McCluskey returns amid OMSE Supercar influx to Irish RX

by Hal Ridge |

A few years ago, Rallycross World detailed the struggles of the domestic rallycross scene in Ireland, but things have been improving of late for the Irish Rallycross Championship.

For 2023, the prospects for the series at its highest level – Supercar – look even brighter still, and a major boost comes in the form of an influx of Ford Fiestas built by Swedish concern Olsbergs MSE, and former front-runner John McCluskey returning as part of a two-car effort with Murray Motorsport.


In late 2022, Murray Motorsport sourced OMSE Fiesta 007, a car previously raced by Andreas Eriksson (Euro RX), David Binks (British RX and GRC), Brian Deegan (GRC), Sebastian Eriksson (RallyX Nordic), Peter Hedstrom (Euro RX and RallyX) and others. The car was transported from Hedstroms Motorsport in Sweden to the Murray base in Ireland for newcomer Michael Leonard. Contesting a single event, Leonard delivered an impressive performance, finishing third in the Supercar final and second in the Superfinal.


John McCluskey meanwhile had been eyeing a return to rallycross for some time, having first transitioned from the rally stages to rallycross tracks with the Will Gollop-built Peugeot 306 in 2001, racing in British and Irish events, before switching to a Hansen Motorsport-built Citroen Xsara. His final rallycross foray to date was in a George Tracey-owned Citroen C4 in the European Championship in 2008.


Aligning with the team that he first drove with in rallycross, Murray Motorsport, McCluskey purchased Fiesta 021 over the winter, a car previously raced by Reinis Nitiss (World RX), Cyril Raymond (World RX), Thomas Bryntesson (RallyX and Euro RX) and Jack Thorne (British RX) and most recently rebuilt by Andrew Jordan’s JRT outfit in the UK. McCluskey will campaign that car in the Irish series this season.


But, the Fiesta movements didn’t end there. At OMSE’s Christmas Sale, Fiesta 023, one of the least-used Fiesta Mk7’s from the Swedish stable that Kevin Eriksson performed his famous ‘around the outside move’ at Estering in 2016, was for sale, and bought by Leonard to join McCluskey in a two-car Murray Motorsport effort with the latest-specification Fiesta Mk7s.


007 meanwhile, was sold on to New York-based former Irish rallycross campaigner Gary Donoghue, who will commute to race in the Irish series this season. He tested the car at Mondello Park on Tuesday (February 21st).


The three Fiestas being introduced to the Irish scene join OMSE-built cars already fielded by multiple Irish RX Champion Derek Tohill [Fiesta 014, previously raced by Tanner Foust (GRC), Patrik Sandell (GRC), Daniel Holten (World RX) and Gigi Galli (World RX)] and Declan Kelly with Fiesta 018, previously campaigned by Foust (GRC) and Sandell (GRC).


All five cars are set to be on the grid for the Irish RX opener next week (March 4-5), while Rallycross World understands a number of British and Irish Championship regulars will make up the biggest Irish RX Supercar field in years.


“I had been contemplating a return to rallycross but the capital required to set up a competitive Supercar team can be prohibitive, said McCluskey. “When Murray Motorsport offered me the opportunity to be part of a two-car team along with Michael, it was a no brainer. I’m really looking forward to being back amongst the rallycross fraternity and enjoying the competition and comradery. Testing has gone very well, I am very excited about the level of racing craft that Eoin and Niall Murray contribute to the team.”

For Murray Motorsport, the two-car entry to the Irish Championship, which will include joint events with the British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy, is a return to its roots.

“Rallycross has always been close to our hearts, with my father Joe running numerous cars and both my brother Niall and I competing,” said Eoin Murray. “We missed not being involved in recent years. Once the deal was confirmed with Michael it made sense to try and run a two-car team. When another OMSE Fiesta became available it didn’t take much to convince John. The level of competition will be high in IRX this season and we know we need to be on top of our game.”

The full history of all of the cars produced by the Olsbergs MSE squad up to the end of 2021 can be found in the book: OMSE | Engineering to Win, available here.

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