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Cork “20” International Rally
The CBtoolhire.com Cork “20” International Rally, organised by the Munster Car Club that was scheduled to take place on September 26/27 next has been cancelled in the light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Further to relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions in relation to travel and meetings, the board of directors of the Munster Car Club Limited convened a meeting to discuss the 2020 CBtoolhire.com Cork “20” International Rally.
During the course of the meeting that was attended by all of the directors, every aspect of the event was analysed and debated in great detail. Following the discussions it was evident that the only reasonable course of action was to cancel the event.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank our title sponsor CBtoolhire.com and associate sponsors for their support and understanding of all the issues. We wish to pay tribute to the residents along the route of the rally, Cork County Council and the Gardai, with whom we engage on an annual basis.
We also want to express our appreciation to the competing crews that have supported our events overmany years. Thanks also to ancillary sponsors, programme advertisers, marshals, officials and rally fans fortheir support.
We are aware of how difficult life is during the Coronavirus pandemic, we ask you all to stay safe and followall the guidelines.
Points of Information: The key issues discussed at the meeting were:
We look forward to more positive days ahead and we are already planning our 2021 events.
Clerk of the Course.
Chairman, Munster Car Club
Motorsport UK has announced that in anticipation of motorsport restarting in the UK from 4 July, it is inviting permit applications from 1 June.
Motorsport is currently suspended throughout the UK until 30 June 2020. Following ongoing positive dialogue with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and having set out its strategy and anticipated conditions for restarting motorsport disciplines, the governing body is now moving to its next phase of getting the sport back on track.
Any resumption of motorsport is contingent on event organisers demonstrating that they can plan in accordance with the guidelines of Motorsport UK, while respecting government guidance on social distancing.
Motorsport UK is also acutely aware that different devolved territories of the UK may be moving at different paces in easing restrictions; any application for an event permit will be subject to approval based on the prevailing government advice. The move is also contingent on governments continuing with measures to open up society and that further restrictions resultant of any additional waves of COVID-19 are not required.
David Richards, chairman of Motorsport UK, commented, “In March, Motorsport UK moved quickly and in line with government to suspend motorsport, while everyone’s priority was restricting the spread of this terrible disease and protecting the NHS. It is now right that, as government has set out plans to ease restrictions, we move in step and introduce the next stage of our phased restart. Unlike many sports, motorsport in the UK is an industry in itself, employing tens of thousands and contributing billions of pounds to the UK economy.”
“We always said that, when the conditions were right, we would take a responsible decision to resume motorsport in order to sustain the sport, jobs and the economy. We have explained our plans to government and are fortunate that motorsport takes place outdoors over large controlled spaces. Our plan is that, subject to government advice and ongoing lifting of restrictions, motorsport will resume from 4 July. We are making this announcement now as event organisers, venues, preparation specialists, the supply chain, volunteer Marshals, Officials and Competitors all need time to put in place their plans.”
There will be a number of caveats of granting event permits, including that event organisers commit that their events will be held behind closed doors, appropriate PPE requirements are met, and that each organiser must appoint a COVID-19 officer to ensure compliance with any relevant guidelines. Furthermore, there will be a limit on the number of permits issued for July to 50% of those in the corresponding month of 2019, in order that there are sufficient volunteer Official and Marshal resources available to support the restart in a safe and responsible manner. No national or British championship events will take place in July to reduce potential national and international travel (excludes FIA championships).
To find out more about Motorsport UK – visit motorsportuk.org
MOTORSPORT IRELAND RALLY CHAMPIONSHIPS CANCELLED
Due to the current situation regarding COVID-19, both the National Stages Rally Championship and the National Forestry Rally Championship are cancelled for 2020.
This decision has been taken as a result of several rounds of both championships being cancelled due to the restrictions which we now live under. Even though some events may run later this year, no event will hold National Championship status for 2020.
Motorsport Ireland would like to acknowledge the large amount of work put into both championships by the respective championship sub-commissions and the Rally Commission as a whole. Many of the rounds were fully organised and we thank the clubs for the huge effort that they have put into their events, hopefully some of them may run this year. We would also like to thank the championship sponsors for their continued support over many years, Triton for the National Stages Rally Championship and Valvoline for the National Forestry Rally Championship, along with many other associate sponsors.
Omagh MC confirmed yesterday (18.5.20) that the annual Bushwhacker Rally has been cancelled while the RallyNuts Stages which had already been re-scheduled to August was cancelled on Monday.
As Motorsport UK release their latest “Getting Motorsport Back on Track” statement – It looks like the resumption of rallies is a long way off. The most restrictive of the of the recommendations is regarding co-drivers and reads “Vehicle Sharing/ Passengers/ Co-drivers – It is unlikely that vehicle sharing, passengers or co-drivers will be permitted while social distancing is to be respected”.
Statement from Motorsport Ireland
As a consequence of the ongoing health emergency and in accordance with the measures being implemented globally to counteract and contain the spread of COVID-19 all events permitted by Motorsport Ireland are suspended until the 1st June 2020. This date may be revised but we will at all times be guided by government policy and what is the right thing to do on a national level.
All clubs affected by this suspension of events will be reimbursed the deposits which they have paid to Motorsport Ireland and we encourage those clubs to work directly with us with a view to hopefully running their events at a later time. These are extraordinary times such as we have not experienced before but one thing is certain we will come out of this, unfortunately no one can put a time on when that will be.
Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families that the virus has affected and to all those club members who for months have been devoting time and energy to the preparation of their 2020 events. We share their disappointment and wish to express our solidarity and support.
Leo Hassett John Naylor
Motorsport Ireland Motorsport Ireland
Reality hit home hard last weekend when, because of COVID-19 West Cork Rally was cancelled, followed by the deferral of the Moonraker forest rally, Formula 1 Australia, Circuit of Kerry, the ERC Azores, the Circuit of Ireland and various other events. Whether these and probably many more Motorsport activities will be able to run later in the year remains to be seen. WRC Mexico was cut short to enable the participants to catch the few available flights homeward as the world-wide COVID-19 tightened its grip. Just when activity will return to some form of normality remains to be seen.
The Mexico result seems slightly unimportant in the light of everything that is happening, but for the record Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Yaris) scored an outstanding victory in the hot, difficult, dusty and bumpy conditions. This was Ogier’s 6th Mexico win, and along with the other top drivers was again a demonstration of their superb skill and courage. Ott Tanak clipped a rear corner of his Hyundai early in the event, damaging a rear suspension, costing around 40 seconds. Current World Champion Tanak did well to fight back to 2nd place, 27 seconds behind Ogier. Although he showed great speed, Tanak’s Hyundai team mate Neuville was relegated to ‘Super Rally’ when his i20 spluttered to a halt. He did re-start on the Saturday leg and set several fastest times. The 3rd Hyundai team member, Dani Sordo, retired his car because of mechanical problems.
Teemu Suninen upheld the Ford M-Sport team honour with a fine 3rd place, but there was despair for the Cockermouth squad when Esapekka Lappi’s Fiesta WRC burst into flames and was burnt out at the stop line of the 2nd running of the El Chocolat stage. Elfyn Evans had a decent rally, but he was hampered by having to sweep the loose surface gravel through the Friday leg and 4th was the best that the Yaris driver could do by the Saturday evening halt. The Welshman was equal first with Neuville in the WRC points starting the rally, but Ogier has now surged into the lead with 62 points, while Evans is now 2nd on 54 and Neuville 3rd with 42.
The next scheduled WRC event was to be Argentina, but it has been cancelled. Kalle Rovanpera (Yaris) was 5th in Mexico. Pontus Tidemand (Skoda) was 6th overall and was best of the R5 drivers. Young Oliver Solberg and his NI co-driver Aaron Johnston started the rally with a flourish but were soon stopped because of a smashed sump on their VW Polo R5. John Coyne/Stephen Joyce did well to bring their Fiesta R5 into 15th overall. Barry McKenna/James Fulton had been going very nicely, but were sidelined on Friday afternoon when their Skoda R5 cried enough.
Although many events were cancelled last weekend, the Malcolm Wilson Rally did go ahead and was won by Adrien Fourmax/Renaud Jamoul in an M-Sport Ford R5 Mk2. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta WRC) were 2nd and Russ Thompson/Andy Murphy (Lancer) 3rd. Leslie Hawe/Alistair Barker in their Mazda MX5 won the Snowdrop Rally from John & Jonathan Henderson (Micra). Darrell Burns/Jordan Burns (Fiesta) were 3rd.
In overall terms, Motorsport Ireland has asked for all events to be suspended until at least March 29th. In reality, this suspension will continue for some time. Motorsport UK initially seemed to be following the line of the UK Government and leaving it up to individuals to look after themselves. However earlier this week the UK Motorsport stance hardened and all Motorsport action seems now to have been ruled out. Most clubs in any case were opting for the safe ‘postpone’ route. No one can predict what way this pandemic will go or how long it will last, so a re-start date is unpredictable.
The main aim at this time is for people in the sport to do their utmost to stay safe, for their own sake, for their families and for all those whom they may be in contact with. To all involved we extend our best hopes and wishes. We will certainly be going into lockdown, and as there is little likelihood of any meaningful Motorsport for a while, suspending Irish Notes.
Regards; Brian, Liz & Michael Patterson
Former multiple NI Rally Champion Derek McGarrity steered himself back into 2020 title contention by winning last Saturday’s Ballynahinch MC Bishopscourt Stages. Newtownabbey man McGarrity switched from a R5 Skoda to an ex Damien Cole Fiesta WRC for the McGrady Insurance backed 6 stage event, and had a different co-driver as well in the shape of Damien Garvey. Despite being baulked a few times by other cars Derek led from start to finish. Second place throughout was Derek McGeehan, co-driven by his son Mark. Their Mini WRC had a close encounter with a couple of the lorry tyres marking out the course, but survived to finish just over 10 seconds behind McGarrity. Gareth Sayers/Gareth Gilchrist seemed to be heading for 3rd but a last stage incident dropped them down the list and allowed Kieron Graffin to take the final podium slot. Graffin was in a Fiesta R5 co-driven by his daughter Amy. The top six was made up of Kevin Kelleher/Martin Brady in 4th, although their Subaru was blowing steam on the final stage, Emma McKinstry/Kenny Hull 5th in their Fiesta R5, despite a couple of spins, and Jason Mitchell/Kenny Bustard 6th in another Fiesta R5.
Just some of the other notable results included: James and Heather Kennedy (Escort) best in the 2wd category, Andrew Bushe/Ivor Lamont in their Chevette HSR won the Historics after a stirring battle with Andy Johnson in a similar car, Philip White/Kyle Diffin won the Micra category, Gary & Keith McEvoy took the competitive class 8 in their Lancer. Other class winners included Daryl Sproule/Stephen Caldwell (Astra), Robert & Sara Erwin (Corolla), Sam Adams/Michael Johnston (Escort), Niall & Ciaran Carey (BMW), George Robinson/Tommy Speers (Fiesta) and Emma McKinstry/Kenny Hull (Fiesta R5).
On the Sunday Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley (VW Polo GTi R5) won the tough Mayo Rally, the opening 2020 round of both the Triton Showers National Championship as well as the Sligo Pallets Border series. Josh Moffett appeared to be on course to take the laurels but his Hyundai failed to proceed after stage 8 of 9, low fuel pressure suspected to be the culprit. Roy White/James O’Brien slotted into 2nd place. Their Fiesta WRC had suffered a puncture during the day which cost some 40 seconds. This misfortune seemed to shake White up somewhat and his times improved in the latter part of the rally and in fact he was fastest on the final test, the ‘power stage’. Gary Kiernan/Ryan Moore produced a bionic drive in their Mk2 Escort to finish 3rd, and best two wheel drive from the equally hard charging David Bogie, also in an Escort. Scottish visitor Bogie had Cushendall man John Rowan co-driving. Just over 3 seconds separated the two Escorts at the finish, following an epic battle.
Peadar Hurson looked to be heading for a solid podium place but he crashed his Fiesta WRC out towards the end. Jason Black/Karl Egan (Starlet) were 5th and Declan McCrory/Stephen O’Hanlon (Fiesta R5) 6th. Niall Devine/Liam McIntyre were 8th in their Lancer and won GpN. Mickey Conlon seemed to be heading for a top ten finish but the Escort driver got caught out by a bump towards the end and he non-finished. Others to hit misfortune on what was a demanding and difficult day included Eugene Donnelly, Niall Maguire, Derek Mackarel and Damien Toner. Just 50 cars finished the main rally, plus a few in ‘Super Rally’. These included William Creighton whose R2 Fiesta suffered a broken wheel. Eamonn Kelly/Conor Mohan won class 2 following a good run in their Fiesta R2T. Shane Norris/Anthony McDonald won the Junior section in their Civic.
Looking forward to this weekend, the home rally action shifts to West Cork, one of the biggest events of the rally year. It is a counter in both the Irish Tarmac and the British Rally Championship. The organising Cork Motor Club may be taking some precautionary measures in the light of the current Covid-19 situation.
Current Tarmac Champion Craig Breen and his co-driver Paul Nagle in a Hyundai head the 150 strong entries. British Champion Matt Edwards from Llandudno, with Darren Garrod co-driving is at 2 in a Fiesta R5. Alastair Fisher is next up, with Gordon Noble once again the co-driver. The pair won the opening Tarmac series round (Galway) in a Polo GTi, but switch to the latest development Fiesta R5 for this one, the same specification as the Matt Edwards machine.
Previous West Cork winner Robert Barrable will drive the same Dom Buckley VW Polo GTi as Alastair Fisher drove in Galway. Reckoned to be as fast as anyone in the British Championship, Tom Cave, best West Cork BRC finisher last year, starts at 4 in a Hyundai. Fresh from winning the Mayo event and a previous multiple West Cork winner, Donagh Kelly, is at 5 and Sam Moffett 6. There are so many absolutely top drivers in this rally, it is impossible to predict who will come out on victorious at the end of the fourteen fabulous fast flowing stages around Clonakilty. A couple of ‘dark horses’ could be Welshman Rhys Yates who switches to a Polo GTi R5 for this weekend, as well as the ‘quiet man’ from Carryduff Jonny Greer who will debut the very latest ‘factory’ Citroen C3R5.
An unknown quantity will be the talented Josh McErlean, on his first big Irish BRC trip in a Hyundai R5. Billy Coleman Award winner Josh is in at the deep end a little in this company. Really though, the number of talented drivers in the line up is extraordinary – think Desi Henry and Josh Moffett in Hyundais, the fast improving Meirion Evans (Polo GTi), the always spectacularly quick and determined local man Owen Murphy. He is in a Fiesta R5 for the first time, Ollie Mellors in a Proton, as is Eugene Donnelly: a great, great line-up.
Expect fireworks as well from the young drivers in RC4, particularly William Creighton, Eamonn Kelly, David Kelly, Brian Brady and Scottish visitor Finlay Retson, all in R2 Fiestas. Always on the West Cork the battle for modified honours is intense and top candidates for the spotlight this time include Gary Kiernan (Escort), Kevin Gallagher (Darrian) and Kevin Eves (Corolla). In addition, there is a decent line-up of Historic cars in their own division, plus ten Juniors, all in Civics, who will join in on the Sunday.
In Championship terms, Matt Edwards, who won the opening round on his home Cambrian Rally, leads the BRC points on 25, with Osian Pryce on 18 and Rhys Yates 3rd on 15. The Irish Tarmac points are led by Alastair Fisher following his Galway win. After that the following positions, at the time of writing this, are still provisional.
Also this weekend, we have the WRC’s annual visit to the high altitude, bumpy dusty Mexico stages. As ever the rally has received a low entry but mostly the WRC people who matter will be there. It is early in the season, and already there is speculation as to which driver will be the dominant factor in this year’s Championship. Current World Champion Ott Tanak, now switched from Toyota to Hyundai of course, has made an inauspicious start to the year, as has Neuville. The Hyundai team engineers have been working on improving the ‘aero’ on the i20 R5, so it will be interesting to see how that works out. Dani Sordo joins the team for this one, but no Craig Breen, who will of course be in West Cork. The ‘man of the moment’ on the WRC must be Elfyn Evans, his switch to Toyota seemingly injecting a new momentum into the Welsh driver. So far Elfyn has eclipsed his illustrious team-mate Sebastien Ogier, and Elfyn must surely be looking over his shoulder at the rocket-ship teenager Kalle Rovanpera. The Toyota Gazoo Racing team has been so fast ‘out of the blocks’ on the opening two WRC rounds this year, that they must surely have the Hyundai team scratching their collective heads. Of course the Mexico stages have a reputation for turning reputations on their heads.
There is just one other team in the WRC this year – M-Sport Ford. The Cockermouth based squad has made a decent start to the season, but not earth shattering. Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Sunninen will need to get their fingers out if they are going to shake their rivals. Also in a Fiesta WRC for this one is Gus Greensmith, but to a certain extent the British driver is still learning the ropes. There are some surprising entries further down the list: seeded at 34 is Barry McKenna/James Fulton in a Fabia R5, while John Coyne /Stephen Joyce (Fiesta R5) are at 37. The R5 category will surely be very hotly contested, and it will be interesting to see how young Oliver Solberg and his co-driver Aaron Johnston from Omagh get on in their VW Polo GTI R5. They certainly have some tough opposition, although there is no Mads Ostberg this time. There is a small National event tagged on the back of the 38 International/WRC entries, and the ever dramatic Ken Block, driving his fabulous Escort RS Cosworth, should feature.
Regards: Brian, Liz & Michael Patterson
Strange thing this climate change: it can result in some freak weather, like the Limerick Forestry being blanketed by snow for the 2nd year in succession. Actually, blanketed is probably too strong a word, it was more light snow on top of ice – a lethal combination. The rally was due to take place last Sunday but this time the event didn’t get going at all, and that was despite huge efforts by Clerk of the Course Anthony Nestor and his team to make it happen. As the event was to be round two of the MI Valvoline Forestry series, it would still be ideal for it to run some time in the near future, so a fresh date is being sought, 19th April. This would be after the Cork club’s Moonraker, which presumably will now be called round two.
There was snow in the expected place, though not a huge amount, on the SM Ita Rally in Joensuu, Finland. There, Craig Breen, co-driven this time by John Rowan in a Hyundai R5 was competing. The event was won by Emil Lindholm in a Skoda R5, with Breen and Rowan in their i20 R5 3rd. This was a new enterprise for Craig and John, and came about as a tyre testing exercise for MRF. Although there was not a huge amount of snow and conditions were quite bright, temperatures were down to minus 10. The stages on the rally have been used before and are quite well known to the Finnish drivers, and with rallying being a National sport there, the Irish pair’s 3rd overall was a good achievement.
Also in faraway places, Bangor Co Down’s Michael Orr co-drove Yazeed Al-Rajhi to 2nd place on the Manateq Qatar Cross Country Rally. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthieu Baumel took the victory, both crews in Toyota Hilux machines.
Closer to home, Derek Mackarel/Conor Boylan in their Subaru Impreza took 1st o/a on the Cavan Motor Club’s navigation trial at Bailieboro. Martin Tynan/Fintan Clerkin were 2nd and Shane Dalton/Seamus McTigue 3rd, also in Subarus.
This weekend coming the home rally action will be focused on the Triton Showers MI National Championship opener in Castlebar. Current Champion Josh Moffett heads the 90 strong entry. Monaghan’s Moffett, who will be co-driven by Andy Hayes as usual, is entered in a Fiesta R5 but indications are that he will drive the Hyundai R5 which saw him take victory in Birr two weeks back. Behind Moffett is a varied top ten entry with a great mix of cars and crews, many of the drivers former National Champions. 2nd on the road is Roy White/James O’Brien in their usual Fiesta WRC, then its Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley in Donegal man Donagh’s VW Polo GTi R5. The always quick Peadar Hurson is at 4, the Co Down man only making sporadic rally appearances these days as his plastics business is taking up so much of his time. Peadar will be co-driven by Damien Connolly in their Fiesta WRC.
The run of top ten four wheel drive cars is interrupted by three very competitive Mk2 Escorts, to be driven by three equally competitive drivers – Gary Kiernan, multiple Scottish Champion David Bogie as well as Damien Toner. Such is the challenging nature of the stages it is hard to gauge just how well the 2wd Escorts will fare. One thing is for sure, it will take some very brave driving to come out on top on this event, no matter how many driving wheels the car underneath them has! A fresh name to the rally is another talented driver from Scotland, Euan Thorburn. He drives a Focus WRC and could be a dark horse here. The top ten is made up of two National Championship stalwarts – Niall Maguire at 9 and series sponsor Kevin Barrett at 10, both drivers in Subaru Impreza WRCs. Eugene Donnelly is a late entry in Mayo in his Proton Iriz R5
Just some of the other divisions in the rally that will create their own interest include GpN, where Trevor Bustard, Neil Tohill, Niall Devine, Tomas O’Rourke and Colin Flanagan, all in Lancers, should feature. In the R2 category William Creighton and Eamonn Kelly, both in Fiestas, should be the men to beat. Clerk of the Course David Breen has laid out a three stage format, each stage repeated three times in the Partry type terrain which should make for a dramatic start to the Championship.
Also this weekend the 2nd round of the McGrady NI Championship takes place at Bishopscourt. Derek McGarrity, co-driven by Paddy Robinson is the No.1 seed. Derek is entered in a Skoda R5, but it has been sold into Italy and he will now drive an ex Damian Cole Fiesta WRC. Stephen Wright is the current champion and also leads this year’s points following his win at the Kirkistown opening round. Stephen cannot make the trip to the Co. Down venue this weekend, as he has another commitment. The NI series consists of just 5 rounds this season, with all results to count, no dropped scores. Derek McGeehan, co-driven by his son Mark in his Mini WRC, had good run to 2nd place at Kirkistown and is the number 2 seed for Saturday. When asked about his Kirkistown performance, McGeehan said, “Aye, we had a good wee run. I don’t mind the wet, and the new Michelin wet tyres worked very well.’ Derek went on to say that he is currently rebuilding his ‘good’ engine which suffered a dropped valve last year and he is running his more standard WRC engine. Gareth Sayers/Gareth Gilchrist (Fiesta R5) are at 3, Kieron and Amy Graffin (Fiesta R5) at 4, Chris McGurk/Liam McIntyre (Fiesta R5) at 5 and the top half dozen is rounded off by PJ McDermott/Niall Burns (Impreza WRC).
A surprise entry comes from Kevin Kelleher (at 7), who is travelling up from Clonakilty to compete in a McKinstry Impreza WRC S14, as a warm up, to get some seat time, for his home West Cork Rally. Kevin is a talented driver, but has taken a little time away from rallying ‘to look after the new wee one at home!” Martin Brady will co-drive for him at Bishopscourt, and Killian Lynch in Clonakilty. Kevin has competed in Lurgan Park in the past, but never at Bishopscourt. Then at number 8 is Emma McKinstry. The Banbridge lady, who had such a good run at Kirkistown, will drive the ‘family’ Fiesta R5+. At 9 & 10 are two Lancers, to be driven by Liam McFall and Joe McQuillan. This Ballynahinch and District MC organised event has received just over 60 entries to date.
One week after the Bishopscourt & Mayo events it is the turn of the classic West Cork Rally, while the World Rally Championship resumes with Rally Mexico. West Cork is of course round two of both the Irish Tarmac and British Rally Championships so has attracted a top class as well as capacity entry.
More details next week.
Regards: Brian, Liz & Michael Patterson
Last Saturday’s Samsonas backed Fivemiletown forestry rally provided thrills and spills aplenty, with a great battle for the lead throughout the day between Janis Vorobjovs and Cathan McCourt. The Lithuanian Vorobjovs, driving a four wheel drive BMW M3 and co-driven by Ivo Pukis, took victory by 5 seconds from Valvoline Forestry Champions Cathan McCourt/Barry McNulty in their Fiesta R5. It was really nip and tuck between the two crews going into the final loop of two stages and Vorobjovs pulled out all the stops. It was a great win for the visitor as he had not driven this particular BMW before, and had never been in the Fivemiletown forests.
Callum Devine, not renowned as a forestry exponent, made a conservative start to the day but upped the pace through the latter half of the 10 special stages, clocking a few fastest times, to take 3rd place in his Hyundai R5. Devine made a few set up changes to the car during the day, which helped, and then was going so hard towards the end the rear screen blew out. The rally was a counter in the new McGrady Insurance Forest Challenge, and has automatic enrolment, which means the finishing order on the rally will also be the championship standings after this opening round.
Number 1 seed Niall McCullagh/Ryan McCloskey (Fiesta R5), last year’s Fivemiletown winners, were 4th. Patrick & Stephen O’Brien (Fiesta R5) were 5th, having led the rally initially but dropped both time and confidence because of a time consuming stage 3 overshoot. Conor McCourt/Caolan McKenna, also in a Fiesta R5, rounded off the top half dozen.
David Condell & Paul Kelly were the top 2 wheel drive exponents in their Escort. Adrian Hetherington had set the earlier 2wd pace, closely followed by Shane McGirr, but both retired at the halfway mark. Ryan Barrett/Paul Barrett then led 2wd for a while, but they also departed the fray. Other notable retirements included Scottish visitor Freddie Milne, Marty McKenna and Martynas Samsonas. Next round of the NI Forest Challenge is not until September on the Enniskillen Lakeland Stages.
On the Sunday then it was the turn of the Birr Stages. Josh Moffett in his Hyundai i20R5 made a quick start, built up an early lead and was able to maintain a decent gap to the end, winning by 27 seconds from Desi Henry in a similar Hyundai and with Ollie Mellors 3rd in his Proton Iriz R5. National Champion Moffett had Andy Hayes co-driving. They had done some testing in the car following their Galway Rally outing and were certainly on the ball in Birr. Desi Henry, who was co-driven by John Rowan, felt a little unfamiliar with his mount at the start, and commented afterwards: “We had a good day, but a bit messy at times. It was a very fast rally, but conditions were difficult. The fields were full of water after heavy overnight rain, and the roads were streaming in places. The 2nd loop of stages weren’t quite so bad, although we lost a little time with a burst brake pipe and also we caught Stephen McCann in a stage as he was struggling with a broken drive shaft. Still, I don’t think we could have caught Josh, but we were more or less holding his times towards the end. We have a few improvements we can make now before West Cork”.
It wasn’t a bad rally for the Mellors Proton team as Eugene Donnelly managed 4th in his Iriz R5. Welshman Steve Wood (Fiesta WRC) was 5th and Stephen McCann, also in a Fiesta recovered to finish 6th.
Major retirements included Ian Barrett/Paul McGee who crashed their Darrian on the first stage. Josh McErlean lost so much time with a puncture on his Hyundai that he didn’t continue. Daniel Cronin lost time, reportedly with a broken driveshaft on his Fiesta, and he battled back to 8th. Best 2 wheel drive was Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien & John Butler in their Escort MK2.
Further afield, Bangor’s Allan Harryman co-drove Ioannis (John) Papadimitriou to victory on the Rally Della Val d’Orcia in Tuscany. They were in a Skoda R5 Evo. Also abroad, Gary McElhinney co-drove Steve Perez to 2nd o/a on the Rally Ponent in Mallorca. Perez was driving a fabulous historic Porsche 911 and was up against more modern machinery.
Closer to home Fergil Gregory won the Leinster Lincoln and Nolan Sporting trial at Glendalough. David Meeke was 2nd and Richard Meeke 3rd.
Rally action at home this coming weekend will mostly be centred on the Limerick Forestry, through the hilly hinterland between Newcastle West and Castleisland. Hopefully the weather will be a mite kinder than it was this time last year when a sudden plump of snow caused chaos. Billy Coleman Award winner James Wilson and his co-driver Arthur Kierans in their Hyundai currently lead the MI Valvoline Forestry, of which this is round 2, and Keady man James will doubtless be going flat out to reinforce his advantage. Andrew Purcell‘s Fiesta R5 has reportedly recovered from the crisis that beset it on the Carrick on Suir event, and he also appears to be determined to give the rally a good go.
Other top names include: 2wd Forestry Champion David Crossen is competing in Limerick, as is Mickey Conlon, but doubtless there will plenty of other Escort devotees determined to grab a slice of the glory. Clerk of the Course Anthony Nestor has laid out three really good stages, each one repeated, and this looks as if it could be a seriously good rally – if the snow stays away!
Brian & Liz & Michael Patterson