoy it as I think I`ll be putting a lot of pressure on myself but it certainly won’t be about the stage times or the results for me. Getting the car round in one piece will be key to a good result and simply finish an event of this size will be like a small victory in itself”.

McErlean has contested some of the Wales Rally GB stages as part of his Junior BRC assault but it will largely be a new experience for him.

“I’ve only ever dreamt of an opportunity like this really but it's going to take a while to get comfortable. It’s about the same mileage as my entire Junior BRC season packed into three days so it won’t be easy at all. I just need to manage my pace, find a point I`m comfortable with and stick to it. I just want to get going now!”

Wales Rally GB kicks off with a Liverpool city centre start on Thursday evening before a spectator super special around the Oulton Park Race Circuit. Friday houses eight stages in North Wales whilst Saturday is the longest leg at 150km in Mid-Wales. Sunday rounds off the event ahead of a Llandudno promenade finish celebration that afternoon.