› Josh McErlean/James Fulton of Škoda Motorsport supported team Toksport WRT miss WRC2 victory at fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship by a whisker.
› Six Škoda crews finish inside the top 10 of category WRC2.
› Title contenders Oliver Solberg and Gus Greensmith both retire their respective Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 after driving errors.

Matosinhos (POR), 12 May 2024 – 3.2 seconds prevented a sensation: Irish crew Josh McErlean/James Fulton (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2) finished their first FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) event of the 2024 season a close second in category WRC2. They even led for some of the 337 stage kilometres of Rally Portugal.

With already one WRC2 victory each under their belts this season, Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crews Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson and Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson came with high hopes to Rally Portugal. As expected, the teammates from Škoda Motorsport supported outfit Toksport WRT battled for the WRC2 lead from the word “go”. They alternately held P1 of the category with 22 year-old Solberg from Sweden and British co-driver Edmondson reaching Friday’s finish on top. Briton Greensmith and Swedish navigator temporarily dropped down to third position of the category due to a spin in stage 9.

Leg 2 turned the standings on its head. All went wrong for Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson in stage 11. „I lost concentration for a moment, when we passed the rally leader’s car lying on its side,“ Solberg admitted. The following corner, Solberg clipped a bank and also rolled his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson reached the midday service as WRC2 leaders. At the finish of the first stage after the break, the British-Swedish duo was missing – their Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 was beached on an embankment. “A small mistake put us off the road and out of the rally,” Greensmith reported back to the Toksport WRT camp. Both crews decided not to restart for the final leg.

Somehow surprisingly for themselves, Josh McErlean/James Fulton took over the category lead. Tackling their first WRC event of the 2024 season, the Irish crew opted for a conservative strategy, nevertheless constantly posting fast times with their Toksport WRT run Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. “There’s no point panicking at this stage,” 24-year-old McErlean joked. He wasn’t too much concerned either, when they lost the lead to Jan Solans/Rodrigo Sanjuan. At Saturday’s finish, McErlean/Fulton trailed the Spaniards by less than ten seconds. Third placed Finnish crew Lauri Joona/Janni Hussi (Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 of team TGS Worldwide) followed a further minute down.

The final leg saw a gripping duel for WRC2 victory between Solans/Sanjuan and McErlean/Fulton. After stage 20, the two crews were separated by 0.1 seconds only. During the 19.91 kilometres of the penultimate stage, Solans/Sanjuan had extended their lead to 6.4 seconds. But McErlean/Fulton didn’t give up. They stormed through the rally ending Power Stage – including the famous Fafe jump – second fastest of the WRC2 crews. But the leaders were out of reach. In the end 3.2 seconds made the difference. “We gave it everything, it’s an incredible experience to stand on the WRC2 podium. That’s definitely something to celebrate,” McErlean beamed at the finish in Matosinhos. The Irish crew also finished runner-up in the WRC2 Challenger classification.

Lauri Joona and co-driver Janni Hussi added to the strong result of Škoda Motorsport customer teams as third in WRC2. In total, six Škoda crews finished inside the top 10 of WRC2. Automotor Rally Team’s Fabrizio Zaldivar from Paraguay and Argentina born Marcelo Der Ohannesian, who competes with an Italian racing licence, came home in fourth position. Czech duo Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (ORLEN Jipocar Team) ended up in seventh place followed by Italians Roberto Daprà/Luca Guglielmetti (Delta Rally Team) in nineth and local heroes Armindo Araújo/Luís Ramalho (The Racing Factory) in tenth.

Next stop for the WRC2 crews is Sardinia. The Italian round of the FIA World Rally Championship hits the gravel stages of the Mediterranean island from 30 May to 2 June.

Number of the rally: 11
The lead in WRC2 changed eleven times on the 22 stages! Among the five crews enjoying P1 for a while were Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 crews Josh McErlean/James Fulton, Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson and Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson, all three run by team Toksport WRT.

Rally Portugal, 9-12 May 2024, Result WRC2
1 Jan Solans/Rodrigo Sanjuan (ESP/ESP), Toyota GR Yaris Rally2, 3:53:25.2 hours
2 Josh McErlean/James Fulton (IRL/IRL), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, +3.2 seconds
3 Lauri Joona/Janni Hussi (FIN/FIN), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, +1:47.4 minutes
4 Fabrizio Zaldivar/Marcelo Der Ohannesian (PRY/ITA), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2, +2:14.4 minutes
5 Yohan Rossel/Arnaud Dunand (FRA/FRA), Citroën C3 Rally2, +2:30.6 Minutes
6 Roope Korhonen/Anssi Viinikka (FIN/FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally2, +3:13.3 minutes

Standings WRC2/Drivers (after 5 of 13 events)
1 Yohan Rossel (FRA), Citroën, 53 points
2 Oliver Solberg (SWE), Škoda, 43 points
3 Nikolay Gryazin (BUL), Citroën, 40 points