Junior British Rally Champion and Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver William Creighton became a champion of the world last weekend, by claiming the 2023 FIA Junior World Rally Championship title in dramatic fashion at the EKO Acropolis Rally Greece [7-10 September].
The 25-year-old from Moira joins an illustrious list of former champions including Sébastien Loeb, Sébastien Ogier and the late Craig Breen, who tragically passed away in April this year and was another to have overcome adversity on the final round to secure the title in 2011.
Creighton’s never-give-up attitude has ensured the coveted title returns to Ireland and with it, he wins a funded drive in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 in 2024, contesting the FIA World Rally Championship WRC2 category, 200 free tyres from Pirelli and a pre-event testing package; the largest prize in rallying.
“Totally unbelievable,” said an elated Creighton on Sunday afternoon at the Acropolis Rally finish.
And it almost was. He started the final round in Greece with a 29-point advantage over his nearest rival but with double points on offer, it would be a three-horse race for the title. Despite being in the pound seat, Creighton would still need a solid score and with points awarded for fastest time on every stage, he could not afford to relax.
But drama struck on just the third stage of the event when cooling issues on the Fiesta put him out of the rally for the day and seemingly, out of the title contest. However, the M-Sport Poland team repaired the problem and he was able to re-start on Saturday, albeit in last place.
A masterclass followed, with three stage wins bagging him extra points. With rivals also falling by the wayside, Creighton would only need to complete Sunday’s stages and despite the pressure, he duly delivered, becoming the Junior World Champion in the process.
“I truly can’t believe this” he continued.
“After what happened on Friday, I thought it was all over but like it says on the car, `never give up`, and we most certainly didn’t, I believe it’s that which has got us this title. Our chances were looking slim on Friday and I knew it was going to be difficult, but I only concentrated on the things that we could control and we really dug deep”.
“You know we showed good pace all weekend and in fact all year when you think about our stage win tally, it’s pretty crazy. But it’s been tight all season long and now it’s all come down to this, honestly unbelievable”.
Creighton started his competitive career in karting at the Nutts Corner Circuit under the watchful eye of John Eastwood, becoming the Northern Ireland champion but soon moved into rallying and the Junior 1000 series, winning both the British and Irish titles. After joining the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, he became the 2021 Junior British Rally Champion whilst stepping onto the world’s stage.
Two Junior WRC podiums followed in 2022 and this season saw him take his first Junior win in Sweden, quickly followed by another in Sardina. A staggering 38 stage wins during the season has undoubtedly helped him to lift the title and an emotional Creighton was eager to reflect on this past season.
“All the hard work I have put in this season has finally paid off but there are two of us in that car and no one has worked harder than Liam [Regan]. I simply could not have achieved this result without him, and he has been a true rock throughout my entire career. It’s a testament to his efforts that we did this together and it means a lot to us both”.
“Of course, I have so many other people to thank for this too and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy have been pivotal in my success. It’s been an honour to represent them on the world stage. The DGM Sport team have supported me on every round which has been invaluable, and it was great of the Race & Rally guys to arrange such a fantastic surprise homecoming yesterday [Monday 11 September], it was great to see everyone as we arrived back home.”
“This journey has been just amazing, and I need a while to let this really sink in”.