Young Irishman Eamonn Kelly successfully completed the famous FIA World Rally Championship Secto Rally Finland last weekend [3-6 August], his prize for winning the 2022 Motorsport UK Junior British Rally Championship.
Kelly, 24 from Donegal in Ireland and co-driver Conor Mohan secured a confidence boosting finish on one of the world’s toughest rallies, taking 23rd overall and 14th in the WRC2 category, one of the most vigorously contested championships in existence and the feeder series to the Rally1 top-flight.
Driving a RedGrey Hyundai i20 N Rally2, with support from Motorsport UK, Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, Reis Motorsport Insurance, Probite and DFDS, the young Irishman was delighted and relieved to cross the finish ramp at the end of a gruelling four days behind the wheel.
“To finish one of the most famous and difficult rounds of the WRC feels really good indeed,” said Kelly.
“It took us a few stages to get our confidence back after our crash in Estonia [during their Junior WRC campaign], but I was happy to regain that confidence and have a relatively clean run, progressively building the pace as the event went on.”
“Finland was everything it was said to be. The stages are crazy fast but when you get it right, it just feels unreal. Anytime we got the right line over a flat-out blind crest, I just started to laugh, it was pure class. Perhaps conditions were more wet than usual which meant the second passes got quite rough, but we managed it ok.”
Kelly faced over 320 kilometres and 22 special stages, and he would go head-to-head with some of the fastest WRC2 category drivers in the world on the legendary and super-fast gravel roads, famed for their jumps and unforgiving surface.
Contesting only his third gravel event in Rally2 machinery, Kelly was eager to use the experience as a learning exercise for the future and was happy with how the weekend progressed.
“It was a clean run in the sense that we didn’t need to use Super Rally, but like any rally of this size, we had a few knockbacks along the way. I got beached in a ditch on Saturday and dropped almost two minutes, and we had some brake issues on Sunday that we had to manage, but that all comes as part and parcel of these rallies. They’re tough, and long and setbacks occur easily. You just have to deal with them as best as possible.”
And deal with them he did, as Kelly conquered what is considered to be one of the most demanding events on the World Rally Championship roster, flying the flag for the British Rally Championship on the world’s stage.
“It’s always a privilege to represent an ASN at a world level” he continues.
“Motorsport UK, Motorsport Ireland and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy have been so good to me leading up to this event, so I feel very lucky to have contested the event.”
“It was great to see the level of support from the ditches too, I think there were more Irish flags than Finnish ones. The BRC was always one of my favourite championships to watch growing up and of course to compete in recently, so driving a BRC-backed car felt special. I can’t thank you all enough for giving me this opportunity, it’s something I never thought I’d do, but now I can say I have, and it’ll stand to me dearly in the future.”
Motorsport UK British Rally Championship Manager Reece Tarren was impressed by the Irish pairing’s performance.
“It was a very special feeling to see the BRC liveried car blast through the stages on WRC Live on Sunday and both Eamonn and Connor should be applauded for their approach and result, considering the challenge they faced.”
“It’s been great to see yet another Junior BRC graduate flourish and we remain focused on giving young drivers all the skills they need to progress their careers. I am extremely grateful to Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing and all our partners for their support in making this fantastic prize drive happen for Eamonn and we wish him all the very best in his Junior WRC campaign and career.”