JUNIOR RALLYING: Josh McErlean comes out on top at KIirkistown

Josh McErlean in action at Kirkistown
Josh McErlean in action at Kirkistown

Josh McErlean made a perfect start to the Junior Rally Championship at Kirkistown in Co. Down on Saturday, taking victory in the opening round.

McErlean was the top points scorer in his Peugeot 107, with Daniel Harper next up at the wheel of a similar car. Third place went to Peter Bennett driving a Citroen C1.

Eight Junior competitors lined up for the six stages which featured tarmac, concrete and some loose gravel surfaces on a cold but dry day.

Ending the day in fourth place was Michael McGarrity with Kyle Orr alongside in his Peugeot 107. The 16-year-old was having a good day, with times very close to the leading three, but on two stages he was held up by backmarkers on his second lap, losing over 10 seconds, and had to fight back on the closing tests to clinch that fourth position.

There was a surprise early on when 14-year-old Harper took a four second lead on the first stage. The Annahilt teenager had driven his Peugeot 107 just a couple of days before the start, and after a brief test was leading his second Junior event.

However young McErlean (15), who won his debut event at Shackleton, equalled Daniel’s time on stage two, and powered his 107 to impressive times over stages three and four to open out a six second advantage.

On stage five, Harper had a great run, equalling McErlean’s time, but it could have been so much better after coming to a virtual stand-still to negotiate Bailie McClinton’s stranded car.

And Josh and Tommy McErlean had enough in hand, as they dropped just 0.8 of a second to Harper on the final stage to seal a narrow 5.3-second victory. Round two of the championship takes place at Kirkistown on February 14.