Kilrea’s Josh McErlean says a career-best result on the penultimate round of the World Rally Championsihip has paved the way for his return to Rally Monza next month.

McErlean impressed across the three days of competition at last week’s Rally Spain to finish third overall in WRC3 alongside James Fulton. His drive on Sunday really stood out, particularly on the final stage as it was a mix of wet and drying roads.

The Motorsport Ireland Academy-backed driver finished behind three-time European Rally champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz, with the WRC3 victory going to Emil Lindholm.

Prior to the Catalan event, a return trip to Rally Monza was only a possibility – but that has all now changed. It means the 22-year-old will make his fourth – and final – WRC3 start of the 2021 season following appearances at Rally de Portugal, Ypres Rally and Rally Spain.

“There was always the potential of heading to Monza given my experience and understanding of the event from previous years,” said McErlean, who finished seventh in class in 2020 at Rally Monza and eighteenth the year before that in the R5 division.

“The solid effort and strong result in Spain really cemented this opportunity and it does show that you must be smart and get to the finish of these events. Spain was probably my most mature drive to date.

“I was able to build our speed throughout the event and then show the speed when it was required to fight for a podium position. That shows that I’m developing and improving with every rally,” added the Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing member.

Rally Monza will allow spectators over the weekend of November 19-21, with half the stage mileage incorporating closed-roads through the mountains to the north of the circuit, and the remaining 50% focussed around the Autodromo Nazionale de Monza’s famous corners such as ‘Michele Alboreto’, ‘Lesmo’ and ‘Curva Grande’.

With so many changes to plan for, McErlean admits it will be a challenging way to round off a productive campaign. “From the outside, this event may look like a walk in the park compared to others,” he said, “but from my experience last year it was one of the most difficult. You must be so precise and cannot put one foot wrong.”

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