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Mon 30 May 2022

How it feels to get your first WRC stage win

When it comes to achieving dreams, taking an overall stage win in the FIA World Rally Championship is high up on almost every rally driver’s bucket list.

The reality, though, is that many drivers never manage to achieve it, and others have to wait a very long time. 

Elfyn Evans’ first stage win came on his 26th start, while Sébastien Loeb was topping the timesheets on his 13th WRC rally. 

Meanwhile, it took eight-time world champion Sébastien Ogier just eight rounds to pull off a fastest time - a feat which was recently matched by Josh McErlean at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. 

McErlean took an unlikely stage win on Saturday evening’s Porto - Foz super special as drying road conditions aided those starting further down the order. 

His accomplishment was made all the more impressive by the fact that he was driving a Rally2 specification Hyundai i20 N. 

“It feels pretty crazy,” admitted the 22-year-old. “It’s probably a moment I’ll savour forever and to do it so soon is quite incredible. 

“Obviously we did have a great advantage compared to the frontrunners in terms of the grip, but again, we had to drive the stage in the dark as well.

“We knew the Rally2 cars were setting some good times and on the way back to service we decided to check the results. It’s something you can really only dream of and, since the rest of the day had been quite difficult for us to get through, it was a nice surprise as well,” he added.

Mechanical troubles meant the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver eventually finished 19th in Portugal’s WRC2 field. 

McErlean’s focus remains solely on Rally Italia Sardegna this week (2 - 5 June), where almost 40 crews have entered the championship’s premier support category. 

“We have to focus on getting experience this year,” he continued. “Sardinia is a new one for ourselves and the team, so there’s going to be a lot to take away from it. 

“Of course, you always have to look at the points on the board after every round and see where you’re at, and we’re actually not in such a bad place despite our results. We need to keep pushing on and see what we can do.”

• Full coverage from Rally Italia Sardegna is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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