Former British Junior F1000 rally champion Josh McErlean will step up to a MH Motorsport Fiesta R2T at next month’s Nicky Grist Stages, round five of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship.
Showing an impressive turn of pace during the opening rounds of the series behind the wheel of an outdated Citroen C2 R2 MAX, McErlean and co-driver Aaron Johnston will occupy the seat vacated by the outgoing Callum Devine who switches to a Vauxhall Adam for the remainder of the season.
At just 17, McErlean will be the youngest of the MH Motorsport squad and will become team mate to the opening round Junior BRC victor Oscar Solberg. Despite contesting all three rounds of the series, the youngster has been plagued by mechanical woes in the aging Citroen, but his pace did not go unnoticed by team principle Mike Harris.
“We always have our eye on the stage times throughout the BRC field to see who is putting in a performance that is perhaps head and shoulders above the rest” says Harris. “As a team, we are always looking to expand our line up or explore other opportunities when priorities change.”
“That’s exactly what happened with Josh” he continues. “We wanted to get someone in the car that was showing promise and that would benefit from a seat in a top flight R2 car. It’s great to be able to give a youngster an opportunity like this and it will be great to see his pace progress”.
Whilst Harris may have had his finger on the phone to call McErlean for some time, it came as a big shock to the Northern Irishman.
“The last few days for me have been very exciting” he says. “Everything has just clicked and fallen into place. I certainly wasn’t expecting that phone call from Mike (Harris) but when it actually sunk in, the feeling was immense. It’s a real privilege to be behind the wheel of the one of the most successful R2 cars out there at the moment.”
McErlean was destined to make his debut in the team on the Ypres Rally in Belgium later this month, but a regulation issue has prevented the youngster from making the start. He will now look to the Builth Wells event for his opportunity in the second MH Motorsport Junior BRC team car.
The Nicky Grist Stages provides a challenging two-day format with the gravel forests of Crychan being followed by a sealed surface blast across the Epynt Military Ranges. Despite being forced to miss Ypres, McErlean is looking forward to the challenge that a mixed surface event brings.
“It’s going to be a huge learning curve as it’s my first time on the event and in an unfamiliar car. But I will head to Wales with a level head and I`m looking forward to the challenge. I’d like to say thank you to MH Motorsport for this opportunity and I can’t wait to get going”.
MH Motorsport will once again field five cars on the event as part of the Junior BRC and Cadet Cup. McErlean and Solberg will pilot the Ford Fiesta 1.0litre EcoBoost R2T variants whilst Josh Cornwell, Nabila Tejpar and Alex Waterman will drive the 1600cc R2 version in the Cadet category.
The Nicky Grist Stages takes place on 8th and 9th July and is based in Builth Wells.