Reigning Motorsport UK Junior British Rally Champion Eamonn Kelly will contest this week’s FIA World Rally Championship counter, Secto Rally Finland [3-6 August] behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 N Rally2.
Kelly, 24 from Donegal in Ireland and co-driver Conor Mohan made their British Rally Championship debut in 2021, fighting until the final stage of the final round in Ulster for the coveted Junior BRC title.
But it was William Creighton who took the spoils that year and runner-up Kelly made a return to the series the following year with some unfinished business. Wins at the Jim Clark, Grampian and Ceredigion saw him clinch the all-important crown with two rounds to spare and with it, a supported drive in a round of the World Rally Championship behind the wheel Hyundai’s latest Rally2 machinery, the i20 N.
A collaboration between the British Rally Championship and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing will see Kelly join the Estonian RedGrey squad for the super-fast and legendary stages of Rally Finland, marking the Irishman’s first visit to the gravel jumps of the Jyväskylä based event.
Since Kelly claimed the Junior BRC title, he has thrown his hat into the ring of the hotly contested Junior WRC, where experience in four-wheel-drive Rally3 machinery will undoubtedly put him in good stead for the Finnish encounter.
Equally, the progressive youngster is no stranger to the Rally2 category, having taken third overall on last year’s Visit Conway Cambrian Rally behind the wheel of his own Volkswagen Polo GTi.
But now, arguably one of the biggest challenges of his career awaits and Kelly is ready to grab it with both hands.
“It is a boyhood dream to be able to go to one of the most iconic rallies in the world and compete, even more so in a Rally2 car,” says Kelly.
“I’ve been lucky to compete in the Junior WRC this year but this one is pretty special. As well as being a dream it is also very beneficial for our progression, as Finland is as tough as it gets in terms of pace. All in all it’s the ultimate package!
Kelly’s grounding in the Junior BRC has put him in good stead for the task ahead.
“The Junior BRC taught me loads in terms of getting stuck into battles and doing everything to come out on top. I was lucky to get two good years of competition and it definitely brought me up a level or two.
“Of course, winning the JBRC not only netted me this prize, but also a Billy Coleman nomination, which I was fortunate enough to win. That was the foundation for my JWRC season this year, so I must be very thankful for the JBRC in that sense.
“But I still have so much to learn at this level so I want to take away as much as possible from the weekend. The aim is to start as positive as our experience allows us, and just build on it as the weekend goes on. There’s no pressure on us and I just want to enjoy every second of the experience and hopefully come away a slightly better driver than when I went in!
With a team like RedGrey, a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 and the challenging Finnish Roads, I’m sure there’ll be no doubt of that.”
Twenty-two stages and over 320 kilometres of special stages, spread over three days make up Rally Finland and Kelly will go toe-to-toe with some of the fastest WRC2 category drivers in the world and have the opportunity to showcase his talent on the worlds stage.
As well as being backed by Motorsport UK and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Kelly will also be supported by Reis Motorsport Insurance, Probite and DFDS for the event.
Motorsport UK British Rally Championship Manager Reece Tarren is delighted to see Kelly take up the opportunity.
“The British Rally Championship has always been known for its breeding ground of future talent and to once again see a Junior British Rally Champion head onto the world stage is a testament to the series” he says.
“When Eamonn was fighting with William (Creighton) in 2021, it was evident that the potential was certainly there for the future, so it makes us proud to see him tackle Rally Finland, which goes well alongside his Junior WRC commitments.”
“Our thanks go to Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Reis Motorsport Insurance, Probite and DFDS for their support in enabling Eamonn to have this fantastic opportunity and we wish him the very best of luck.”