COUNTY rally star Keaton Williams admits he will savour an unexpected trip to Italy in the company of a world champion this weekend as he continues his winter tour of the Mediterranean.
Co-driver Williams and team-mate Josh McErlean finished 21st at the Rally Islas Canaries in the Canary Islands last weekend, in the final round of the European Rally Championship.
They expected that to be their final drive of the year but have now been handed the chance to compete in the World Rally Championship finale at Monza from December 4-6.
Estonian team Red Grey, run by world champion Ott Tanak and Markko Martin, have asked McErlean and Williams to drive a Hyundai i20 R5 in the final race of the WRC season.
Williams said: “To get the news we’re going back to Monza is very exciting and looking at the terrific entry in Italy next weekend it’s something to savour.”
The duo will go into that event in confident mood after improving as the Gran Canaria event went on in their most recent drive.
In their Motorsport Ireland Academy PCRS Michelin-shod Hyundai, they struggled in Friday’s early stages.
Usually run in sunny conditions in May, this gave way to heavy November rain making the roads like ice.
Friday’s nine stages totalled 99kms of a mixture of fast smooth roads and narrow twisty back roads through villages, and heavy rain caught so many out on the first loop of stages.
McErlean and Williams were 40th after stage one but improved to 30th after stage three.
The second loop of the same four tests were slightly drier and saw the duo move up to 25th after stage seven.
But stage eight saw the duo lose more than a minute with a puncture and by time they reached the stage finish the tyre was virtually off the rim.
All that was left was the short Las Palmas Street stage to end day one with the duo finishing 30th overall going into day two, where the forecast was supposed to be much drier.
Altogether, 82 cars left Las Palmas on Saturday morning for a further eight tests on the island but the drier weather didn’t materialise with very mixed conditions stages.
Rain at the start of the test but dry tarmac halfway through, plus lots of standing water, made tyre choice a lottery but, gradually, the duo started to climb the leaderboard and were 12th fastest through stage 11.
Another puncture cost some time near the end of stage 15 but the last two tests were uneventful and the duo arrived back in Las Palmas 21st overall.
“That was really enjoyable but very challenging and we’ve learnt a lot this weekend, we came here to gain experience and that’s what we did,” said Williams.