Up-and-coming Ulster co-driver Aaron Johnston will have a full season in the World Rally Championship next year.
The 25-year-old from Co Tyrone has been selected to partner with Takamoto Katsuta on the Toyota team as the WRC series enters its new hybrid era.
Johnston, who had worked with another rising star, Oliver Solberg, for the past two years, broke up with the Norwegian in September but was quickly brought in by Toyota to partner with Katsuta, whose regular co-driver Daniel Barrett was forced to go with one Side standing back injury.
They competed together for the first time in Finland and then in Spain and will end the season at the Monza Rally in Italy this month. But with Toyota confirming that Katsuta would be part of the official team for the next season, it had to make a decision about who would be its full-time co-driver and chose Johnston.
“It’s been a privilege for me to work with Taka-San and everyone at TGR over the past few months, and I’m more than excited about the future,” tweeted Johnston.
Andrew Watson finished his first World Championship season with the Japanese D’Station team in eighth place in the GTE / AM category at the Eight Hours of Bahrain.
Watson and his teammates Tomonobu Fujii and Satoshi Hoshino started in eleventh place, but like the week before in the six-hour race, Fujii stormed into the GTE lead before incurring a drive-through penalty for colliding with another car.
From then on they played catch-up, but Watson finished strong, their TF Sport-Run Vantage ended up as the best-placed Aston Martin in a race in which Toyota confirmed the overall champions with the first two places on the podium.
On the spot, Gerard O’Connell won the Northern Irish Sprint Championship finals in Kirkistown, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Alan Cassells at the top of the standings.
With five straight wins in his OMS, Cassells could afford to skip the final lap, where O’Connell set the fastest time ahead of Tony Greenan, both of whom were Dallaras.