Irish Notes 17th July 2019

Irish Notes 17th July 2019

Fingers and thumbs were worn to a frazzle last weekend switching channels and results screens from Silverstone to Estonia, Sligo to Wimbledon, not to mention Lords for the cricket and Wales for the Nicky Grist rally.

Over on the Shell Helix Rally Estonia 2019 with its fifteen jumpy, fast, gravel Special Stages the overall result was fairly predictable, but interesting nonetheless. Ott Tanak & co driver, Martin Jarveoja, in their Toyota Yaris WRC were the start to finish winners. As well as promoting his home Estonia Rally, which had government backing as a WRC candidate event, Ott tried a few tweaks on his Yaris in preparation for the upcoming Neste Rally Finland. Indeed, for the top half dozen drivers, preparations for the 2nd/4th August Rally Finland was very much on their agenda. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger-Amland in their Hyundai i20 WRC finished 2nd after a good run: albeit just over a minute back on the flying Tanak. A further 24 seconds back was Esapekka Lappi in the Citroen, and then it was Elfyn Evans (Fiesta WRC) in 4th. Craig Breen/Paul Nagle were a very respectable 5th on their first run in the Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC, an excellent warm up for Rally Finland. Craig had no surprises in the car and settled into a decent pace.

A big talking point on the event was the performance of 17 year old Oliver Solberg, co-driven by Co. Tyrone’s Aaron Johnston in a VW Polo GTi R5. Solberg’s drive over the early stages was simply breathtaking. He built up an early R5 lead of over a minute and was then able to pace himself to the end, finishing 7th o/a.

Monaghan’s Josh Moffett and his Wexford co-driver Andy Hayes (Ford Fiesta WRC) pass by Parkes Castle on their way to victory in the FAAC Simply automatic/Sligo Park Hotel Rally, round six of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship. Picture: Martin Walsh.

Closer to home, on the Triton Showers National Championship Sligo Stages, Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes in their Fiesta WRC took a clear victory, with their title rivals Roy White/James O’Brien, also in a Fiesta WRC, 2nd. This win takes Josh Moffett inexorably closer to the National title, an achievement which has so far eluded him. Roy White hammered away through these beautiful Sligo stages, but dropped a second or two on nearly every stage, to finish the day 23 seconds in arrears. This Sligo event was the sixth in the Triton series and Moffett has won five of them, so one more half decent result will mean he will be more or less home as regards the title. Johnny Greer/Kirsty Riddick in their Fiesta R5 were 3rd on the rally, which, apart from being a very good drive, was a brilliant opportunity to make ‘real time’ tweaks to the car in preparation for this weekend’s Carryduff Forklift Down Rally. Jonny will be going all out to emulate his last year’s win on what is effectively his home event.

 Kevin Eves/Chris Melly in their Corolla won the Modified section in Sligo and were 4th o/a, with David Moffett/Martin Connolly 5th.  Johnny Jordan/Paddy McCrudden fought back to 6th after a time loss on the 2nd stage caused by a spin and puncture. Shane Maguire/Darragh Kelly in their Mitsubishi won GpN and finished 8th one place behind Derek McGarrity who was hampered by throttle issues on his Fiesta WRC. Leading retirements included Frank Wray whose Subaru WRC blew a turbo and JF Shovelin whose Escort broke its manifold. Daniel Cronin dropped well back following an early spin and then later on a puncture on his Fiesta R5. Donegal’s Ryan Moore (Honda Civic) won the Junior Class 16 and Brian Moore won 16A.

Donegal pairing of David Kelly and Kenny Bustard are competing in both the BTRDA and the Triton National Championship and currently lead of the Junior 16A class here in Ireland. but as Kelly explained he couldn’t compete on both events. “We would have loved to been in the UK but we made the choice to compete in Sligo as it is such a great event, we are 3rd in the British Series in our class and hopefully we will get to the next round in August.” A 3rd place finish in class in Sligo netted some good points in their championship quest. Photo Gavin Luby.

On a general note, the rally received high praise indeed from many of those involved as well as spectators for the professional way every facet of the rally was handled. Even the weather was kind, making for a great day out.

Also last weekend was the Nicky Grist Rally. Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton in their Focus WRC took the overall win, over a minute ahead of Stephen Petch/Michael  Wilkinson in their Fiesta WRC. Brendan Cumiskey/Liam Moynihan were 4th, driving a Fiesta WRC. Conor McCourt/Brian Hoy managed 8th o/a in their Fiesta R5. In the Historic section Jason Pritchard (Escort) won, 4s ahead of George Lepley/Tom Woodburn (Avenger) and with Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell just 1 second further back in 3rd. This was Marty’s first trip for a while in his Mk2, and he reported that he loved it. He plans to tackle the Cork Forestry at the end of this month, all part of a build-up to try to repeat his win on the Roger Albert Clark the last time it ran, two years ago.

Tucked away in the latter stages of the results was a name reminiscent of some of the yesteryear glory days of rallying here – Robin Eyre- Maunsell. Robin still loves to compete on the occasional forest rally. This time he was driving a Micra and, co-driven by Peter Scott, he made it to the finish. Which was rather good!  At one of his hilarious after dinner speeches years ago Robin was asked how to become a millionaire in rallying. Quick as a flash he retorted in that very special voice of his, “Quite simple really, start with two million!”

This coming weekend the action switches to the Down Rally on Saturday and Imokilly on Sunday.

Last year’s Carryduff Forklift Down Rally winners Jonny Greer and Kirsty Riddick. Image: Jonathan MacDonald

The NI event, sponsored by Carryduff Forklift, has attracted an interesting cross-section of entries, mainly because th UK Protyre Asphalt Rally Championship goes head to head with McGrady Insurance NI Rally Championship. Damian Cole, who drives a Fiesta WRC and is co-driven by the experienced Paul Spooner, is seeded at 6.  Some of the other drivers who will be trying for `Protyre points’ include Melvyn Evans (Skoda Fabia R5) and his son Merion Evans. The latter was to drive a Hyundai but that was damaged in Ypres so he has switched to an ex Jan Kopecky Skoda R5. Another driver who will be vying for points on that Protyre Championship is John Stone (Fiesta WRC), as well as Alan Kirkaldy (Fiesta R5) and Oli Hopkins (Mirage).

Current British Rally Champion Matt Edwards is making the trip to Co. Down to compete in his Fiesta R5, with a view to readying himself and the car for the 16th/17th August Ulster Rally, a round of the BRC.  Obviously last year’s winner Jonny Greer should be quick out of the box, and it will certainly be interesting to see if the other ‘home’ drivers, such as Derek McGeehan, Derek McGarrity and Jon Armstrong (Mini WRC) will fare against this varied opposition. There are lots more good drivers of course and such has been the demand for entries on this popular Down rally that some top drivers are seeded well down, and many didn’t get an entry all. One real eye opener is that Kenny McKinstry, so often over the years the man to beat on the stages, is seeded away down at 23 in his Subaru Impreza WRC S14. Changed days indeed! The rally is based at the EIKON Centre near the Maze, and there is a spectator stage there as well as the service area. The event starts at 08.30 and there will be 11 stages in total, including several runs over two revised Hamiltons Folly stages.

Also this weekend is the Imokilly Stages event and CoC Pat Maguire has arranged two very attractive stages outside Midleton, and also an  attractive shakedown stage. The rally is a counter in the Southern Four series. The top six drivers are David Condell (Escort), Gary Kiernan (Escort), Richie Moore (Escort), David Guest (Skoda S2000), Vincent McSweeney (Mitsubishi) and Tomas Davies (Escort). The event is sponsored by Ollie Kierce Cars. The Midleton Park Hotel is an associate sponsor.

News over the last few days includes notification that 19 year old Josh McErlean from Kilrea has been nominated as a candidate for the MI Billy Coleman Young Driver Award. Josh has put up some stirring performances in the Juniors over the last couple of years and currently leads the British Junior Championship in his Peugeot 208 R2. Josh is a mechanical engineering student at Jordanstown University,

The Down Rally, which had an oversubscribed entry, has squeezed in quite a few Historics, not least of whom include Stanley Orr (Mk1 Escort), Drew Wylie (Escort), Andy Johnson (Chevette HSR) and the ‘new’ breed of Historic, a Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth, to be piloted by the irrepressible Frank McMullan.

The Jim Walsh Cork Forestry entry remains open and COC Paul Casey reports that entries are starting to build nicely and we will have more news on the 2 day Forestry event next week.

Late News:

Elfyn Evans will miss Rally Finland after sustaining a back injury on last weekend’s rally Estonia. Gus Greensmith will replace the Welshman for the Finish WRC event. Evans finished fourth overall last weekend but following some physio work on his back, he has been advised against tackling the notoriously fast Rally Finland. M-Sport have given Evans their full support for the future and had stated that Greensmith was always due to drive for the factory team again this year, but this situation has fast tracked that position. Haydon Paddon will drive the third car as planned.

 Brian & Liz Patterson & Michael Patterson

Irish Notes – 10th July 2019

Slightly damp conditions initially which then metamorphosed into a beautifully sunny day made last Saturday’s Rainbow Communications Loughgall Stages pretty idyllic, especially so for Damien Toner as he powered his Escort to his sixth win at the venue. Toner, co-driven by Ronan Comerford, led from the start on this North Armagh organised event, and never looked like being headed. The rally was principally for 2wd cars, and indeed it was Mk2 Ford Escorts that dominated proceedings. John Bradley/Paul McKenna were 2nd in their Escort, albeit over 50 seconds behind the flying Toner. Also in one of Boreham’s finest was Wesley Patterson/Johnny Baird, just over 2 seconds further back. The remainder of the top half dozen, in finishing order were, James and Rebecca Kennedy, Barry Morris/Declan Campbell and Joe Hegarty/Niall Magee.

6 Times Loughgall winner – Damien Toner

 

Also last Saturday was the North Ulster Car Club’s TOC Utilities Targa Rally, based around Garvagh and Aghadowey. The warm dry conditions meant that the opening tests were dusty and gravelly, which slowed the front runners on the opening loop, but status quo asserted itself and Mark Francis/Katie Lemon in their Mazda MX-5 came through to win by just a fraction from Eric Patterson/Raymond Donaldson, also in an MX-5. Paul and Brendan Mooney overcame an early difficulty to finish strongly in their Nova and take 3rd place, just a couple of seconds ahead of 4th placed Matthew Mason/Marshall Kennedy (Micra). David Burns/Connor Murphy (Fiesta ST) and Steven Cromie/Taylor Gribbon (MX-5) made up the top six finishers.

 

This weekend coming there are several interesting rallies on the cards – Estonia, Nicky Grist and Sligo Stages. The Estonian event is seen as a great promotional tool for the country and for Ott Tanak, as well as being a terrific ‘warm up’ for the WRC Rally Finland, or 1000 Lakes as some people still call it. The Estonian government is backing the rally this weekend, possibly with an eye to the future also as a round of the WRC. Indeed, this Shell Helix backed Estonia rally resembles a mini WRC rally, with Ott Tanak at number 1 in the works Toyota Yaris WRC, Elfyn Evans at 2 in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC, Andreas Mikkelsen at 3 in the Hyundai i20 WRC, Esapekka Lappi at 4 in the factory Citroen WRC and our own Craig Breen at 5, on his first competitive outing in the Hyundai i20 WRC. Craig will have Paul Nagle co-driving, and for the Irish pair this will indeed be the chance they so desire to break back into the World Championship ranks.

 

There are several more very top names in the list, such as Markko Martin and Teemu Sunninen, while tucked away at number 14 is the sensational 17 year old Oliver Solberg and his co-driver Aaron Johnston, to drive a Volkswagen Polo GTi R5. This is a big opportunity for young Solberg, and indeed Johnston, to continue their stellar rise through the rallying ranks. Aaron has been with Petter Solberg’s son Oliver for a while now, but the young Tyrone man still has his feet firmly on the ground. For example he was out competing last weekend in a Fiat Panda, with Tony Kelly co-driving, on the TOC Utilities North Ulster Targa Rally! Aaron finished down the list, but commented afterwards, “Just a little bit of cheap fun, thoroughly enjoyed the day!”

 

In Wales, it is the turn of the Nicky Grist Stages, a round of the BTRDA series. Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton in their Focus WRC will be bidding to tie up the title on this attractive rally through the forests and gravel tracks in and around Epynt military range. Making the trip over from here are such drivers as Connor McCloskey (Fiesta R5) and Brendan Cumiskey (Fiesta WRC). There is a historic section as well, with Builth Wells man Jason Pritchard in his Escort reckoned to be the man to beat on that part. Going over to scatter some stones, and also try to beat Jason, is Marty McCormack in his Escort, to be co-driven by Barney Mitchell.

 

Also this weekend is the FAAC Simply Automatic/Sligo Park Hotel Sligo Stages Rally, fifth round of this season’s eight round Triton Showers National Championship and also round of the Sligo Pallets Border series. The battle at the top of the series has crystallised into a title fight between former National Champion Roy White and Josh Moffett, both driving Fiesta WRCs. At the moment the odds are stacked in favour of Moffett following a series of outright wins, only a puncture on his home Monaghan Rally depriving him of a clean victory sheet. However Cork ‘20’ winner Roy White can be a model of consistency and this battle for the Triton title is far from over. Seeded at 3 in Sligo is Jonny Greer/Kirsty Riddick, driving a Fiesta R5. The Carryduff man was the winner of his home Down Rally last season and this run in Sligo will serve as a useful warm up for him. Former Tarmac Champion Derek McGarrity is seeded at 5, and like Greer wants some match practice before the Down event. Certainly the Sligo Stages will provide some really excellent mileage for the two NI drivers.

 

There will be many driver battles of interest on these Sligo Stages, not least for GpN supremacy between Shane Maguire and Niall Devine, both in Lancers. The battle for best modified should be pretty hot as well, with the likes of JF Shovelin, 3rd o/a last year in Sligo, driving his Escort, against such modified ‘hot-shots’ as Kevin Eves, Damien Toner and Johnny Jordan.

 

Looking further forward, to one week after Sligo, the entry list for the Carryduff Forklift backed Down Rally (20th July) shows a talented variety of drivers. Reportedly the event, a round of the MSA National, BRDA Tarmac Championship, was oversubscribed within hours of the regulations being published. Jonny Greer/Kirsty Riddick head the list in their Fiesta R5, with British Rally Champion Matt Edwards at 2 in his Fiesta R5, and with Welsh crew Melvyn Evans/Aled Davies at 3 in a Skoda Fabia R5. Behind those top three are loads of really good drivers, which should make this challenging rally, with the stages over and around the drumlins, as well as one over a slice of the Mourne Mountains, really enjoyable for the drivers, and entertaining as well for the spectators.

 

Also next weekend is the Imokilly Stages, what was once a small rally and is growing steadily into a big rally, with great stages outside Midleton. More news on both rallies next week.

 

Further bits of news include a statement from the Donegal Motor Club that the decision has been taken not to run the new Lagoon Donegal Mini Stages which was scheduled for 10th August. The decision was taken as a mark of respect to Manus Kelly’s family, friends and the many people deeply saddened by the recent tragedy. The event will hopefully go ahead in 2020.  

 

Shane Kenneally has taken the lead of the Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally series and the next event is the first day of the two day Jim Walsh Cork Forestry Rally (27th/28th July). On the class based Suirway Group South East Stages, Casey Jay Coleman is the current overall points leader, and obviously class leader as well. The Sligo Pallets Border series is also class based and Brian Armstrong currently leads the points. The Cookstown Club is changing tack slightly by running a Targa Rally at Benone on Saturday 27th July. The six tests will not be difficult or confusing, rather ‘straightforward linear tests’. There is even tea coffee, biscuits and afternoon meal included for the competitors! CoC is Bob McKeown, who can be contacted on 07866253696.

 

Eoin Longworth has sent us notification regarding the Birr Multi Venue Autotest on 21st July – which promises to be a fun packed day of autotesting and passengers can be carried. The tests are described as simple, easy to remember and will be suitable for multi-venue, Endurance, retro and road cars. Drivers must have either a valid competition licence or a 1 event licence which are available for this event. The well respected Bill Ryan is CoC and the multi venue event starts at Donaghmore Famine and Agricultural Museum, Donaghmore, Borris in Ossory, Co. Laois.

 

The Connacht Motor Club will be presenting the Martin Kearns Award on this weekend’s Sligo Stages to the highest placed finisher on the event, not in receipt of any other award, where one of the crew is a fully paid up Connacht MC member. The Award recognises the clubman, a cause close to the heart of the late Martin Kearns.

 

Finally, we are delighted to report that our Davy (Patterson) completed the Tour Divide Endurance cycling event unscathed after 21 days hard slog over 2731 miles of dirt tracks through the Rockies from Canada to Mexico, and has just arrived back in Straid, complete with bike. He wasn’t first home, far from it, but there were many behind him and also plenty of retirements. As this piece is being typed there are still many riders battling to make the finish! There are no prizes, no accolades, definitely no finish ramp. There is just the great satisfaction of finishing this demanding event. A fascinating aspect of this enormous challenge is the lack of rules. In contrast to rallying, with its hundreds of cross referenced pages in blue books, green books, FIA yellow books and goodness knows what else, the Tour has just four short rules: For example:  ‘ You must follow the route’ and ‘No outside assistance allowed” 

The four rules are followed by the short pithy quote –

“To thine own self be true” Which is from Hamlet

After a long trek – Davy P

 

Brian & Liz Patterson

Irish Notes 3rd July 2019

Craig Breen and Paul Nagle after winning Rally Ypres – Photo: Sean Hassett

Copybook’ more or less sums up the performance of Craig Breen & Paul Nagle regarding their

dominant win on last weekend’s Renties Ypres Rally. Their VW Polo Gti R5 performed impeccably throughout this tough 23 special stage rally. Sky high temperatures made the rally even more daunting than usual, and many drivers paid the penalty of sliding into the sometimes unforgiving ditches, and of course with all the cutting of corners punctures were an ever present danger. Kevin Abbring finished 2nd o/a and Kris Princen 3rd, to make it a Volkswagen top three. ‘Fast’ Freddy Loix, for so many years the master of the Ypres Rally, was 4th in a Skoda.   Following the devastating events in Donegal last weekend, this win was just the fillip Craig Breen needed as he prepares for his Hyundai outing on Rally Finland. Craig commented after the Ypres Square finish ramp, “This is a very special feeling, to win the Ypres Rally. A massive thanks also to BMA Autosport for a sublime car.        

                                      The event was also a counter in the British Rally

Matt Edwards / Patrick Walsh Ford Fiesta R5

Championship, with current Champion Matt Edwards in his Swift Caravans Fiesta R5 surviving a couple of punctures to take maximum BRC points with 6th o/a. His closest rival Tom Cave (Hyundai R5) was 7th o/a, 56 seconds back. Another driver contending the BRC is Alex Laffey (Fiesta R5) and he clawed his way back to 9th.  Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell were well into the top ten despite several overshoots and jumping their Skoda so hard on the Kemmelberg stage they broke the windscreen! However in stage 10 Marty ditch-hooked the car too hard and broke a rear suspension arm: end of rally but he had a ball while he was going!

Martin McCormack / Barney Mitchell Skoda Fabia R5

 

It was a mixed picture for the Junior category drivers from here who were competing in Belgium, and only William Creighton/Liam Regan made the BRC Junior podium, 3rd Junior home behind James Williams/Tom Woodburn and Ruari Bell/Darren Garrod (Fiesta R2T). James Williams had an exemplary drive, having switched from an Opel Adam to a new Fiesta R2T just before the rally, and

William Creighton / Liam Regan Peugeot 208 R2

with little or no testing had a dream run. Creighton got knocked back early on when his Peugeot 208 R2 sustained a puncture, but he stuck at it and stage by stage worked his way back up the classification. Josh McErlean/Keaton Williams (Peugeot) did make the finish, but they were a long way back, in Rally 2, as was Jordan Hone/Aileen Kelly (Opel Adam R2) and they did receive some points. James Wilson was on the back foot from the start after a shakedown accident. He retired from the event after he started to feel unwell. Marty Gallagher retired with overheating issues.

 

 

Also last weekend, round 5 of this year’s Triton Showers National Championship was won by Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes in their Fiesta WRC, with Roy White/James O’Brien 2nd in their Fiesta WRC. White led by a couple of seconds from Moffett at service after three stages. Visiting drivers Hugh Hunter and Sebastien Ling (Focus WRC & Citroen DS3 R5 respectively) retired their respective machines following contact with the Waterford scenery. In the middle loop of three stages, White’s Fiesta WRC misbehaved and Moffett surged ahead, eventually winning by 18.7 seconds. Having won four of the five rounds to date, Moffett has amassed 100 points to White’s 87. 3rd and 4th in the points, Declan Boyle and Peadar Hurson gave this counter a miss. Bit of a shame really, as the stages around Dungarvan were absolutely brilliant.

Wexford’s Richard Moore and his co-driver John McGrath made a terrific charge and finished 3rd in their Mk2 Escort, relegating Welsh crew John Dalton/Gwynfor Jones (Darrian T90 GTR) to 4th. David Guest/Jonathan McGrath (Skoda Fabia S2000) were 5th and Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (Mini WRC) 6th. Shane Maguire/Anthony Nestor were 10th o/a and won GpN with their Lancer. Brian Brady/Gary McNamee (Civic) won the Junior Category, while Colin Donoghue/Sean Collins (Escort) won the 16A Cup category.

Next round of the Triton Showers National Championship is the 13th/14th July Sligo Stages. We had a run through the Sligo stages earlier this week, and they are very good, with a bit of everything!

This weekend coming it is the turn of the North Armagh Club’s Loughgall Stages, the event backed by Rainbow Communications. There are still a few places left on this superb event through the roads of this attractive park. The man to contact is rally secretary Barry Taggart on 07771892423. The entry list, at time of writing was not finalised, but it has to be five times winner Damien Toner at the top of it!

2018 CFF Cork Forest Rally Winners Barry McKenna & Leon Jordan. Pic By; Cian Donnellan

Looking forward to the end of July, (27th/28th) Cork Motor Club is again running the Mallow based forestry rally as a two day event, following the success of this format last year. CoC Paul Casey has put together a ‘fast flowing and exciting route for spectators, utilising a number of two stage loops with regular service intervals throughout both days.’ The Sunday leg marks a return to the Ballyhoura Mountains for 8 stages, which should be really special. The event is being sponsored for the fifth year by Mallow company Crafted Fitted Furniture. Scrutiny is at EARS Motorsport. The stages are a mixture of old and new, more info next week. All the signs are that competitor involvement for this Valvoline Championship round will be high.

Following the Manus Kelly tragedy on the Donegal International last week, little was reported on co-driver Donal Barrett. Thankfully he was soon out and about, although his arm is in a sling following a damaged collar bone.

Speculation continues to rumble that the WRC will have a round in NI next year. However Bobby Willis, whose brainchild it is, refuses to confirm or deny any progress on this front. Indeed if it comes about, it possibly may be 2021 and not 2020. However Willis will not comment, nor indeed will he give an indication as to which part of the year it is likely to take place. Although autumn is considered a strong possibility. He also deflected any thoughts about the Ulster Automobile Club using the Circuit of Ireland tag in 2020 for what is currently known as the Easter Stages. However it is mooted to be strongly possible. There are mixed feelings on this. On the one hand the Easter Stages has built up its own identity. On the other hand, the ‘Circuit of Ireland’ tag is known in worldwide rallying circles and has a tremendous heritage. One other point is that the Easter Stages may not necessarily be at Easter – some would prefer the expediency of a fixed date. Heads you win, tails you lose!

Last week we mentioned our own Davy Patterson and his pushbike exploits on the Tour Divide from Banff in Canada down to the Mexican Border at Antelope Wells. Davy is still going strong averaging over 100 miles a day over the at times rocky/snowy/flooded, gooey mud filled tracks, through rain, hail and headwinds. Cycling through these tracks is described as ‘like riding through peanut butter’. He is on schedule, fingers crossed, to finish later this week, within his target. As this was being typed he had over 2000 miles chalked up through the Rocky mountains. He has had a few problems with the bike’s rear wheel/gears which he has managed to sort. 

Latest text from Davy received yesterday Caught in storms in Polvedera Mesa crossing . Peanut butter mud track no way around . Push pull carry clean ride, chain and transmission derails. X 50. Many hours lost . But many others same . Was careful to protect transmission as much as possible , use rivers to clean and water bottles to clean wash chain as riding. Ride with Geoff Blanche a lot, one of the best TD riders out there. On a single speed bike, strength like you can’t believe , and knows the course and resupply points real cool guy. We try to go together to finish. He can be the first person in history to finish in geared bike, single speed and tandem… weather is critical now between here and AW.  Grants tomorr. Pie Town wed. Silver City thurs. rain stops the game because of mud. It’s impassable no way thru. So it needs to go a strategy because after rain the tracks dry quick a few hours.  Bike and kit serviced every day”

There are ‘waypoints’ along the route, to aid the tracking, and just some of the later ones as he moves into New Mexico from Colorado include ‘Abiquiu, Pueblo Pintando, Grants, Gila Wilderness, Silver City’ and so on. It all sounds really exciting and adventurous, but looks like a pure nightmare to us sitting at home in Co. Antrim!

Brian & Liz & Michael Patterson

 

Irish Notes 26th June 2019

Irish Notes 26th June 2019

From delight to despairing grief was the spontaneous mood change on last Sunday’s leg of the Donegal International

Triple Donegal rally winner Manus Kelly who tragically perished on the final day of the 2019 Event. Co-Driver Donal Barrett is recovering in hospital.

Rally when the news came in that 41 year old Manus Kelly had died when his Hyundai R5 crashed out over a bumpy fast left corner on the Fanad Head Stage. Co-driver Donall Barrett was hospitalised, his injuries reportedly non life threatening. Manus, winner of the Donegal Rally for the last three years, reportedly died almost instantaneously at the scene above Shannagh Lough. It was an unimaginable tragedy against the stunning picture postcard backdrop. As the hours ticked away after the accident, the tributes for Manus poured in. It quickly became evident that the Letterkenny man, married and with five children, was extremely highly thought of as a family man, in business life, in politics and of course in rallying. A very special person indeed was Manus, his death a huge loss to the community. To his wife, children, family and friends, we offer our deepest condolences.

And to Donall Barrett we wish a speedy recovery, although doubtless, along with so many others, life will never be the same following Manus’ death.

The tragedy meant that the rally itself, the performance, the dramas, the atmosphere, the thousands of spectators, all paled into somewhat insignificance. For the record, Callum Devine led the rally initially then Declan Boyle forced his Fiesta WRC to the front through the remainder of the Friday stages. Declan lost time on the Saturday morning and then crashed out, leaving Sam Moffett in front, chased hard by Craig Breen and with Callum Devine 3rd. Donagh Kelly didn’t make the first stage after his Focus suffered half shaft failure on the road section.

Sam Moffett/James Fulton flying high on the Saturday of the Joule Donegal Rally.

That is the way it finished on Sunday lunchtime. The results were declared final after the interrupted and fateful stage 15 Fanad. Sam Moffett/James Fulton were in 1st place, with 13 seconds in hand over Craig Breen. The latter, co-driven by Paul Nagle, had put a big push on through that classic but tragic opening Sunday stage, and were 4 seconds faster than Moffett. Callum Devine/Brian Hoy delighted many with their superb drive on this rally. They finished 3rd in their Fiesta, best of the R5 crews and top points scorer in the Irish Tarmac Championship.

Garry Jennings & Rory Kennedy were 4th in their Subaru, following a slightly

Ryan Loughran won the National section of the Joule Donegal Rally.

hesitant start and then a great run. However such was the pace at the front that it was not easy to pull back any time, although Kesh man Garry was only 7 seconds behind Devine when the final whistle had to be prematurely blown. Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarity (Hyundai R5) were 5th, Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble (Fiesta R5) 6th. Alastair set some cracking stage times, but some not so good ones also as his car displayed a bit of ill temperament on occasion. Joe McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney were 7th in a Fiesta WRC and Merion Evans/Jonathan Jackson (Hyundai R5) 8th.  Manus Kelly had been lying 6th before his accident.

In the National section of Donegal Ryan Loughran/Gareth Doherty came out tops in their Escort and Mark Falvey/Diarmuid Lynch (Escort) won the Historics.

Stanley Orr – Graham Henderson kick up the dust on last weekend’s Red Kite Stages.

Further afield on the Red Kite National A Stages in South Wales Adrian Hetherington/Ronan O’Neill were a fine 4th o/a in their Escort RS 1800, with Stanley Orr/Graham Henderson 5th o/a in their Escort Mk1. The overall winner was Simon Webster/Jez Rogers (Escort RS1800).

Criag Breen (R) and Paul Nagle (L) model their new Hyundai WRC team wear.

One of the good news stories this week is the announcement that Craig Breen will return to theWRC for a one-off appearance on Rally Finland in August driving for Hyundai. Breen will have a seat fitting this week and as expected, Paul Nagle will co-drive. The pair will also contest Rally Estonia as a pre-event test along with team mate Mikelsen. Craig said “I am chuffed to be given this chance to join Hyundai Motorsport for Rally Finland, and to get back in a World Rally Car. It’s been a long and patient wait, having to watch everyone else drive this year. I am honoured to have this one-off opportunity with Paul as my co-driver. I’ll be competing with the Number 42, a number I’ve raced with since my first year in karting in 1998, and that has always been very lucky. Let’s hope it remains that way.” Craig has a good record in Finland, finishing in the top five on two of the last three rallies and on the podium with third place in 2016.

This weekend coming both the British Rally Championship and the Triton Showers National series swing back into action.

The BRC round is at Ypres and current champion Matt Edwards (Fiesta R5) and Tom Cave (Hyundai R5) seem to be the two main title contenders. Other top drivers in R5s include Marty McCormack and  Rhys Yates, both in Skoda Fabia R5s as well as Alex Laffey and  Enda McCormack in Fiesta R5s. Top drivers not involved in the British series include Craig Breen, who will drive a VW Polo GTi R5 and Darren Gass (Skoda Fabia R5), while top Belgians include Kris Princen, also in a VW Polo GTi R5 and ‘Fast’ Freddy Loix in a Skoda R5.

There are some great drivers in Course cars and in a special section called ‘Ypres Masters’. Eric Camilli is driving the new M-Sport Fiesta R5 Mk2 as a course car, while in the Masters are such drivers as Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai i20 WRC, Bryan Bouffier in a Fiesta WRC, Paul Lietar in a Ford Escort Cosworth and Bruno Thiry in a GpA Opel Corsa GSi.

Gallagher makes the switch from his Peugeot to the EDSL Sport Ford Fiesta in
Ypres, Belgium
Image credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

Perhaps some of the greatest interest in Ypres, certainly from our point of view, will be to see the performance of the Juniors. The young drivers from this part of the world, all in R2 cars, include Josh McErlean, Marty Gallagher, James Wilson, William Creighton and Jordan Hone. (Jordan has Aileen Kelly co-driving this time and not his father Paul). Another young driver coming on in leaps and bounds is Ruari Bell. Although not from this side of the Irish Sea, his father Harvey Bell is no stranger to Irish Rallying. The Ypres Rally starts on Friday afternoon and concludes on Saturday night. It may seem like a piece of cake rallying through the farmland around Ypres, but the unrelenting high speeds and narrow roads generally take their toll.

Closer to home, on the Ravens Rock Rally in the South East around Dungarvan, there are a variety of entries, some aiming for points in one of the three championships concerned – the Triton Showers National, the Suirway South East and the Southern Four. Just some of the interesting names include Josh Moffett, this time in a Fiesta WRC, Triton Showers man Kevin Barrett in his Subaru, West Cork specialist John Dalton from Wales in his Darrian, Hugh Hunter in his Focus WRC and Clonakilty’s David Guest in his Skoda S2000. Quite a few drivers are making the trip from Wales, no doubt lured by the mouth watering quality of the stages laid out by Co C James Coleman. The rally had received around 80 entries earlier this week, with more expected before the weekend.

On a slightly different note, well known Co Antrim driver Robert Woodside switched to the circuits last weekend when he drove in the arduous Nurburgring 24 Hours. Robert described it as one of the toughest races in the world and ended up driving 10 of the 24 hours eventually finishing 2nd in class in a Porsche Carrera. At the French GP, Jack Young made the most of the occasion and won the Clio Cup race which was making a one off trip to the glamourous F1 world at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

There were to be two rally launches this week – one by the Ulster Rally organisers and another by the Sligo Stages team. However both launches have been put off in respect for the death of Manus Kelly.

The Rainbow Communications backed Loughgall Country Park Rally is reporting that entries are coming in strongly with some interesting names including Adrian Heatherington and Shane McGirr. The 6th July event will consist of 6 stages and online entries are available at www.rallyscore.net.

It is on that sad note, on this catastrophic week for rallying, that we finish our rather foreshortened Irish Notes for this week. Once again we send our deepest condolences to all the family and friends of Manus Kelly. This is a very sad time for Irish Rallying and the Donegal people. The world will be a lesser place without ‘Mandy’.

Regards, Brian, Michael & Liz Patterson

Irish Notes 19th June 2019

Irish Notes 19th June 2019

 

Spanish eyes were smiling last weekend when Dani Sordo in his Hyundai scored a momentous win on Rally Italia Sardegna. Sordo and his co-driver Carlos Del Barrio had driven a great rally, but went into the last stage 29 seconds or so behind the brilliant Ott Tanak in his Toyota Yaris. On what had been a tough rally with lots of upsets Tanak had driven ‘out of his skin’, shrugging off his own order position as well as the generally difficult road conditions, with Sordo the only driver who looked as if he could upset Tanak’s apple cart. Then on the final stage, the Power stage, Tanak was expected to just do enough to cement his victory. However, as so often happens in rallying, there was despair for Ott as his Yaris power steering system cried enough and he lost minutes in the stage, to finish 5th.

 

Andreas Mikkelsen seemed to get a new lease of life on the Sunday and he was fastest on all four stages, including the power stage.  He finished 3rd o/a to make it two Hyundais in the podium places. The space in between was occupied by the Fiesta WRC of a delighted Timo Suninen. This was the best WRC rally so far for the young Finn, and surely it was no coincidence that he switched to a new co-driver, the experienced Jarmo Lehtinen, for this one.

 

Outside of that top three Elfyn Evans was 4th, Ott Tanak as already mentioned was 5th and Thierry Neuville, after a struggle of a rally, never comfortable with his Hyundai’s handling over the tough terrain, was 6th.

 

Kris Meeke suffered from a puncture on Saturday in Sardinia – Toyota though suffered much worse with Tanak losing a rally win with power steering failure on the final Power Stage.

All the way through the event the story was about dusty roads with rocky abrasive surfaces. World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier really struggled with his start position and then broke the suspension on his Citroen on two different occasions. He did manage 2nd on the Power stage which salvaged a few Championship points. Latvala was going great guns, matching Tanak’s pace, until he rolled his Yaris. He managed to get going, minus the Toyota’s windscreen, got that replaced and then went off again. Kris Meeke had, by his high standards, a quiet rally, slipping to 6th and then dropped another couple of places when his Yaris sustained a puncture. Behind Meeke, in 9th, was RC2 winner Kalle Rovanpera/J Halttunen in their Skoda R5 – another superb drive by the young Finnish driver. Dundalk’s Brendan Cumiskey went to Sardinia to compete in the new Hyundai R5 but didn’t get started because of some technicality with the fire extinguisher system.

 

The overall standings in the World Rally Championship are: Tanak 150, Ogier 146, Neuville 143, Evans 78. The next round of the WRC is Rally Finland on 1st – 4th August.

 

Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell pick a line last weekend at Rally van Wervik. He reckons it was just the ticket for his Ypres assault.

Also last weekend was the Motul Rally van Wervik, always a good warm up for Ypres, and Marty McCormack & Barney Mitchell were 6th overall in their Skoda R5. Marty did have a 30s road penalty and without that he would have been 4th, just behind ‘Fast’ Freddy Loix in a Skoda R5. The rally was won by Sebastien Bedoret/Thomas Walbrecq, also in a – yes you’ve guessed it – a Skoda R5. Marty wasn’t one bit worried about the road penalty or the result: he was there to enjoy it and get in the frame of mind for Ypres, a rally he loves. We caught up with him when he was back home and enjoying a circus in Draperstown with some of the much younger McCormack clan. He told us “ I was really pleased with the way Wervik went. I hadn’t sat my ass in the car since West Cork, we had no testing for Belgium and I was 2nd fastest on the first stage, beat Fast Freddy. There was heavy rain early on and then it dried out, so I was able to drive the car in all conditions. I even had a slide and a spin on the 2nd stage. Overall the rally was very relaxed, very enjoyable. I am really looking forward to Ypres now, love rallying in Belgium.”

 

Looking forward to this weekend, there are not enough superlatives to encompass the quality of the entry for the Joule Donegal International. Just about every current top driver in Ireland will be in the Letterkenny line up on Saturday morning. There is a queue of drivers in the running for the total prestige of a Donegal International Rally victory. Perhaps the crew at the top of the queue is Craig Breen/Paul Nagle, both on a rest year from the World Rally Championship. Craig, current leader of the Irish Tarmac Championship, has opted to forego the ITC points this time, in order to drive a World Rally Car Fiesta this weekend instead of an R5. He was testing the car on Monday, and one of his mentors, James Coleman, reckons he is in great form. An interesting comment from James, who is also CoC of the Ravens Rock rally next week, about Craig, was “Living the dream, once Donegal is over he is off to Ypres. It is the best thing ever for him, a year out of WRC, lots of different opportunities and experience. He will come back stronger.”

 

Ken Block was bubbling in Donegal this week “Just wrapped a fun two days of testing in these two very awesome, yet very different, rally cars on amazing Irish tarmac test roads. My Ford Escort RS Cosworth V2 and M-Sport’s new Fiesta R5. I can’t wait to share the footage from this back-to-back test with all of you, but first up: Rally Donegal! (In Cossie V2!)” We’ve still got the Donegal Rally to come! The views aren’t bad either.

First of all though is the little matter of trying to win Donegal. Many have tried – and failed.  It is not an easy rally and the competition is fierce – Sam Moffett, Declan Boyle, Donagh Kelly, Josh Moffett, Garry Jennings, three times winner Manus Kelly – these are just a few who really could win, who have the pedigree. Yes, the Tarmac Championship contenders such as Josh Moffett and Alastair Fisher are slightly handicapped by the fact that they are in R5 cars and not WRC, but still it is possible that an R5 car could win. Indeed, the latest R5 cars are so advanced that there is very little difference between their performance parameters and an even slightly older WRC car. There are loads more drivers apart from the few mentioned here, who could be there or thereabouts after the three days of action. It will be interesting to see just who.

Then there is the race between the ‘modified’ competitors. For many this is as interesting a part of the rally as any. Some supremely talented drivers have entered this year in Mk2 Escorts, Darrians, Corollas & Starlets: just look at some of the drivers – Tarmac Championship modified champion Kevin Eves, former champion Declan Gallagher, Scottish Champion David Bogie, rally sponsor Ian Barrett, Wexford rocket James Stafford, Gary Kiernan, Frank Kelly, Damien Gallagher, Brian Brogan and many more. There is a massive amount of rally talent in modified cars: Some would say the beating heart of Irish rallying.

Then there are the Historic competitors, the Junior category and the special personalities such as Ken Block: it really is looking as if it will be a very special Donegal International. They are all special of course, maybe this one just a bit more so.

On the news front, the Ulster Rally (16th 17th August) has announced that it is moving its base to Newry and has also unveiled a new sponsor – ‘Today’s’ – the local convenience store chain. The event, much streamlined for this year, is a round of the British Rally Championship and the Irish Tarmac series.

Not so far away now is the Ravens Rock (29th/30th June). James Coleman is the CoC and he has picked three brilliant, very challenging stages, each run three times. The stages are on the Youghal side of Dungarvan and the roads involved are of ever changing character. The drivers, not to mention the co-drivers, will not be bored, that is for sure. Just a pity the Triton Showers series rally is the same weekend as Ypres, which means Craig Breen will be in Belgium, not Waterford. Some consolation for Craig will be that he is to drive the new VW Polo Gti R5 on the Belgian classic. Definitely living the dream!

More news on Ypres next weekend, but something of note in the meantime is that young Marty Gallagher will switch from his own Peugeot 208 to one of the EDSL run Ford Fiesta MK8 R2T for the fourth round of the BRC.He will be joined by regular co-driver Dean O’ Sullivan.

The following weekend (6th July) the North Armagh MC is running the always popular Loughgall Rally, with stages along the lovely roads of this scenic Loughgall park.

Davy Patterson arrives in Ovando Montana – Pictures by Kathy Schoendoerfer

On slightly different theme, David, our youngest son, who usually works on the WRC, decided to miss Sardinia so that he could tackle the Tour Divide on his bicycle. This is an interesting challenge, involving riding the bike from Banff in Canada down to Mexico, along a designated route over mostly gravel tracks down the length of the Rockies, with no outside assistance. The route starts through the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and then goes through the US states of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. The riders will have climbed in total about 200,000 feet, which sounds like a lot of puffing and heaving to us. It involves 16 plus hour days, with ‘Grizzly and Mountain Lion’ density! It is supposedly not a race. David has allowed himself 22 days to complete, and the best in the world will do it in 18. The start was last Friday afternoon and as of last night David had covered about 700 miles.

He stopped at a little country store in Ovando where Kathy Schoendoerfer befriends the riders and he managed to send a message on his phone – ‘Monday was tough ride in the heat …but ok, lots of riders saddle sore and chaffed, me too, due to heat. Cheap motel tonight in Lincoln to get hygiene and re-administer all kit. Early start in dark tomorrow, some big climbs before Butte. It seems all climbs are 10 or 20 miles long and high altitude. Montana is cool but remote, I don’t see anyone on the trails for hours and hours, then a racer appears either behind or in front.

In a western bar for burgers, everyone drunk and with guns and shooting pool for dollars..

Who’s this Guy ?? The locals don’t look too impressed with Davy P.

All the re-supply places are small and closed – except Ovando where they watch the dots coming then open everything up, even the jail, where riders sleep – but it makes Straid look like the metropolis. Pissed rain last night through Flathead forest, slept in abandoned wood shed, bear shit everywhere – trying to take care of legs and not push, and care in the downhill – loaded bikes are like rally motorbike – they don’t change direction good or like leaning over!

Gave transmission a clean up in hotel – shame about the towels.

Jamie Hayes passed me across a flat plain in TT pursuit mode – aero bars and tri-suit on, made me feel like a goon in my trainers and baggy merino wool T shirt on straight mountain bike bars – nonetheless she fair brighten up your day when she goes by!

Richmond Peak was mega, but too cold on top to get phone out for pic!”

Well that is a bit different….. certainly makes a change from “Not quite in the rhythm’, or ‘bad road position, nothing I can do! Or ‘wrong tyres’!

Finally this week Plum Tyndall and Esler Crawford are launching a new 80 page book – ‘Heroes of the Hills’, about the winners of the Donegal International Rally (1972 – 2018). The book will be launched before start of this year’s rally at 9am. at the An Grianan Theatre in Letterkenny on Friday 21st. June. RPM’s Alan (Plum) Tyndall and Ireland’s acclaimed photographer Dr. Esler Crawford who have been enthusiastic followers of the Donegal Rally since its inception have combined to put into words and pictures, a record of the winners in the rally’s forty-six year history. The book will be for sale during the rally weekend priced at £15.00 (€19.00).

Cheers, Brian, Michael & Liz Patterson

Irish Notes 12th June 2019

We almost had a Co. Down outright winner on last Saturday’s Carlisle Stages Rally, but unfortunately a puncture on the final stage dropped Comber’s David Crossen to 4th. David was co-driven in his Mk2 Escort by Cork’s Aileen Kelly and they set some cracking fastest times through the day, even another puncture, on stage 2, not really hampering their progress. However the pair did win their class.

Cat 2 Winners Stanley Orr/Graham Henderson – 1st O/A Matthew Robinson/Sam Collis – FIA & Rally 2 Winners Rudi Lancaster/Guy Weaver

Another class winner was Stanley Orr, driving his Mk1 Escort. Stanley was co-driven by Graham Henderson and they were running in the Historic section of the rally. Stanley is well placed in the British Historic Championship. The ‘Open’ section of the rally was won by Roger Chilman/Patrick Walsh, while the Historic victory was taken by Matthew Robinson/Sam Collis. Adrian Hetherington was also competing on the rally but retired when his Escort gearbox cried enough.

On the Sunday, although many were glued to their TV sets to see Rory McIlroy take a much needed victory on the Canadian Open and Lewis Hamilton scoring the win on the Canadian Grand Prix despite his rival Vettel crossing the finish line first in his Ferrari, but having to accept a five second penalty for squeezing the Hamilton Mercedes off the road at one point, there was rally drama closer to home.

Declan Gallagher led from the start on the Heartlands Rally Photo by Graham Lane

For the Heartlands Mini Stages Rally outside Portlaoise, Declan Gallagher switched back to his potent Toyota Starlet and, co-driven by Derek Heena, scored a runaway victory. Torrential rain on the final loop of stages created big problems for the drivers. Pat O’Connell/Mark Wiley had been 2nd for most of the day but Pat got caught out in stage 5 when his Lancer slid into a chicane. Jonathan Pringle had held 2nd on the opening stage, but his Escort succumbed to a broken alternator bracket. Pat described the road on that final loop as ‘mental slippy’, but, although he wasn’t able to continue, he reported the damage to his Mitsubishi as minor. This mishap allowed Mark Alcorn/John O’Donnell into 2nd place with their Escort.

Gary McNamee and Brian Brady put in another giant killing drive to bring their 1600cc Civic home in 3rd overall. Photo by Graham Lane

The sensation of that final loop was young Gary McNamee. The Oldcastle man suspected that heavy rain could arrive late in the day. He ran Michelin 21s on his Civic during the early stages, but carried two Pirelli N3s in the boot from stage 2. When the rain arrived, which Frank Kelly described as making the roads like lakes and akin to a skating rink, Gary bolted on the Pirellis and went for it. Always a good driver in wet conditions, Gary and his co-driver Brian Brady scythed their Civic through the top contenders to take a brilliant 3rd place after setting fastest time on the final stage. He remarked afterwards that he thought it was a ‘lovely little rally’, but would have liked a few more chicanes on the first stage where he was on maximum revs in top gear. (His 1.6 litre Civic goes from a standing start to maximum revs (9,900) in just 550 metres).

Just over 80 cars started the rally. Richard Moore & John McGrath were 4th, Martin Toner/Sharon Clarke 5th and Wesley Patterson/Johnny Baird 6th, all three in Mk2 Escorts.

The new Ford Fiesta R5.

Further news items include the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 making its public debut at the 28th/29th/30th June Ypres Rally in Belgium. It will be driven by Eric Camilli in the role of ‘VIP Car’ – whatever that means! The car should be homologated by Rally Estonia and Sunninen, who is reportedly changing his co-driver to Jarmo Lehtinen, will drive it there. The government in Estonia is throwing its weight behind the event to make it like a mini WRC rally. Ott Tanak has risen to film star status in Estonia and is very much supporting the event. Certainly it would be a great shakedown for the 1000 Lakes – sorry Rally Finland! Elfyn Evans is also down to contest Estonia in his M-Sport Fiesta WRC car.

This weekend Tanak and all the other ‘works’ drivers will be in action on the Italian round, Rally Sardinia. Tanak, having won the last two rounds will doubtless be going for a hat-trick. A reminder of how close the points position is approaching this 8th round is that Ogier (Citroen) is on 142 points, Tanak (Toyota) 140 and Neuville (Hyundai) 132.

Also this weekend is the Motul Rally van Wervik, a brilliant small rally (with 150 plus entries) in Belgium, very close to Ypres Rally territory, but not with the same stages. In recent years a few drivers have entered Wervik to get themselves into the groove for Ypres. It is especially attractive for anyone contesting the British Rally Championship, as Ypres is again a round. One of those is Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell in their Skoda R5.  Others from here making the trip include: John Reddington/Darragh Mullen in their Mk2 Escort, as well as Anthony O’Brien/Niall McDaid in their Lancer. Some of the drivers going from the UK include Jason Pritchard, Damien Cole and Hugh Hunter.

Motorsport Ireland has announced a ‘tweak’ to the Billy Coleman Award scheme. The award started 19 years ago with the aim of giving young Irish drivers a helping hand into International Rallying. The main change to the scheme is cutting back on the number of nominees and additional support, to the tune of €15000 to the two runners up. The overall award is still €50000 of support. The age limit remains at under 26 years.

Looking forward to next weekend’s Joule Donegal Rally, it is interesting that, although the classic event is a round of the Tarmac Championship there are only three ‘R5’ cars in the top ten, six in the top 50. World Rally Cars predominate, with many drivers aiming for an outright win, rather than Tarmac points. That is not to say that an R5 car couldn’t win outright, but a WRC car must surely have the edge. Craig Breen, Sam Moffett, Desi Henry, Donagh Kelly, Declan Boyle and Garry Jennings have all opted for WRC cars. As has Joe McGonigle and Seamus Leonard, the latter listed in a Focus WRC. The highest seeded drivers in R5 cars who will be going for Tarmac points will be last year’s Donegal winner Manus Kelly along with Alastair Fisher, Josh Moffett and Callum Devine.

There are also some good drivers further back in WRC cars as well, including PJ McDermot, Stuart Biggerstaff, Declan McCrory and Ken Block.  Of course just outside the top ten is a startlingly good line up of the Modified cars, with iconic Mk2 Escorts predominant although Declan Gallagher in his Starlet could upset that particular apple cart, as could Kevin Eves in his dynamic Corolla.

The most successful co-drivers on the Donegal Rally in recent years have been James O’Brien (5 wins) and Rory Kennedy (4 wins). Rory is sitting with Garry Jennings on this year’s Donegal and we managed a few words with Letterkenny man Rory earlier this week. He opined that Garry must have a chance at another victory, even though his Subaru is not the newest car: “It is as good as Garry can make it. The problem with the driveshaft on the Cavan Rally a few weeks ago was a fault that has never happened before: just one of those things” When asked about the victory odds, Rory continued, “it is hard to see past Craig Breen, he has proved himself on more than one occasion. And Sam Moffett has come really good again recently, as has Declan Boyle. Alastair (Fisher) is going really well, although a WRC car should have the edge over R5. It is wide open though!”

Donegal Motor Club has sourced good quality accommodation for rally crews entered in this year’s Joule Donegal Rally. Each house sleeps 6, is fully equipped to a very high standard and has parking, Wi-Fi, and an on-site restaurant and bar. Enquiries to the Club via e mail to: donegalmotorclub@hotmail.com and as per event website.”

Another event coming up fast now (30th June) is the Carrick on Suir Motor Club’s  Ravens Rock Rally – the next round in the Triton Showers National Rally Championship, as well as the Suirway Group South Eastern series. James Coleman is again the Clerk of the Course, with Rally HQ at Dooley’s Hotel in Waterford. The rally itself will be centred at Dungarvin with some brand new stages nearby and the service based in the town.

Unfortunately due to a severe weather forecast for Wednesday 12th June the RIAC Picnic in the Park has had to be postponed. The new date is Wednesday 24th July (4pm-8.30) at Marlay Park by kind agreement with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.

Brian, Liz and Michael Patterson plus Paul McAuley

 

Irish Notes 5th June 2019

Iconic, traditionally classic as well as very tough, more or less sums up the Rally of Portugal, so Ott Tanak and his co-driver Martin Jarveija in their Toyota Yaris WRC scoring their first victory there last weekend is certainly one for the record books. They also steered clear of the dust problems which caused some controversies.

Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul were 2nd in their Hyundai, with World Rally Champions Sebastien Ogier/Julian Ingrassia (Citroen) 3rd. Estonian Tanak described the event as one of his toughest. He overcame brake woes and damaged suspension maladies to withstand an onslaught of determined driving from both his Toyota team-mates and his opposition. First of all it was Latvala putting all the pressure on Tanak, but the Finn dropped a load of time when his Yaris front suspension gave up the ghost over Portugal’s rough terrain.

No sooner had Latvala dropped out than Kris Meeke took up the cudgel. The Dungannon man survived intercom problems and hydraulic handbrake woes to move to within a couple of seconds of Tanak in the closing stages of the rally. With Neuville poised just a few seconds further back, neither Toyota driver could afford to give an inch. Stage after stage through the final morning just seconds separated these top three. Sadly it was the Northern Ireland driver, Meeke, who cracked, spinning his Yaris on the penultimate stage, and then in the power stage cutting a right hand bend too tight, clipped something solid and broke the front right steering/suspension. There was even the ignominy for Kris of blocking the stage, which was delayed while the Toyota was lifted out. This was most unfortunate.

The spotlight then focused on the power stage points, with Ogier taking fastest time and 5 points. Neuville was just 0.9 of a second slower. Tanak took the decision to slow ever so slightly before the famous Fafe jump so that he wouldn’t win the stage and then have to run first on the road on the next event in Sardinia. Whether that was a good decision, to sacrifice points now in order to gain a limited advantage on the next round, is certainly open to debate. Only time will reveal the answer to that one.

Certainly Tanak seems to be on the boil, at the very peak of his game, so maybe it will pay off. Otherwise the story of the rally was mostly one of hard luck for many of the drivers. Elfyn Evans was going very well until his Fiesta stopped for many minutes because of throttle maladies. Something similar afflicted the Hyundais of both Sordo and Loeb. Lappi retired his Citroen after a gentle Sunday morning roll which led to broken suspension.

First win in Rally Portgual for Ott Tanak & Martin Jarveija

One of the biggest misfortunes befell young English driver Gus Greensmith. Generally he did a decent job on his first rally in the M-Sort Fiesta WRC, but was relegated to Rally 2 for the Sunday run and his Fiesta then seemed to have an awry front left wheel on take-off over the big Fafe jump and subsequently crashed heavily on landing. On a more cheerful note, young Kalle Rovanpera had another great result in his Skoda R5, winning RC2 and finishing 6th o/a. As regards the overall WRC title race, it looks very much like a three horse race now after this 7th round, between Ogier (142 points), Tanak (140) and Neuville (132). Round 8, Sardinia, is on 13th/14th/15th/16th June.

Here at home, the Circuit of Munster, supported by Lyons of Limerick, provided another clear win for Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes in their Fiesta WRC. This will almost certainly be one more stepping stone to the Triton Showers National rally title which has so far eluded Monaghan man Josh. He didn’t have it all his own way in Limerick. Donagh Kelly in his Focus WRC led initially but some small problems became a big one when the throttle jammed open and he couldn’t finish the last loop. Declan Boyle recorded three fastest times in the middle of the day, when Moffett went off the boil.

Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC). Photo: Martin Walsh.

However status quo returned on the final loop and Moffett won by 21+ seconds from Declan Boyle and his co-driver Brian Boyle, with Roy White/James O’Brien third to make it a Fiesta WRC top three. Cathan McCourt overcame a few niggly problems with his Subaru to take 4th, Welsh visitor Hugh Hunter (Focus WRC) was 5th and Stephen Wright (Fiesta R5) finished 6th. Steve Wood/Keith Moriarity had their first outing in the ex O’Riordan Fiesta WRC and were 8th. Paul Reid & Karl Reid in their Escort were the best 2wd finishers, 9th o/a, despite a damaged exhaust at one point.  Early 2wd leader was Kevin Eves, but he retired with oil pressure worries about his Corolla engine. Niall Devine/Mac Kierans won GpN with their Lancer, from Michael Boyle/Dermot McCaffrey in a similar Mitsubishi. 

Junior winners were Jordan Hone/Aileen Kelly in their Opel Adam R2, while the alternative Junior Class was won by Kieren Reen/Mark O’Leary (Civic).

Luke McCarthy/David Hogan won the Historics in their Escort.

Overall points in the Triton Showers Championship read: – Josh Moffett 80 points, Roy White 63 and Declan Boyle 51.

This weekend coming we have the Carlisle Forest Rally as well as the Heartlands Mini Stages at Portlaoise. Stanley Orr, Adrian Hetherington and David Crossen, all three in Escorts, are amongst the drivers who will be heading for the Cairnryan ferry this weekend to tackle some fine forest stages around Newcastleton. Also this Saturday, the TSCC (Thoroughbred and Sports Car Club) is holding a classic sprint and display at Kirkistown. The MG (Ulster Centre) Club will also be in attendance and will be running an autotest on Thursday evening the 13th June at the Dundrod pits. The event was originally scheduled to run at the Transport Training School at Nutts Corner, but on-going resurfacing work has ruled this out for the moment.

Looking further forward, the Sligo Stages Rally is well on schedule for the 14th July. The rally is the next round of the Triton Showers National Championship, as well as a counter in the Sligo Pallets Border series. Once again the Faac Simply Automatic Company as well the Sligo Park Hotel is title sponsors of the rally. The route will consist of an attractive loop of three stages run three times. Road mileage has been kept to a minimum and the service is both central and convenient. There are all sorts of cash incentives for the drivers, including a draw on the morning of the rally.

The Donegal Rally (June 21st/22nd & 23rd) is also well advanced, and indeed the entries are now released, with last year’s winners Manus Kelly/Donal Barrett listed at 1 in their Hyundai i20 R5, Craig Breen/Paul Nagle  in a Fiesta are at 2 and Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley at 3 in a Ford Focus WRC. Behind them is an exceptional line up, with the likes of Alastair Fisher at 7 and Josh Moffett at 8.

Ken Block who will be making an appearance at the 2019 Donegal International Rally.

It is refreshing to see supreme motorbike road racer Michael Dunlop’s name in the list, while the USA’s Ken Block is another very interesting entry. YouTube sensation Block, is to drive his famous Escort Cosworth.

Donegal is of course a counting round in the Irish Tarmac Championship. Current points leader is Craig Breen, but he has opted to drive a 2013 Fiesta WRC in Donegal. The top of the Championship is limited to R5 cars, which means that Craig cannot score points this time. Another interesting bit of news concerning Craig is that he has entered the Ypres Rally, which takes place on the weekend following Donegal. Craig will drive a VW R5 on the Belgian classic.  Reportedly Darren Gass is also going to compete in his Skoda R5 – More news next week…..

Patrick Snijers in action at the Lurgan Park Rally – Photo Roy Dempster

Other stories include Belgian rally legend Patrick Snijers is due to visit Donegal on the 30-31st August for the Déjà vu, with proceeds in aid of the Donegal Hospice. Patrick, a former European, Belgian and Dutch Rally Champion  became somewhat of a rallying heartthrob in Northern Ireland during his many times competing on the Lurgan Park Rally, as well as the Toshiba Antrim forest rally and of course the Manx. His Bastos/Castrol liveried BMW M3 had that certain charisma, especially with Patrick, nicknamed by some of the Irish rally fans as Paddy O’Snijers, driving.

Finally, on another nostalgic note, the RIAC is holding the annual ‘Picnic in the Park’ at Marlay Park, Rathfarnham Dublin on 12th June from 4pm to 8.30pm. Former British Touring Car Champion Alec Poole will be in attendance and Mini devotee that he is, will also celebrate the 60th birthday of the original Mini. The evening’s proceeds will go towards Laura Lynn, Ireland’s only children’s hospice.

Brian & Liz Patterson

 

 

Irish Notes 29th May 2019

Irish Notes 29th May 2019

M Plates – Latvian learner plates

There are ‘L’ drivers and there are “L” drivers, but Oliver Solberg is in another stratospheric league altogether. The 17 year old Norwegian, fresh from winning the DirtFish Olympus Rally a few weeks ago for Subaru USA, finished best of the European Championship contenders and overall winner on the Rally Liepaja (Latvia) last weekend. Oliver is Petter Solberg’s son and was driving a VW R5. He was once again co-driven by Co. Tyrone’s Aaron Johnston. It certainly was some result and they were more or less fastest throughout, save for one stage when their VW suffered a spin. Current European Rally Champion Alexey Lukyanuk, now driving a Citroen R5 was 2nd and young Englishman Chris Ingram,co-driven by Ross Whittock, was 4th in a Skoda.The cars of both Lukyanuk and Ingram suffered bodywork and radiator damage in big ruts towards the end, but survived. Solberg’s VW also suffered some damage in the ruts but finished ‘ok’.

 

Meanwhile closer to home Sam Moffett/James Fulton in their Fiesta took a start to finish win on the Cavan Stages. Declan/Brian Boyle were only seconds in arrears for most of the day but then let the gap widen to over forty seconds at the end of the 9 stages. Desi Henry changed from his R5 Skoda to a Fiesta WRC for this one, and with Paddy Robinson co-driving took 3rd place. Also changing cars for this very technical Cavan stages rally was Joe McGonigle. He switched form a Mini WRC to a Fiesta WRC and was rewarded with 4th o/a. Cathan McCourt changed away from his Fiesta to a Subaru and finished 5th, while Gary Kiernan was 6th o/a in his Escort, best ‘two wheel drive’. Gary had a great battle for most of the day with fellow Escort men David Bogie and Gary McPhillips, but both retired. (Bogie with an oil leak, Gary also with an oil leak, but his on front suspension, too much to continue, unfortunately). Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy were just outside the top three when they pulled their Subaru up on the way to stage 3 when a driveshaft broke. They rejoined later under ‘Rally 2’ but had issues with the Impreza WRC’s ‘pop-off valve’ and ‘launch control’. The whole idea for some of the top drivers was to try different cars and sort existing ones in preparation for Donegal, so no doubt Garry’s Subaru will have all its little problems sorted out by then! Aidan Wray/Keith McGrath won GpN in Cavan with their Lancer from Declan Boyle’s son Michael, also in a Mitsubishi. David Kelly/Kenny Bustard won the Junior category in their Starlet.

Also last weekend David Burns/Connor Murphy in their Fiesta ST won the Burkes of Cornascriebe May Targa Rally, with Angus Johnson/Dion Coyle (MX-5) and Stuart Annesley/Stephen Jess, also in a Mazda, separated by just 1 mark in the battle for 2nd & 3rd.

Clonmel’s Roy White (Ford Fiesta WRC) seeeking that elusive first win in a round of the Triton series. Photo: Martin Walsh

Looking forward to this weekend, we have the classic WRC Rally Portugal while here at home the Triton Showers National Championship swings back into action with round 4 in Limerick. Long time rally man Ken Lyons is backing the rally, “The Lyons of Limerick Circuit of Munster Rally”. Ken Lyons has been a front runner in the Circuit of Limerick for many years, going back to the days when it was called ‘The Thomond’, even marshalling on it when he was a teenager. Ken and his son Keith are both competing this time, and Ken, who has concluded a three year deal with the Limerick club to back the rally, has promised every facility for the event at the “Lyons of Limerick’ complex. The rally has received a top class entry and current Triton series points leader Josh Moffett, with Andy Hayes co-driving in a Fiesta WRC, is No.1 seed. Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley (Focus WRC) are at 2 and Declan Boyle/Brian Boyle at 3 in yet another Fiesta WRC. Tipperary’s Roy White, 2nd in the Triton points at the moment, starts at 4 in his Fiesta WRC and has James O’Brien co-driving as usual. Yet another Fiesta WRC is at number 5 – that is the Peadar Hurson/Damien Connolly example. Ian Barrett/Paul Magee break the Ford monopoly at the front by switching to a Subaru WRC S12 for Limerick.

Donegal’s Donagh Kelly is a former Circuit of Munster Rally winner. Photo: Martin Walsh.

The club has laid on three stages repeated three times for the event. Stages 1 & 2 are relatively short fast affairs while the 3rd is a real classic over 19 km long and consists of a mix of every type of road and terrain. Making up the top ten seeds are Hugh Hunter (Focus WRC), Kevin Eves (Corolla GT), Declan Gallagher (Starlet) and Kevin Gallagher (Darrian).

Outside the top ten are many interesting cars and drivers – the talented Seamus Leonard is to drive a Subaru WRC as he prepares for his now annual rally outing in Donegal. Steve Wood has opted to drive the Daragh O’Riordan Fiesta WRC instead of his usual Subaru. Wood is hoping for a test in the car, which has a fresh engine & turbo, on Friday. Keith Moriarity will co-drive. Welshman Melvyn Evans, a former Irish National Champion is to make an appearance in a Hyundai i20 R5, Stephen Wright is a late entry in his Fiesta R5. Donegal’s Michael Boyle heads the Gp N entry: with competition likely to come from Niall Devine and Tomas O’Rourke all three in Lancers.

Also this weekend we have of course Portugal, with all the top WRC drivers and teams entered. Except for Mikkelsen, who is stepping down to make way for Sebastien Loeb in the Hyundai team. Mikkelsen is scheduled to be back for Sardinia. Gus Greensmith is switching from his R5 car to an M-Sport Fiesta WRC for this one. Still in the Ford World Rally Team are of course Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen. Loeb, who commented that he had a ‘great feeling with the Hyundai WRC in Chile, which was shown by our podium finish’, will join Thierry Neuville, reportedly fully recovered from his massive crash in Chile, and Dani Sordo.

For Toyota we have of course Ott Tanak, Kris Meeke & J-M Latvala. Citroen is again just running two cars: one for World Champion Sebastien Ogier the other for Esapekka Lappi. Top R5 seed is Mads Ostberg (Citroen) from Lukasj Pieniazek (Ford) and Kalle Rovanpera (Skoda). These three will run in a new category, ‘WRC 2 Pro’.

Welshman Rhys Yates, who, considering he is very much a privateer, has been going really well on the WRC this season, is seeded at the back of the ‘regular’ WRC 2 contestants in his Fabia R5, with James Morgan co-driving. The rally will consist of 20 tests with the opener on Friday morning at 09.48, while ‘Fafe’ is to be run as the Power Stage at 12.18 on Sunday. The current WRC points positions are Ogier on 122, Tanak 112, Neuville 110.

Upcoming events include the Laois Heartlands Mini Stages Rally on the 9th June. This is a counter in the Hugh Loonam Motors Peugeot Midlands East Rally Championship. The series is class based so there is no out and out leader at the moment, but those in the frame include John Hayes (Class3, 45 points), Shane O’Mahony (Class 11R 43 points), Tom Holton Jnr (Class 20 44 points) and Joe Moffitt (Class1 40 points). There are two very nice asphalt stages on the Heartlands, fast in places, tight and twisty in others. Each stage is to be run three times.

On the 6th July the North Armagh Motor Club is running the always popular Stage Rally in Loughgall Country Park, with Rainbow Communications backing as well as support from Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Councils.

End of another era. On a slightly different note Plum Tyndall of RPM fame is contemplating the sale of his huge archive of Motorsport footage, stretching from away back, even before the current series started in 1991. Tyndall covered all sorts of motoring events besides rallying and his archive is surely, like Plum himself, irreplaceable! Contact with Plum is at – alan@rpm-motorsport.com

Regards, Brian, Liz & Michael Patterson and Paul McAuley

Irish Notes 22nd May 2019

Cathan McCourt made winning last weekend’s Donegal Forestry look easy. Of course, it is never easy, but Cathan, with Barry McNulty co-driving in their Fiesta, got the hammer down from the word go and was never headed.

The stages were difficult, jumpy with lots of rocks on the sides, but McCourt made light work of it. Niall McCullagh/Ryan McCloskey (Mitsubishi) finished 2nd and Conor McCourt/Caolan McKenna (Fiesta R5) were 3rd.

In the standings for the Valvoline Forestry series, this result moves Cathan McCourt up to within 1 point of Michael Carbin, who finished 5th on the day, one place behind Joe Hegarty, who is also in the Championship running.

David Crossen & Aileen Kelly – Photo by Clifford Media

Co. Down driver, David Crossen and his Co. Cork co-driver, Aileen Kelly, were a brilliant 6th in their Mk2 Escort, best of the two wheel contenders. There was always a worry over the crests and jumps in the stages, but David remarked that he didn’t really slow for any of them. There was just one concerned him, where in stage 2 the road went a bit left after the jump, and then down to a chicane. “Overall it was a good rally. We pushed hard over the first three stages then were able to ease off in the 2nd half. I think Shane McGirr, John Gordon and Mickey Conlon lost a bit of time with punctures and an excursion.”

In the final analysis it was Gary Kiernan who finished 2nd ‘two wheel drive’, 10th o/a. Derek Mackarel was a remarkable 11th o/a, Adrian Hetherington 12th and William Creighton 13th. Derek Mackarel was best junior and won class 16A in his Nova, while William Creighton took the honours in class 2 with his Peugeot 208 R2. In a role reversal, Brian Brady who often co-drives for Gary McNamee did the driving this time, with Gary co-driving in a class 16 Civic, and won his class!

David Bogie with Co Antrim co-driver John Rowan grabbed a narrow win over old SRC sparring partner Thorburn
Image: Eddie Kelly

Meanwhile, just ‘over the water’, David Bogie and his NI co-driver John Rowan clinched victory on the RSAC Scottish Rally. Bogie was driving his Skoda R5 and finished 6 seconds ahead of Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton (Focus WRC) following 70 km of stages in the Dumfries & Galloway region. Thorburn did indulge in an overshoot and spin, which might have made a difference to the result. But ‘might and maybe’ are pretty superfluous words in rallying – David Bogie won! Garry Pearson/ Dale Bowen were 3rd in their Fiesta R5. Paul McErlean/Niall McKenna also made the trip and scored a decent class result in their Mk2 Escort.

Attention swings now to this weekend’s Cavan Rally, and what an event it promises to be. CoC Stephen Kellett’s stage layout consists of superbly technical, challenging roads. It should prove a really suitable arena for a Donegal ‘warm up’ for the top drivers and their cars. The rally, not a round this time of the Triton Showers National Championship, but is a round of the Border series, has a great entry: perhaps for a few the ‘raison d’etre to be there, is as a warm up for Donegal.

Declan Boyle heads the list in his Fiesta: perhaps the R5. Sam Moffett is at 2, this time reportedly in the family Fiesta WRC. Garry Jennings is at 3 in his Subaru WRC. Desi Henry has upgraded to an ex-Henning Solberg Fiesta WRC and starts at 4. As we mentioned last week Joe McGonigle is trying a Fiesta WRC and he is at 5. Fresh from winning the Donegal Forestry Cathan McCourt is at 6, but he switches from his Fiesta to his May Day Stages winning Subaru Impreza WRC S14. Stephen McCann, Aidan Wray, Frank Wray and Declan McCrory, all in 4wd machinery, make up the top 10. The 2 wheel drive entry is pretty spectacular also. Chris Armstrong is the top Escort seed then it is Gary Kiernan, Gary McPhillips and David Bogie, fresh from winning the Scottish. Mixed in there is Declan Gallagher in his Starlet. And there are lots more. All stirring stuff!

Regards: Brian & Liz Patterson: Plus Michael Patterson and Paul McAuley

 

Irish Notes 15th May 2019

Irish Notes 15th May 2019

 

Hiccups there are aplenty in rallying. On the WRC events they are possibly bigger and more public. This time it all went right for Toyota Yaris driver Ott Tanak and his co-driver Martin Jarveoja as they took the rally victory and maximum power stage points, while Neuville had a big time hiccup in his quest to hold his WRC points lead.  On the previous two events Tanak’s Yaris was sidelined by niggly mechanical problems. Not so this time, Tanak and his Yaris were more or less perfect. World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier drove his Citroen almost over the limit to take 2nd place. While Sebastien Loeb, whose intriguing pace notes often include the instruction ‘plus plus’ who was on his first gravel outing in a Hyundai, was breathtakingly brilliant as he settled down to his i20.

 

“Flat out with the Choke Out” was an expression that Ott Tanak picked up from one of the Northern Ireland rally men when he was with M-Sport and his Fiesta WRC was fitted with D-Mack tyres. On this Rally Chile, in sometimes foggy and wet conditions, over very fast ‘shiny’ roads, Ott was stunningly fast. Last season he was tipped as a future World Rally Champion. That aspiration seemed to be fading fast over the last couple of rallies, but on these Chile stages, which were new to all the WRC drivers, the Estonian had the look of a driver not to be denied. Behind the top three, Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin did a sterling job for M-Sport to take 4th place – a really excellent drive. Teemu Sunninen in the 2nd M-Sport Fiesta had a few dramas on the slippy surfaces, but still 5th was a good result. Esapekka Lappi in the 2nd Citroen rounded off the top half dozen.

 

Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville is confident of rebounding from his huge Rally Chile crash immediately to fight for a World Rally Championship victory at the next round in Portugal

One of the biggest stories of the rally, an unfortunate one, was the retirement of Thierry Neuville and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul when their Hyundai barrel-rolled. Thank goodness they were only badly shaken, not seriously hurt. Thierry’s WRC points lead also took a tumble, but he is still definitely in the hunt. Latvala was only a second or two ahead of Neuville on the Saturday morning, in 3rd place, when the Neuville Hyundai crashed out. Then on Saturday afternoon Latvala was relegated off the leaderboard into Rally 2 when his Yaris sustained a broken driveshaft when it ran over a rock.

 

Kris Meeke battled on without a windscreen after a slow speed roll on the Saturday of Rally Chile. A further 1 min penalty after the rally dropped him back to 10th after the crew removed the damaged screen in a control area.

Kris Meeke and co-driver Sebastian Marshall was another crew to have a tough time. Kris was joint leader with Latvala on the opening stage, but then lost a few seconds in the mud and rain on the Friday. However he was still well in contention starting the Saturday leg until his Yaris ran wide on a corner and upended into the bushes. Kris and Seb were able, eventually, to get going and lost some more time running with a broken screen. Kris then took the screen out completely at a control, and then set some very good times running his Yaris without a screen. Eventually his Toyota was rebuilt as good as new and by setting some top three times he worked himself back up to 8th o/a by the finish. Subsequent to that he was penalised a minute for taking the screen out in a control zone, which relegated him to 10th, which was a real downer. Meeke is driving well, but it’s been a season of punctures and penalties so far. It was very dispiriting for the man who originally hails from the Bush Crossroads in Co. Tyrone. Surely, with all his ability, it has to get better for Kris soon.

 

Young Kalle Rovanpera won RC2 in his Skoda R5, from Mads Ostberg (Citroen R5). Gus Greensmith and co driver Elliot Edmondson overcame several mechanical niggles with their Fiesta R5 to take an excellent 3rd in the R5 category. The overall top WRC points standings are now:- Ogier 122, Tanak 112 and Neuville 110. The Championship now moves back to Europe and the next round is the Vodafone Rally de Portugal on 30th May – 2nd June.

 

Also last weekend were the Magherafelt Lanes Rally and Carlow Mini Stages. On the Magherafelt Targa event, with interesting tests run in bright sunny conditions, Liam & Niall Shaw in their Mazda MX-5 came out tops, ahead of Martin & Aaron Loughran, also in a Mazda. David Burns/Jason McGuickan (Fiesta ST) were 3rd.  In Carlow there was the closest of close finishes, with Ryan Loughran/Gareth Doherty just edging Damian Toner/Mick Coady by 0.7 of a second for victory. Toner had led for most of the way, but the win just slipped away at the end. Jack Newman/Andrew Browne made it an Escort Mk2 top three.

 

Other events last weekend included the Plains Rally where Euan Thorburn took victory in his all conquering Focus WRC.  A Focus WRC also came out tops on the Manx National, this one driven by Jason Pritchard. Donegal crew Martin Doherty/Kevin Flanagan had a great run on the Island to finish 13th o/a and win the Historic H1 category in their Escort RS 1800. Other crews to make the trip from here and to achieve decent finishes included Ian Chadwick/Kevin Horgan in an Impreza, and Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride in Dessie’s Porsche 911. John Devlin did the National B section of the rally with Ashley Trimble co-driving. Ashley is contesting the Protyre Asphalt Championship and partnered up with John in pursuit of points. A class win was just reward after a strong drive in thier Mk2.

 

This weekend coming on the home rally agenda it is the turn of the Donegal Forestry Rally, round 4 of the Valvoline backed Irish Forestry Championship. Top title contenders Michael Carbin (44pts), Niall Henry (40 Points) and Cathan McCourt (37pts), along with top 2wd contenders David Crossen and Mickey Conlon are all expected to contest the Bundoran based event on Saturday. Clerk of the Course John Crumlish has laid out three interesting stages, each to be run twice and it should prove a challenging and worthy day for the Championship contenders.

 

Euan Thornburn powers to victory on the Plains Rally – Photo CWL Rally Pictures

The motor club members have worked hard to ensure the stages are in good nick, which they are. The surface of gravel stages is a subjective topic. For example there were mutterings about this from some drivers after last weekend’s Plains Rally. However there is an arrangement there that Rally4Wales can only repair the roads after a rally, not before. If contractors cause damage, it is local companies who are employed to put down some stone. It reminds us of a time some years ago when we were commissioned by Motorsports International to note a rally in North America. When we got back we were asked how we got on, which was fine. However we did say that we thought the stages were very rough. The representative we were dealing with looked at us askance and enquired if we had ever driven the Safari route. Enough said. It is a rally after all, not a Formula 1 racetrack.

 

Looking forward to the weekend following, the Cavan Stages Rally looks really exciting, with many top names taking the opportunity for a real ‘tune-up’ before Donegal. Clerk of Course Stephen Kellett has arranged a superb set of stages, really brilliant roads, for the Sunday 26th May 9 stage event (plus a shakedown stage). The Cavan Rally may not be a round of the Triton Showers National Championship, but having an opt-out looks as if it will do no harm at all. Drivers of the calibre of Donagh Kelly, Declan Boyle and Garry Jennings are all tipped to be making the trip to Cavan. An interesting entry will be Joe McGonigle, down to drive a Fiesta WRC, Donegal man Joe wanting to try something different from the Mini WRC he has been campaigning. Cavan is a round of the Border Championship.

 

Further ahead, events on the horizon include the Clare Stages (Sunday 15th Sept) and the Directors of the Clare Club have decided to rename the event the Dougie Hughes Memorial Clare Stages Rally. Dougie always supported the Clare Club and indeed represented them at CAC meetings in Dawson Street. M. Fitzgibbon Contractors will be the main sponsor. Gerry O’Brien is again the Clerk of the Course. The rally will be based in the Hotel Woodstock and three smooth good quality stages are planned, each run three times. The club is planning a huge incentive scheme to help with entries.

 

A new event on the calendar is the Donegal Mini Stages on the 10th August. Johnny Baird will act as CoC. The main sponsor and host venue will be the Lagoon Bar & Restaurant, Termon. Johnny is planning to run two stages three times over a good mix of roads. The rally will be open to all, with special emphasis on beginners and novices.

Both the Donegal International and the Down Rally published the regulations this week and online entries are now live at both events respective websites.