County Down driving ace, William Creighton, navigated by Belfast’s Liam Regan have made history at the Acropolis rally in Greece by becoming the only Northern Ireland crew to become Junior World Rally Champions.
Just two years ago we brought you the news that the 25-year-old driver, from Moira, was set to take on the world in the single-make Junior World Rally Championship category which sees all drivers compete in a Ford Fiesta Rally 3 prepared by M-Sport, Poland.
After a gruelling season for all crew’s involved, not least Creighton and Regan who retired on the first day of action at the final round in Greece. The local crew came out of the event after a restart with an abundance of bonus points for stage wins, as well as points for finishing fifth on the event.
Enough to crown the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy crew champions of the world!
Only four other locals have attempted this series, Niall McShea and Alastair Fisher, both from Fermanagh, have claimed third and second respectively. While Dungannon driver Kris Meeke’s best result was second overall. Fermanagh’s Jon Armstrong came closest in more recent years but was twice the bridesmaid.
Creighton and Regan entered the final round of this year’s championship with a 29-point advantage, a comfortable lead when looking from the outside in. But with double points on offer, on an event that is regarded as one of the toughest of the year, the title could have gone to one of three crews.
Radiator damage was to blame for their issues on the first day, and suspected damage to the engine meant that the team were forced to replace the cylinder head to stand the best chance of survival and to enable them to restart the event on Saturday morning.
A season-long, never-give-up attitude inside the Creightons, PRM, DGM Sport and Race & Rally backed Fiesta Rally 3 meant that the Motorsport Ireland crew had the mental and physical fight in them to take the title to the wire.
A total of 38 stage wins across the season, four of them on the final round had a huge part to play in their points haul. A win at the opening round in Sweden, as well as another win at Rally Sardinia along with points finishes in Croatia, Estonia and finally in Greece ensured continued confidence from the crew.
French driver Laruent Pellier was set to take full advantage in the standings after Creighton’s issues in Greece, but sadly his fight was cut short with gearbox issues on the penultimate day, and he was forced to settle for third overall. Diego Dominguez Jr. from Paraguay then produced the goods to win the final round and put fair pressure on Creighton to finish the season a mere two points adrift in second.
“Totally unbelievable,” said an elated Creighton on Sunday afternoon at the Acropolis Rally finish.
“I truly can’t believe this” he continued.
“After what happened on Friday, I thought it was all over but like it says on the car, `never give up`, and we most certainly didn’t, I believe it’s that which has got us this title. Our chances were looking slim on Friday, and I knew it was going to be difficult, but I only concentrated on the things that we could control and we really dug deep”.
“You know we showed good pace all weekend and in fact all year when you think about our stage win tally, it’s pretty crazy. But it’s been tight all season long and now it’s all come down to this, honestly unbelievable”.
Creighton started his competitive career in karting at the Nutts Corner Circuit under the watchful eye of John Eastwood, becoming the Northern Ireland champion but soon moved into rallying and the Junior 1000 series, winning both the British and Irish titles. After joining the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, he became the 2021 Junior British Rally Champion whilst stepping onto the world’s stage.
“All the hard work I have put in this season has finally paid off but there are two of us in that car and no one has worked harder than Liam [Regan]. I simply could not have achieved this result without him, and he has been a true rock throughout my entire career. It’s a testament to his efforts that we did this together and it means a lot to us both”.
“Of course, I have so many other people to thank for this too and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy have been pivotal in my success. It’s been an honour to represent them on the world stage. The DGM Sport team have supported me on every round which has been invaluable, and it was great of the Race & Rally guys to arrange such a fantastic surprise homecoming yesterday [Monday 11 September], it was great to see everyone as we arrived back home.”
“This journey has been just amazing, and I need a while to let this really sink in”.
Creighton’s navigator, Liam Regan, aka ‘Red Bus Rallying’, started his rallying career as a driver himself, competing in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy from 2006 onwards across Ireland and Great Britan, so he has gone full circle by returning to the same make and model as where it all started for him, but from the passenger seat this time where he has been beside William for at least a decade now.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” commented Regan on becoming a world champion co-driver.
“Starting off in a junior 1000 car with William when he was 14 or 15, to becoming junior world champions. The effort that goes into us competing at this level is huge, not just from William and I but from the many people in the background who help us.
“The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy, Marcus Dickson and everyone at David Greer Motorsport and of course our own families, it’s as much for them as it is for us.”
If having their name on a trophy aside rallying greats such as Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo, Sebastien Ogier, Welshman Elfyn Evans and Ireland’s Craig Breen wasn’t enough, Creighton’s prize is one to be incredibly proud of and includes four arrive-and-drive WRC2 outings behind the wheel of an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 in 2024, a pre-event test prior to each round plus 200 tyres courtesy of Pirelli.
Words: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY
Homecoming photo: DECLAN ROUGHAN