Claudy's Callum Devine has described his dream debut in the European Rally Championship as “fantastic” and “the hardest rally I ever did”.
The 25-year-old Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver demonstrated blistering speed to claim third place in the Rally Hungary, despite losing almost three minutes with two punctures and a spin over the two days.
He posted top-three times on five of the stages during the event, including the fastest time by over a minute on the final stage to jump from fifth place onto the podium on his ERC debut.
Devine was competing in a Hyundai Motorsport i20 R5. His presence at the event was made possible by backing from Motorsport Ireland and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing.
“It was literally a last-minute plan put together between Motorsport Ireland and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing," said Devine after the event, "To be here with this result is fantastic for us. From a rally point of view, it was extremely challenging, probably the hardest rally I ever did for myself and Brian. I’m really pleased.”
Driving in very challenging conditions, Devine and co-driver, Brian Hoy from Co Fermanagh, displayed a level of professionalism and skill that demonstrated their ability to compete in the ERC’s top division.
Hoy said: “It was very challenging. You go from reading the notes so fast in the Tarmac sections to reading them so slowly in the gravel sections. There was fog, there was dark, it was a very challenging weekend, but we’ve learned so much.
“We thought we’d be on the hard tyre, but it was full wets all weekend. We knew from the test it was going to be very hard but, in the end, it’s been a bonus for us at the end of the year. We thought our year was over until Pirelli and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing came together with Motorsport Ireland to give us this chance. Callum definitely made the most of what he was given this weekend and definitely made a really good impression. We’re happy with this.”
Speaking on the possibility of a European Rally Championship campaign in 2020, Devine said: “That’s probably our main plan for next year if we can get everything together. This was a good learning curve for us to see what we’re up against next year. We’ll plan before Christmas and see where we go from there.”
Andrew Johns, Senior Sales Associate Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing, said: “Callum’s performance on Rally Hungary was exceptional. To jump into the Hyundai i20 R5, and the European Rally Championship for the first time and to score a podium finish is a great achievement, especially in such hazardous conditions. The consistent pace over the course of the rally shows not only Callum and Brian’s capability at an international level, but also demonstrates the qualities that make the i20 R5 such a strong package for our customers.
Leo Hassett, CEO Motorsport Ireland, said: “This is a fantastic achievement. Callum and Brian have shown the benefit that participation in a training programme like the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy can have on your career, and for that we must thank Rally Academy Coordinator, Sean McHugh and Team Ireland. It will be fantastic to see others progress through the Academy and hopefully achieve more results like we saw at the weekend.”