A PESKY puncture narrowly denied county rally star Keaton Williams a top ten finish at Rally Hungary last weekend.
Williams, co-driving with Josh McErlean, finished 11th out of 32 cars at the FIA European Rally Championship event, just 3.2 seconds off 10th place, writes Paul Willetts.
The asphalt rally, which also doubled as a Hungarian Championship event, attracted a strong field including World Rally Championships regulars Craig Breen, Oliver Solberg and Andreas Mikkelsen.
But Williams and McErlean, in their Motorsport Ireland, Woodlands, PCRS run Hyundai i20 R5, gave as good as they got over the three days.
The action started on Friday night with a short super special stage at Rabocsiring where the duo were 20th quickest.
Saturday’s loop consisted of nine tests in extremely difficult conditions with fast narrow, mud and leaf strewn roads, with the duo finishing 16th.
At the end of the seventh stage, they had climbed to 13th overall and we’re engaged in a terrific battle with the Fiesta R5 of Hungarian Andras Hadik.
With darkness falling, the stages were really messy with mud pulled out from the first loop but this seemed to suit the duo who passed Hadik to finish day one 11th overall.
“The last three stages were very difficult especially the last one – it resembled a Welsh road rally with muddy lanes but the stages are so fast it’s easy to make a mistake,” said Williams.
Day two offered seven stages but more open and clean roads and things got off to a steady start until a puncture on stage 11 saw the duo lose 20 seconds.
Despite that, they moved up to 10th, after the retirement of compatriot Craig Breen from second overall with transmission problems, although both Hadik and the hard-charging Czech youngster Erik Cais had closed within a few seconds.
The battle was well and truly on as the cars left the final service for the last three tests but after stage 14, McErlean and Williams had dropped back to 11th with Cais and Hadik ahead.
The gap was just 0.7 of a second after 184kms going into the last 8km stage but it was Hadik who was 2.3 seconds faster to claim 10th place.
But 11th was a superb result for the pair, especially with team-mate Callum Devine taking seventh place in the sister car.
Williams added: “It’s been an unbelievable event, if it hadn’t been for the puncture we would have had a top 10 finish.
“But we needed to bring the car home so it would have been silly to risk everything on the last stage.”
With current restrictions, the team are unsure if they will go to the Rally Isles Canaries at the end of the month or the final ERC round at Spa in Belgium on December 12.