World Rally Championship: William Creighton 'never gave up' on dramatic Junior WRC title

It was written on the side of his car - "Never give up".

William Creighton became Junior World Rally champion in Greece on Sunday, but he had to fight hard to get there.

Carrying a 29-point advantage into the final round, the Northern Ireland driver knew a solid result would secure the title at the double-points finale.

However, any dreams he had felt a long way away on Friday when cooling issues forced him to retire the car, after attempting to salvage the problem by pushing the car into service with co-driver Liam Regan in the intense Greek heat.

The Acropolis Rally is notoriously tough anyway, but when you add in that freak rain cancelled the majority of recee - which is crucial in preparation for the event - and then the car issues on Friday, it is remarkable that Creighton ended the event as Junior WRC champion.

"It's unbelievable after a tough week," the 25-year-old said, who won in Sweden and Estonia to ignite his title charge.

"Rally Greece is known for being one of the most difficult of the year so to come through and win it in the fashion that we did it amazing.

"We went into the event with the strategy of trying to balance speed with looking after the car, but that quickly changed after Friday and we had to drive flat out to win stages.

"To be honest, we thought it was all over on Friday and when we restarted we thought the chances of doing anything would be slim.

"But in this sport you can't give up and anything is possible."

After the M-Sport Poland team managed to fix his car, Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Creighton built up enough bonus points for stage wins and accidents for rivals got him to a point where just finishing the rally would win him the title.

Creighton and Regan were sitting on the start line for the final stage, but news filtered through that it had been cancelled after a competitor had crashed ahead. That meant the pair had become Junior WRC champions with the handbrake on.

"In one way it was an anti-climax but on the other hand, it was a week where we didn't know what was going to happen next so to have nothing else to do and the championship was ours was a big relief.

"Whenever I started rallying it was just for fun, we never set out with this goal but one thing led to another.

"We never gave up and some things fell in our favour. We dug deep, we kept going and came out as the winners in the end."

'Special to emulate Breen'

In winning the Junior WRC, Creighton becomes the first Irish driver to claim the title since the late Craig Breen, who won the championship in 2011 when it was the WRC Academy Cup.

Breen, who went on to rise to the WRC's top tier, tragically lost his life in a testing crash in April and it's his quote of 'Never give up', featured at the top of the article, that was carried in tribute on Creighton's Ford Fiesta.

It is fitting that the next generation of rally talent, for which Breen cared so much about, was able to rise to the job in such a dark year for Irish motorsport.

"It's quite special. It's really sad what happened to Craig and we were thinking about him in the lead up to the event and straight after it," Creighton said.

"To emulate what he has done is very special. Nothing is going to bring Craig back. He was such a unique character in the WRC and his personality will never be forgotten.

"Just to be on the list of names with him and all the other top drivers who have won this championship, it's a real honour."

The "top drivers" that Creighton mentions is an understatement and the Junior WRC roll call of winners is something special.

With Sebastien Loeb and Sebastien Ogier - two of the greatest WRC drivers of all time - Breen and rally winners Dani Sordo and Elfyn Evans all former winners, Creighton joins an exclusive club.

"It's a bit surreal, really," Creighton added when asked what it was like to join divers of that calibre.

"There are so many drivers who have gone on to do amazing things after winning this championship because it gives such a good prize and platform.

"To be in a position even to fight for the championship was special and we always said we wanted to go and enjoy the rally, which was extremely difficult at times and there was a lot of pressure, but it's done now and if we can go on and do some of the things those guys have done then that would be quite special.

"When things are put up against you and it's a difficult weekend it makes winning even sweeter."