KEATON Williams’ hopes of getting his rallying season truly up and running were punctured – literally – after being forced into a second successive retirement.

Williams and lead driver Josh McErlean were sitting in fourth place at the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel Birr Stages in Ireland but a double puncture put paid to their weekend.

It was a case of déjà vu for the duo, who had seen a promising start to the opening round of the British Rally Championship ended prematurely a fortnight earlier due to a suspension issue.

The pair were planning on using the Birr Stages for some tarmac testing in their Woodlands /Motorsport Ireland Hyundai i20 R5 ahead of the West Cork Rally, the BRC’s round two, next month.

After the opening stage was cut short, McErlean and Williams clipped a rock pulled out by a previous car in the second test and punctured a front tyre, to drop nearly a minute and slip to eighth overall.

The third test went much better, the duo setting the third fastest time and moving back up the leaderboard to lie fourth.

Unfortunately on the next test, yet another puncture forced them to stop and they were unable to change the tyre so their rally was run.

March will be a busy month for Williams as the West Cork Rally on St Patrick's Day weekend is followed by a recce for the European Championship opener at Rallye Azores.

Williams will then come back home to team up with rallying returnee Robert Gough in a brand new historic Escort RS1800 for Rally North Wales.

Entries are flowing in for the North Wales Rally Services Rally North Wales, based in the picturesque market town of Dolgellau on March 28.

The events' short and sharp format has proved ver y popular with competitors in recent years, and new for this year is the return of the Pantperthog stage to join tests in the fast flowing Dyfi Forest.