FINTONA’S Aaron Johnston enjoyed a positive debut at the opening round of the World Rally Championship in Monte Carlo alongside Oliver Solberg.
The talented young pair dazzled throughout, producing a series of fast times on the iconic stages overlooking the principality, but a fairly innocuous incident on stage 10 ruined their chances of a top five finish in WRC2.
They ran slightly wide in a corner on that stage and suffered rear suspension damage, which saw them lose over 20 minutes and ended their hopes in the event.
Regardless, Johnston was remaining positive following a productive weekend in their R5 Volkswagen Polo Gti.
“It’s probably the most prestigious rally in the world, so to come here and set some good times and finish the event on our first attempt is a fantastic feeling,” he beamed.
“It was a gruelling but rewarding weekend. We set some good times, but it was just a shame about what happened on stage 10, but that’s rallying unfortunately.
“It was very, very, very small compared to what some boys were getting away with, but we were very cruelly penalised for running only slightly wide and breaking the rear suspension.
“It doesn’t really matter because we completed what we wanted to do by completing all the stages and getting the mileage in the different conditions, so we’re very much happy with how the weekend went even though the result could have been better.
“Without the issues, we would have been fifth overall out of 33 R5’s, so that’s as good as we could have asked for. Everyone in front of us had done the event multiple times, so to be there or there abouts with them is definitely positive for next year.”
After they completed the rally, it was announced that Johnston and Solberg were to drive a Skoda Motorsport-supported Fabia Rally 2 Evo on selected rounds of this year’s WRC3 series, starting at next month’s Rally Sweden.
Oliver, who became the youngest ever winner of an FIA European Rally Championship round last season, and Aaron tested the Fabia for the first time earlier this month and they are thrilled to get this chance.
“This is such a fantastic opportunity for us. To be supported by Skoda Motorsport, who have brought along many young talents over the years, is very special and I’m so proud to be part of this experience,” beamed the 24-year-old Tyrone man.