Below is a short sample video along with our usual stage data samples for the Three Shires Rally 2019. We have completed our pre event recce and the notes and video are ready for posting from Tuesday 27th August.
This is the first closed public road event in this area of England, skirting around the foot of the Malvern Hills. There is a good mixture of challenges from the stages. As a first time event, the stages cant be so long, but they vary considerably. Narrow lanes to wide fast B type roads plus a quick run over one of the local country estate’s should provide a very enjoyable day’s rallying. Enjoy.
Three Shires Rally 2019 – Stage Data.
Notes & DVD are now available to order for despatch 27th August. Telephone 028 90844111 or order online at RallyNews.net – Click Here
Start to finish winning sounds fairly conclusive, maybe even easy, but for Craig Breen/Paul Nagle in their Hyundai i20 R5 taking that manner of victory on last weekend’s Ulster Rally was very far from ‘a walk in the park’. Despite non-stop pressure from British Rally Champion Matt Edwards and his co-driver Patrick Walsh in their Fiesta R5, win this revamped ‘Today’s’ backed Ulster Rally Craig did. In doing so, both Breen and Edwards achieved their immediate Championship ambitions – the former to clinch the 2019 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship title, the latter to score maximum British Rally Championship points and move into the BRC series lead, aiming for a renewal of his BRC title.
Craig Breen and Paul Nagle after securing the 2019 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship on the Ulster Rally.
Craig Breen’s winning margin ended up at 20 seconds, but for most of the rally the gap between the leading two hovered above and below the 10 second marker. It was only on the last few stages that the gap widened, as Edwards firstly probably realised that he wasn’t going to beat Breen, but also the Welshman undoubtedly got the news that his main rival for the British title, Tom Cave, had bashed his Hyundai against a wall in the penultimate stage and was forced to retire. Cave was 3rd at the time. Callum Devine/Brian Hoy in their Fiesta R5 had been 3rd for most of the day, then slipped to 4th but came back to 3rd following Cave’s retirement. This podium finish was a great result indeed for Devine.
Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson had a pretty good result as well, 4th o/a in their Skoda. Although 5th was a good finish for Alastair Fisher, it was a bit disappointing as well and didn’t reflect his many top three stage times, including one fastest. Co-driven in his Fiesta R5 as usual by Gordon Noble, Alastair started the rally knowing that if he could finish ahead of Craig Breen he may have been in with a chance of the Tarmac Title. That was not to be. On the very first stage, McGaffins Corner, the Fisher Fiesta indulged in a spin on a square right corner just before the stage finish. Alastair was suddenly 14 seconds down, back in 6th place, and such was the pace at the front, he was faced with a Herculean task to fight back into the frame. Alastair battled hard over the next few stages and was mixing times with the leaders, but then his Fiesta suffered some sort of a throttle mechanism glitch. This left Fisher over a minute away from the lead, and opened the door wide for Craig to take the Tarmac Title, even with the Cork ‘20’ and its bonus points still to come. This made it quite a week for Waterford man Craig, as it was also tipped on the run up to the Ulster that he will drive the factory Hyundai i20 WRC on Wales Rally GB (3rd – 6th October).
In overall terms, the Ulster Rally took on a new format this year, with three good quality stages repeated three times, all in one day. This much shorter event left the rally even more of a flat out battle than before. Such was the pace that several of the top crews found themselves side-lined during the course of the hot and heavy action – just some included, as already mentioned, Tom Cave, while Josh Moffett inverted his Fiesta and blocked stage 3. Jonny Greer had a field trip in his Fiesta and eventually retired after a good showing, when his car suffered brake failure when a front calliper cried enough and Jonny stopped as a precaution. Marty McCormack put up a spirited drive and scored one fastest time in the heat of the battle, but overcooked matters on the final stage and ditched his Tiger Risk Skoda. Further high profile retirements included Alex Laffey (Mechanical), James Wilson (Off road), Alan Carmichael (Off road) and Frank Kelly (off road early and later broken rear brake disc/calliper).
There were of course many success stories as well; Stuart Biggerstaff/Anthony Nestor finished 7th o/a and won the Ulster National in their Fiesta. It was touch and go for Stuart towards the day’s end as his Fiesta engine gave some cause for concern. Damian Toner was his usual brilliant self and, with co-driver Michael Coady finished best Escort, with David Condell/Paul Kelly in their Mk2 just a handful of seconds further back. Toner and Condell were 8th and 9th o/a, with another Mk2 Escort, the Camillus Bradley/Crawford Henderson machine, 10th o/a. Josh McErlean/Keaton Williams were a brilliant 12th o/a and won the R2 race in their Peugeot 2018 from James Williams/Dai Roberts (Fiesta R2T). Jordan Hone (Opel Adam) was 3rd Junior home. McErlean has won the British Junior Rally Champions title, even with one round, the Galloway Hills, remaining. He also receives a fat bonus cheque from Peugeot UK/Total for his efforts.
William Creighton/Liam Regan were thought before the event to be in the running for British Junior points but a small off early on damaged their Peugeot 208’s radiator and they ran for most of the day in Rally 2, still setting good times. A crew chasing a different type of British Championship points were Stanley Orr/Graham Henderson. In their case it was the Historic series and they didn’t disappoint, winning the Historics outright in their MK1 Escort, and that followed a last minute sweat over getting the Mk1’s engine installed following a mechanical hiccup on Epynt three weeks ago. Stanley finished a fairly amazing 16th o/a in his RS 1600. 2nd in the Historics but winning their class was Adrian Hetherington/Ronan O’Neill. Ray Cunningham/Jared Gill (Mini Cooper S) also had a good class winning run.
Matt Edwards moving into the lead of the BRC.
Other news from last weekend included Jan Kopecky winning the European Championship Barum Czech Rally, with Filip Mares 2nd and Chris Ingram/Rob Whittock 3rd, all in Skodas. Current European Champion Lukyanuk ran in Super Rally following delays including a puncture on his Citroen. Lukyanuk still leads the points from Lubasj Habaj, with Chris Ingram 3rd o/a as well as 2nd in the premier Junior part of the Championship.
This coming weekend the Triton Showers National Championship switches back into action with the Gort based Galway Summer Stages, while also the World Rally Championship resumes in Germany.
Roy White/James O’Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC). Photo: Martin Walsh.
The Galway event is the penultimate round of the Triton series, and Monaghan’s Josh Moffett is in an extremely favourable position to wrap up the National title come Sunday evening at the Lady Gregory Hotel finish. The Monaghan man has won five of the six rounds held so far, and was placed 2nd on the other one. His closest opposition for the title that has eluded him up to now is former National Champion Roy White. Both men will drive Fiesta WRC’s. For Clonmel man White to topple Moffett from his strong position would take a very big upset indeed. Moffett has Andy Hayes co-driving, while the vastly experienced James O’Brien sits in with White as usual. Behind the duelling duo at the front there is a capacity entry with many talented drivers competing for a great variety of class awards and Championship points. Actually seeded at number 1 is last year’s Galway Summer winning crew of Johnny Pringle/Paul Sheridan; however their Mk2 Escort will almost certainly start behind the Fiesta WRC’s of Moffett and White. Also in the top line-up will be Hugh Hunter from Wales in a Focus WRC, Ian Barrett in a Subaru WRC as well as Kevin Eves in his amazingly quick RWD Corolla, Gary Kiernan (Escort) and James Stafford in another very fast car, his Darrian T90. Rounding off the top ten is former National Champion Niall Maguire in his Subaru WRC, plus another Welsh visitor, Steve Woods in a Fiesta WRC. There are 9 very good stages (three locations repeated three times) on the agenda. C of C Aiden Connolly looks to have organised a very good event, and come the Sunday tea time finish at the Lady Gregory Hotel in Gort, we could well know the destination of this year’s Triton Showers National Rally Champion’s title.
Meanwhile in Germany for this counter the WRC switches from gravel to asphalt stages, some through beautiful vineyard terrain and also with stretches across tough military training grounds. This is the 10th round of the 2019 World Rally Championship and the fight for points supremacy is still fairly evenly poised. However at the same time, it has to be said that Ott Tanak in his Toyota is looking ever stronger. He has slowly but surely opened up a gap to current World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier in his Citroen, with Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) a few more points back. There is nobody else in the hunt really. In the Toyota team, as well as Tanak for this 19 stage event will be Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke. Interestingly, also driving a Toyota, but not under the ‘works’ banner but entered by Tommi Makinen in a Yaris WRC is Takamoto Katsuta. As well as Ogier in the factory Citroen will be Esapekka Lappi. In M-Sport Ford Fiestas will be Teemu Sunninen and Gus Greensmith, the latter again standing in for the injured Elfyn Evans. The ‘Big Four’ teams are rounded off by Hyundai and as well as Thierry Neuville there will be Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen in i20 WRC’s. In addition to the WRC machinery, there is a big line-up of R5 cars, including the new Eco-boost Fiesta R5, to be driven by the experienced Eric Camilli.
Looking further ahead, to the weekend of 7th/8th September, the Wexford Club is running its stage event. As ever the stages feel very good, and as well as lots of sweeping fast stuff through the beautiful countryside which we have become accustomed to in Wexford, C of C Mark Cooper has introduced some tighter roads as well. There are three stages on the Saturday and two on the Sunday, with every stage run three times. The HQ is the Riverbank Hotel in Wexford, right beside the Slaney River Estuary.
On the same weekend as Wexford there is also a closed road rally on in the UK on the Saturday, the ‘Three Shires’ and also on the Sunday will be the first closed road special Stage rally in Wales, the ‘Get Connected Rali Bae Ceredigion’. The Welsh event has attracted a sparkling top entry – the top 10 reads Tom Cave at 1, then it is David Bogie, Osian Pryce, Daniel Harper, Damian Cole, Merion Evans, Hugh Hunter, David Wood, Steve Simpson and Jason Pritchard; all in 4 WD cars. Traditionally the Wexford entry has attracted a large Welsh contingent, and it was thought that the Ceredigion would hurt it, but reportedly the Ceredigion reached capacity so quickly, Wexford is still getting a good turnout from across the Irish Sea. The stages on the Three Shires (the title comes from a corner confluence of three beautiful English Counties – Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, all in the shadow of the Malvern Hills. The nature of the roads is mixed – some fast, some narrow country ‘laney’ roads, some parkland – all very nice. The Ceredigion is made up of exceptionlly dramatic mountain type roads, including an exciting trip down the side of a major reservoir as a feature, and also with some narrow farm roads thrown in for good measure.
Looking even further ahead, the Dougie Hughes Memorial Clare Stages Clerk of the Course Gerry O’Brien tells us that he has laid out three very interesting stages for his 14th/15th September event. Each still will run three times. One of those stages is from an old Circuit of Ireland and hasn’t been used since those far off days! The event is a counting round of the West Coast Championship and already competitor interest is building. Some of the top names listed so far include Ian Barrett (Darrian), Denis Moynihan (R5), Ian Roche and both Ken and Keith Lyons. There will be a shakedown stage. The rally is being backed by the Hotel Woodstock, which will be HQ. Service will be in the Clare Mart complex.
Finally for now, it is with a very heavy heart that we record the death of John Mulholland. Sadly he passed away last Saturday morning 17th August following a courageous fourteen month battle against cancer. John chose to have his last hours at his home outside Randalstown. He was 55 years old. John was described to us a long time ago in the nicest possible way as a “rocket ship”. He was non-stop super lively, built a tremendous car dealership from virtually a standing start. He loved his family, his life, his pet animals, his holiday cottage in Donegal, his garages and his rallying. He was as straight as the day is long, and had a lovely, very special way with him. He was a very good, astute businessman, but completely ‘human’ at the same time and we have never heard a bad word said against him.
One small story typifies John. Many years ago, when he was starting to sell cars, he took a very big chance and bought a short wheelbase Audi Quattro Sport. His father Dermot told him he was mad. But John could see a bit further up the road. Sure enough, he sold the car well, to an enthusiast from Switzerland. Some years later John was in an upmarket Belfast jewellers wanting his Breitling watch serviced. The immaculate man behind the counter excused himself and took the watch to the back of the shop. All of a sudden there were two security men flanking John, wanting to know where he got the Breitling. John explained about selling the Audi Quattro Sport to a gentleman from Switzerland, whom had then sent him the watch as a gift in appreciation of the way he handled the affair of the sale. It transpired that the customer owned Breitling. The watch was absolutely genuine, a personal specially manufactured gift, with no serial number but identification inside. It was so typical of John Mulholland – virtually every person who bought a car from him was made to feel special. Over the years he built up his own collection of rally cars. One of them was an ex Vatanen car and then through that John looked after Ari when he came to Northern Ireland a year or so go. That gave John a real buzz – to have Ari staying in his home. John was never happier than when he was competing or helping on a rally, or looking after his son Johnnie on an event. He sponsored rallies, including the Ulster. He helped a lot of people over the years and this year he had pledged £40,000 to the Friends of the Cancer Centre. He commented a while ago, “When I was diagnosed with cancer, it came as a complete shock. I have been so well looked after by all those involved in my treatment. I am particularly thankful to Friends of the Cancer Centre and my specialist nurse Melanie. By committing to donate at least £40,000 this year, we hope to fund at least 1600 nursing hours” John fought so hard to beat his kidney cancer, but succumbed in the end.
He bought another Skoda Rally car to compete in this year’s Donegal, but pulled the entry when he realised he wouldn’t be up to it. He was then taken into hospital a few weeks ago. Then it became clear the end was coming. He insisted on being brought to his own home, to be with his family, his horses, his dogs and his alpacas. Even that massive resolve of his, the drive, strength and personality he had, couldn’t see him through this one. It was an honour to have known this open, ethical, very proper man. He was very special. To his wife Alicia, his children Alicia, Shona, Johnnie, Anna, his father Dermot, his staff at the garages who all thought the world of him, his further relatives and all his many friends, we extend our heartfelt condolences.
Below is a short sample video along with our usual stage data samples for the Rali Bae Ceredigion 2019. We have completed our pre event recce and the notes and video are ready for posting from Tuesday 27th August.
This is a the first ever closed public road event in Wales. The stages are a good mixture of high speed hill top roads with some technical type roads and lanes. For some of the more experienced competitors, there would be some familiarity for those with Welsh road rally experience. Enjoy the sample video.
Rali Bae Ceredigion 2019 – Stage Data.
Ceredigion Sample 2019
Notes & DVD are now available to order for despatch 27th August. Telephone 028 90844111 or order online at RallyNews.net – Click Here
Just a couple of days to go to the ‘Today’ backed Ulster Rally, now based in Newry and an important event indeed in that it could be pivotal for many driver’s 2019 aspirations. The thing is, the Rally is a counter in so many Championships at this critical time that many drivers will have a fair idea by Saturday night as just how their rally year is going to pan out. At the top of the Tarmac the story is all about Craig Breen and his closest challenger Alastair Fisher, while on the BRC the position at the top couldn’t be any more poised with Matt Edwards and Tom Cave tying. There are lots of other parts of the Championship to be decided also of course.
Keeping his hand in, Craig Breen finished 5th in the final of Round 5 of the Titans RX Rallycross series on Saturday, in Montalegre, Portugal. The Hyundai driver is in top form and match fit.
In the Tarmac Craig Breen is on 68 points and Fisher on 62. For Breen this Hyundai i20 R5 will be a different car, but with all his WRC experience it should be no problem at all for the Waterford man to quickly bed himself in. Alastair Fisher hasn’t been in a rally car since Donegal, and he is hoping for a short test this Thursday in his Fiesta R5, then a run over the ‘shakedown stage’. Alastair commented from his Fermanagh base earlier this week, “We have had a look at the DVD of the stages, and there seems to be a lot of work in the roads. It will be quite a challenge.” When asked could he beat Breen, Alastair, whose wife Fiona has just given birth to a baby girl, Zara, to keep wee Tommy company and make it a ‘gentleman’s family’, continued, “I don’t know. There has been that wee difference between us all season: and anyone who questions if Craig is really flat out should be assured that he is!” One of the surprise packets in the Tarmac has been the performance of Callum Devine, and he is lying 3rd in the points, with Josh Moffett 4th. Even though there are bonus points on the final Tarmac round in Cork, it seems unlikely that either of these two will however make any impression on the top rung of the points ladder. Never say never in rallying of course.
Jordan Hone will be looking to overcome his Ypres disappointing retirement. Maybe one to watch this Saturday.
In the Junior section of the Tarmac, William Creighton leads from Johnny Mulholland and in GpN, William Mavitty leads from Andy Davies. In the BRC, behind the tying Edwards and Cave, David Bogie is in 3rd and Marty McCormack 4th. Bogie seems to have given up on the Championship, while McCormack is adamant that his rallying this year is all about having fun in his Mk2 Escort as well as his ‘Tiger Risk’ backed Skoda. As well as enjoying his ‘home International Ulster Rally’, Marty admits he will also be trying to win it! But then as Marty points out, most of the top ten crews will be trying for, and capable of, a win. As well as the drivers we have mentioned above, that top ten includes Sam Moffett, Desi Henry, and Jonny Greer. Just outside the magical ten are some more very handy drivers – think for example of Alex Laffey, Daniel Cronin and James Wilson. Seeded amongst the top International drivers are a few ‘National’ entrants, Alan Carmichael in a Hyundai R5 and Stuart Biggerstaff in a Fiesta amongst them. The rally more or less passes the Biggerstaff ‘home’ place, so it should be a great thrill for Stuart to be rallying in this territory. It has to be remembered though that even if former NI Champion Stuart Biggerstaff is the fastest driver overall ‘on the day’, he can’t win the Ulster International Rally and that the Ulster National Rally has its own prizes.
The Ulster Rally are providing a free Spectator Programme in Todays Shops Northern Ireland with all the information you need for this year’s event. Also a Free Download: – Click on the image
One of the real highlights of this Ulster International Rally is likely to be the battle between the BRC Junior contenders. Josh McErlean heads the points from William Creighton. (Josh is going for his 3rd win: Creighton’s aim is to deny him so he can claim his first). James Williams is 3rd following his brilliant drive on the Ypres Rally. Other Junior drivers who will no doubt be right in the thick of the action include Jordan Hone, Marty Gallagher, Finlay Retson and Ruari Bell. (The latter driver leads the M-Sport/Pirelli Junior Fiesta R2T points, a separate challenge). In addition to all the different classes there will be a great Historic battle going on, as the rally is a counter in the Fuschs Motorsport UK Historic series – where drivers such as Stanley Orr (Escort), Adrian Hetherington (Escort) and Ray Cunningham (Mini) will do battle with top drivers from further afield, including Simon Webster, Rudi Lancaster and Joe Price, all in Escorts. There are three Porsches entered – two of them in Historic guise, to be driven by Rikki Proffitt and Adrian Kermode, and a more modern one, a 993 GT3, in the hands of John Coyne. On the subject of Escorts, some of the fastest state of the art Mk2s in the country will be out on Saturday – the top three in the hands of Damian Toner, Camillus Bradley and Frank Kelly. Something for every petrol-head enthusiast then on this rally: the first of the 9 special stages is ‘McGaffin’s Corner’ which starts at 08.36 on Saturday morning. From there it is down to a Regroup in Banbridge at 9.21. Following that, stage 2 Bronte Homeland will be at 9.36 and stage 3 Shinn Bridge at 10.06 Then it is on to service in Newry, with that complete loop repeated twice more during the day before the ramp ceremony back in Newry at 17.40.
Further rally news away from the Ulster includes Eric Patterson winning last Saturday’s Ratfriland MC J McClimond Engineering Targa Rally. Patterson was driving an MX-5 and was co-driven by Raymond Donaldson. Mark Francis/Adam Hilditch were 2nd, 12s back and Steven Cromie/Taylor Gribbon were 3rd, to make it an MX-5 top three.
Over in Scotland last weekend, Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton won the Grampian Rally in their Focus WRC to clinch this season’s Scottish Championship. Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick in their Subaru finished 2nd on the rally, 27 seconds back.
Early news on the Galway Summer Stages: a round of the Triton Showers National series, as well as the West Coast and the Sligo Pallets Border Championship. The rally is being sponsored by and is centred at the Lady Gregory Hotel in Gort. CoC Aiden Connolly reports some of the leading early entries from the 125 plus received include Josh Moffett, Hugh Hunter, James Stafford, Frank Kelly and Gary Kiernan.
The MG Car Club (Ulster Centre) has put out regulation details for their MG Ulster Trial which is based in Co. Down and takes place on the evening of Friday 30th August.
On the WRC front it has been confirmed that Elfyn Evans is to miss the next WRC round, which is Germany, to give his back injury more time to heal. Gus Greensmith will again drive Elfyn’s M-Sport Fiesta.
Motorsport Ireland has unveiled early details of a new co-drivers academy. Greg Shinnors, who co-drove for the brilliant late Rory Galligan as well as Roy White and Keith Cronin, is one of the men behind this initiative, along with the Billy Coleman Award co-ordinator Sean McHugh. There are lots of benefits sure to help an aspiring co-driver. Further enquiries to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Incredibly high speeds were once again the hallmark of Rally Finland, with Estonian Ott Tanak in his Toyota Yaris WRC, just like last year, fastest of all over the Finnish gravel tracks, huge jumps, blind corners over crests, rutted sandy tracks, all at a zillion miles an hour. It was Tanak’s two Toyota team mates Meeke and Latvala who were his closest challengers for much of the early part of the rally, with Citroen driver Lappi in the mix as well. Eventually Latvala backed off slightly and Meeke’s Yaris was side-lined. Instead it was Esapekka Lappi who flew the flag magnificently for Citroen to take 2nd, sandwiched between the Toyotas of Tanak in 1st and Latvala in 3rd.
Ott Tanak storms to victory in Finland
The importance of co-drivers on this rally, indeed any rally, was emphasised when news came through that Gus Greensmith, standing in for Elfyn Evans in the works Ford M-Sport Fiesta WRC crashed out on the final day after doing a good job for M-Sport. Greensmith reported the accident was a result of a ‘misunderstanding’ with his notes. Of course, it should always be remembered that it takes two to tango and who knows exactly what happened in the car.
Ott Tanak had Martin Jarveoja co-driving, Esapekka had Janne Ferm, and Latvala was accompanied by Mikka Anttila. Such was the pressure on the co-drivers in this high speed helter-skelter of a rally that they all deserve a medal. Meeke’s mishap had nothing to do with notes or his co-driver Seb Marshall, but seemed to be because a rock had appeared at the side of the track. Latvala’s Yaris reportedly touched that rock and he escaped with a slow puncture on the left rear wheel. Kris’s Toyota clipped the rock a little harder and the impact took out the driver’s side rear suspension. To make it an even worse weekend for Meeke, he re-joined the event on the Sunday and competed in Super Rally, only to retire again – this time damaging the front left suspension skimming along a grass verge and hedge on a left hand bend.
Kris Meeke flying high in Finland.
Tanak’s two principal current rivals for the World Rally Champion’s title, Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville, made heavy weather of this high speed chase through the Finnish countryside. Ogier struggled with his road position on the Friday, although Tanak was faced with much the same proposition and managed very well, but World Rally Champion Ogier found himself in 7th going into the final two days and then, although not feeling very well, drove his Citroen as hard as he knew how, to get into 5th, albeit just a few seconds behind Andreas Mikkelsen in the Hyundai.
Thierry Neuville, by his own high standards, never really got into the groove and he finished 6th, having been further back for most of the rally. Indeed the Belgian could just have easily finished 7th but for Craig Breen taking a 20 second lateness penalty going to the start of the penultimate stage. Craig, co-driven by Paul Nagle, wasn’t complaining at all about perhaps having to do his team mate a favour in garnering a few extra WRC points. Craig was just delighted that Hyundai had opened the WRC door for him after many months in the wilderness. It is all very well contesting European and Irish Tarmac events, but there is nothing, just absolutely zilch, that compares with the World Rally Championship. And Craig did a good job for Hyundai, especially considering it was his first time in the i20 WRC. He was in the top half dozen from the start, mixing it with the best in the world and on the fastest and most competitive gravel stages in the Championship. Craig certainly did not let himself down. Teemu Sunninen in the M-Sport WRC finished 8th, over a minute on stage times down on Craig. A very possible future WRC Champion, young Kalle Rovanpera was a solid, unflurried 9th – driving an R5 car. Admittedly he was a long way behind the WRC machinery, but on this type of ultra-quick stages, that is only to be expected.
Craig Breen and Paul Nagle in their Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT on Stage 4 Urria during Round 9 of the FIA World Rally Championship in Jyväskylä, Finland. Photo by Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Just to underline his class, Tanak rounded off his victory by setting fastest time in the Power Stage. This leaves Ott on 180 points, Ogier on 158 and Neuville 155. The next round of the Championship is over the asphalt stages of Rally Germany on 22nd – 25th August. (One week after the Ulster.)
Meanwhile nearer home, Aaron and Noelle McLaughlin in a Fiesta took victory on the Maiden City MC’s MJM Dogleap Rally at Shackleton, finishing 1m 16s ahead of Barry Morris/Declan Campbell (Darrian T90 GTR. Trevor McConnell/Gareth Deazlay (Lancer) were 3rd. Gareth Sayers/Gareth Gilchrist in their Fiesta R5 had been up to 2nd by midpoint, but retired in the latter part of the 6 stage event.
The next major home rally is the Ulster, (August 16th/17th). The event is a counter in the Irish Tarmac Championship as well as the British Rally Championship and Historics. There will be a shakedown stage on Friday 16th, and then on the Saturday there will be three stages repeated three times. The “Today’s” supermarket chain backed event will have a service area at Newry High School and there will be regroup controls in the centre of Banbridge. Entries have reportedly been finalised, and Craig Breen commented at the end of Rally Finland that he will be back in action on the Ulster.
Craig won the opening three events in this year’s Tarmac Championship – the Galway, Easter Stages and Killarney Lakes, so is well placed to take the title. He drove a Fiesta R5 on those three rounds, and switches to a Hyundai i20 R5 for the Ulster. Fresh from their Rally Finland exploits, Craig and his co-driver Paul Nagle should be in top form for this event and indeed have to be considered the odds on favourites. However, the opposition will be tough, relentlessly so. There are quite a few very talented drivers in the best of R5 cars at the top of the entry, both from the Tarmac Championship and the BRC perspective. Craig will want to win the rally outright, quite apart from trying for maximum points to reinforce his Tarmac lead. Just some of the drivers who could give Craig problems are Alastair Fisher, Callum Devine, Sam and Josh Moffett, Jonny Greer, Desi Henry, Daniel Cronin, Marty McCormack. For the record, Craig has four maximum scores, 68 points; Alistair Fisher has 62, Callum Devine 47 and Josh Moffett 38.
The principal BRC contenders will almost certainly be Matt Edwards, Tom Cave, Merion Evans or Alex Laffey. (Small in quantity, high in quality). That is just skimming the surface of the talented drivers who will be contesting the rally and will surely be in the hunt. Further back there will certainly be a good turnout of talented juniors, the best for years, plus some interesting and very fast Historic crews. More news on the Ulster next week and also more news on the Galway Summer: next counter in the Triton Showers National Championship. The always popular Galway Summer rally is on 24th/25th August, and is reportedly looking really good and at the last count had 125 entries and counting. The rally is based in Gort.
Monaghan’s Sam Moffett and co-driver James O’Reilly (Ford Fiesta R5) won the Crafted Fitted Furniture Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally, rounds five and six of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship that was based in Mallow. Picture: Martin Walsh.
Shades of two years ago when he won the Valvoline Forestry Championship (as well as the Triton & the Tarmac) sprang to mind when Sam Moffett surged into the lead of last weekend’s two day Cork Forestry Rally, the double header penultimate counter in this year’s Valvoline series. Barry McKenna/Andy Hayes in their Fiesta R5 held a slender lead for a day and a half of this superb Cork MC forestry rally, but in the Ballyhoura Mountain stages Moffett, co-driven by James O’Reilly in a similar R5 to McKenna’s, seemed to go up a gear while McKenna appeared to drop down a cog. Time and again over recent years Moffett has displayed this ability to stick close to the leaders and then when it mattered, move into a lead. These two, McKenna and Moffett, were separated by only a few seconds stage after stage, and then when Sam made his move the lead ballooned to 20 seconds. It was some drive and quite a
rally. In all fairness though, McKenna had to ease off as his Fiesta radiator took a hammering over a jump and the temperature reading soared so much McKenna switched off the ‘anti-lag’ on the final stage.
Billy Coleman Award winner James Wilson meanwhile did his reputation no harm at all by taking a start to finish 3rd. Keady man Wilson was driving a Hyundai i20 R5, his first real 4wd adventure through the forests. His next outing will be on the Ulster where the stages around Newry, while not quite on his home patch, are not a million miles away. Cathan McCourt/Barry McNulty (Fiesta) finished 4th o/a and scored a bundle of Valvoline points on this double header, and have moved into the lead of the Championship. It would appear, even with one round remaining, that Cathan McCourt has done enough to secure the Valvoline Champion title. Michael Carbin had led the series before Cork and he scored decent points in Cork, but is now 12 points behind McCourt with just the 7th September Lakeland to go and presumably when dropped scores are taken into account can’t catch Cathan McCourt.
Round 5 winners Barry McKenna & Andy Hayes in a Ford Fiesta R5 Pic – Ger Leahy
Making up the top half dozen finishers in Cork were Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley in their Skoda Fabia R5, Donagh still gaining experience with the Fabia. Conor McCourt/Brian Hoy were 6th in their Fiesta R5.
In the two wheel drive category David Condell/Paul Kelly had an excellent run in their Escort, finishing 12th o/a, best 2 wheel drive and winning class 14. Gary Kiernan, more usually seen on the asphalt stages, was 13th and won class 13. Interestingly William Creighton/Liam Regan were 3rd in two wheel drive with their Peugeot 208 R2 and were a brave class winning 15th o/a. In the normal run of things David Crossen/Aileen Kelly would be the 2WD crew to beat, but on this occasion David’s Mk2 gave problems – wonky power steering on the first two stages, a delay behind Mickey Conlon’s excursion, and then a snookered gearbox on the final Saturday stage which meant freewheeling over the finish line, all meaning he had to give best to David Condell on day one by half a second. With no spare gearbox Crossen couldn’t restart on the Sunday.
Kyle White/Sean Topping in action in Cork pic by Cian Don
Still, it is not all doom and gloom for the Comber man: he leads the two- wheel drive category in the Championship and hopes to have the gearbox sorted in time for the Lakeland. His closest pursuer for 2WD honours is William Creighton, and Finaghy man William would need to finish in the top five overall on the Fermanagh event, with Crossen not scoring, to take the 2WD honours. (Crossen was 2nd o/a and won the 2WD category in 2017.) Other 2WD exponents in the wars included Mickey Conlon, his Escort bursting a brake pipe in stage 3 on the Saturday and then sailing off the road at the ensuing chicane. Mickey recovered well for the Sunday when he was fastest in his class. Shane McGirr was trying a G3 Escort in Cork, the car reportedly still needing a touch of tailoring so that it suits Shane and he retired on both days.
Big interest in Cork was centred on the Junior sections. In some ways the Junior rating is a tad confusing: the winner of class 16 may be considered best Junior, or class 16A, and indeed some people feel that the class 2 winner, in this case William Creighton in his fully homologated Peugeot 208 R2, should qualify for the moniker. Then there is the Junior 1000 class, which is a different category altogether.
In class 16 Brian Brady/Gary McNamee (Civic) were the clear winners from Kieran Lynch/Adam Power (Civic). Class 16A winners were Kyle White/Sean Topping (Peugeot 208 R2) from Derek Mackarel/Muireann Hayes (Adam R2). 23 year old Kyle from Dunmurry had a fraught time even before the rally started. He had to work at night in the family garage to change his 208 from tarmac to gravel spec following the Down Rally, where he also tasted Junior success. Then in Cork he had fuel feed and clutch issues with the Peugeot, so it was a great result in the end!
Jordan Hone had led 16A in the early part of the Saturday, but his Opel Adam gearbox played up more and more as the day wore on and he finished the day 2nd to Mackarel. His co-driving father Paul agreed with the decision not to continue into the Sunday leg, to save the car for the Ulster. Brian Brady/Gary McNamee’s class winning performance earned them the Junior Academy (mixed surface) champion’s title for 2019, an MI scheme backed financially by John Coyne and which is designed to provide €15,000 support for next season. Their result is all the more remarkable as Brady has no real loose surface experience and his forest preparation consisted of a couple of hours sliding around a fifteen acre field belonging to Breen McNamee. They also didn’t check the notes for Cork – just left that to Breen, drove the rally to the notes and had a great time plus a terrific result.
In the Junior 1000 category, Kyle & Kieran McBride in a Toyota Ago took victory. This win places Kyle in an uncatchable position in the Mick O’Brien sponsored J1000 series. 2nd place went to absolute novice Ioan Lloyd; son of Welsh Area Rally Spares chief Gareth Lloyd, no stranger to Irish rallying. Ioan had an absolute, total enthusiastic ball through the Cork Forests and put out the following (slightly edited) e-mail after the rally: “Class weekend in Cork for the Jim Walsh Forestry! We managed 2 fastest (class) stage times and had great fun all weekend battling along! Must say thanks to everyone! The car was great and we jelled into it well thanks to Tom Gahan. Dai was a magician on the notes. We had a great laugh all weekend and he kept me on it on every stage. Hero! Thanks to mum and dad for all the support and on the spanners and catering as well as David Byrne for a great job spannering. Thanks to Patterson Pacenotes for top notch notes! The Coalman’s for the class hospitality and Walter for our stay! Thanks to all our sponsors”
Must be great to be young!
We know one Civic crew were hospitalised following their Cork accident, and we wish them a full recovery. All in all though, everyone we have talked to thought the two day rally, the stages, the organisation, was great. Take a bow Paul Casey and all the Cork MC organisers, plus all those who came from further afield to help out. It is a courageous matter for a relatively small club to run a two day forest event of this magnitude.
Also last weekend both Stanley Orr and Adrian Hetherington headed over to Wales for the Epynt based Harry Flatters Rally. Both drivers were out of luck – Adrian’s Escort succumbed early on to a fuel related problem, while Stanley and his co-driver Graham Henderson were going very well and in a strong position of not just winning their class but of taking maximum British Historic points until on the long penultimate stage his Mk1 went off song and he thought it best to call it a day.
Looking forward to this weekend coming, much rally attention will be focused on the Neste Rally Finland. One shattering piece of early news is that Haydon Paddon had no sooner put the story out regarding how pleased he was testing with his M-Sport Fiesta WRC than he wrecked the car in further familiarisation runs. The Fiesta WRC is now considerably shorter, front and back, than it was when it left Cockermouth. M-Sport has been forced to withdraw the entry. The only bright side is that Haydon Paddon and his co-driver John Kennard were able to walk away. The accident happened on a flat out 6th gear absolute right, slightly hidden behind a small crest. Unfortunately there was a rock ‘on the line’. The car hit it so hard it split the sump guard and catapulted the Fiesta into the trees. Kiwi Haydon said later, “You have to push the car to the limit to make it work. In a sport like this you can’t have roses every day. For the absolute highs to matter and mean so much you have to have absolute lows and this is one of them.” That is a sentiment most rally crews would echo!
This leaves the top WRC entries much the same as usual, apart from Gus Greensmith replacing the injured Elfyn Evans in the M-Sport Ford team. Gus has Elliott Edmondsen co-driving in the Fiesta and they join Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen for Ford. Of course another variation from the norm is Craig Breen/Paul Nagle appearing for Hyundai, joining regulars Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen. Citroen has World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm in C3 WRCs. For Toyota we have Meeke, Tanak and Latvala. Another new face in the WRC’s is Jouni Virtananen, who is in a Fiesta WRC. There are lots of Scandanavians in R5s, and they will be joined by Welsh crew Rhys Yates/James Morgan in their Skoda Fabia R5.
Not for nothing has Rally Finland earned the reputation of rallying’s F1. It could be a fascinating event, not least from the aspect of Tanak’s ongoing meteoric bid to wrest the world title away from Ogier, with Neuville right there in the thick of it. Tanak has 150 points: Ogier 146 and Neuville 143. It is just a couple of years ago since Kris Meeke won the rally and Craig Breen was 3rd. A touch of that again wouldn’t be so bad, in any order!
Closer to home this weekend, Maiden City MC is running the Dogleap Stage Rally at Shackleton on Saturday and have attracted a wide variety of entries such as, from Dominic McNeill/Tommy Speers in a Fiesta WRC to Gareth Sayers/Gareth Gilchrist in a Fiesta R5 and Eugene Meegan/Sarah Whelan in a Citroen DS3R5. There is a wide selection of Escort pilots as well, including John Bonner, Paul McErlean, Seamus McDaid, Tommy O’Connell, Ryan McCusker and a whole more. Indeed there is a very wide variety of cars listed: from Lancers to Civics to Subarus etc!
Below is a short sample video along with our usual stage data samples for the Ulster Rally 2019. We have completed our pre event recce and the notes and video are ready for posting week commencing 5th August. We no longer say too much about the stages, but in the case of the Ulster rally, the stages are too good not to say anything about them. They may have familiar names from the past, but in reality the roads that have been chosen, as far as we are concerned, are new stages. We started with a clean sheet of paper. In usual Ulster rally fashion, the stages are very technical, not too fast, with lots and lots of driving. Old school rallying. Enjoy the sample video.
Ulster Sample HD 2
Ulster Rally 2019 – Stage Data.
Notes & DVD are now available to order for despatch W/C 5th August. Telephone 028 90844111 or order online at RallyNews.net – Click Here
Last weekend was certainly a momentous one for sports fans, as Shane Lowry was cementing his record round at Royal Portrush, Fermanagh’s Jon Armstrong was chalking up his first rally win by some margin on the Carryduff Forklift backed Down event. It certainly wasn’t all plain sailing for Lowry nor Armstrong on his first competitive run in a World Rally Car. Co-driven by Noel O’Sullivan, Jon settled into his first drive in a Mini Countryman WRC and he was soon right on the pace with the leaders. Then on stage 4 his Mini WRC incurred a puncture, which dropped him back and his leadership bid then really intensified.
Jon Armstrong/Noel O’Sullivan recovered from an early puncture to win last weekend’s Carryduff Forklift Down Rally.
Through those early stages Jonny Greer led and looked as if he was on course to repeat his win of last year, but unfortunately for him gearbox woes intervened. Also right in the frame early on was Merion Evans, but he crunched a front wheel of his Skoda R5 into a kerb and he also was forced to retire. Stephen Wright/Liam Moynihan in their Fiesta R5 then led, but were overhauled by the Armstrong/O’Sullivan combo and they took victory by 20 seconds. Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell made it two Mini WRCs on the podium with their 3rd place finish. Harper also had the satisfaction of being top points scorer of the Protyre Tarmac Championship contenders. Melvyn Evans/Aled Davies had a steady run in their Fabia R5 to take 4th.
Derek McGarrity/Paddy Robinson had all sorts of headaches on their way to 5th. Derek picked the wrong tyres initially, then the rear anti-roll broke and on another stage his Fiesta WRC picked up a puncture. Derek reckoned at day’s end that he really only had one clean stage. Still, he was realistic in realising that he couldn’t have done a whole lot better than 5th and the result keeps him in the NI Championship hunt. He did pay tribute to Jon Armstrong’s drive and commented “He is certainly one of the top three fastest drivers in this country: he just needs a bundle of money to make it happen!” Steve Wood/Keith Moriarity finished 6th in Steve’s recently acquired Fiesta WRC. Damien Toner/Barry McParland produced another brilliant drive to finish 7th, best two wheel drive. This result does their strong position in the NI Championship no harm at all.
Jon Armstrong wasn’t registered for the NI series, so Stephen Wright was top points scorer and this result encourages him to continue with the Championship as the next round, the Lakeland Stages, which is of course a gravel rally, which Stephen says is his preferred surface. Derek McGeehan, who finished a fine 8th in his Mini WRC with his son Mark co-driving still leads the NI points, although
Jon Armstrong in full flight over ‘Fisher’s Jump” on the Down Rally Hamiltons Folly Stage.
he has scored on every round and will eventually have to drop a score.
We wrote in last week’s Irish Notes that Stanley Orr was one of several drivers contesting the Historic part of the Down Rally – wrong – Stanley ended up driving a Toyota GT86 and Drew Wylie/Allan Harryman were best Historic finishers in their Escort.
Hard luck stories there were aplenty including one on former NI Champion Stuart Biggerstaff. He was well on the pace but decided to pull out when his hired Fiesta R5 developed power steering problems. There were lots of meritorious drives as well on this rally, but none more so than Jon Armstrong’s. He first sprang to prominence on the Ulster Rally several years ago where he aced all the BRC drivers until going off the road. He got involved in and won the World Esports Championship as he didn’t have the budget to go proper rallying. A brief foray into the Dmack Cup a couple of years ago gave a taste of Jon’s ability, and his reward was a drive in the WRC2 Fiesta in Rally Germany and Spain. It was great to see him out on the Down Rally and hopefully we will see him on the real stages again, the sooner the better. Armstrong commented at the finish: “That was an unreal day”. Well, it looked real from the outside!
Gary Kiernan – Winner of the Imokilly Mini Stages 2019 – Photo by Ger Leahy.
On the Sunday the rally spotlight switched to South East Ireland and the Imokilly Stages where Gary Kieran/Daren O’Brien performed a near miracle by taking victory by just over 1 second from Richie Moore/John McGrath (Fabia S2000). This was after the Kieran Escort sustained a 50 second puncture on stage 3. As, several hundred miles North of Midleton, Offaly man Shane Lowry was showing the world’s best golfers how it should be done, Gary Kiernan had his own mountain to climb through the three remaining wet Imokilly stages. He ‘drove like the wind’ to attain his goal. Vincent McSweeney/Michael Kearney were a very good 3rd in their Lancer, David Guest (Skoda) was 4th, Frank Kelly (Escort) 5th and Welshman Tomas Davies (Escort) 6th. Frank Kelly, whose Escort was on wrong tyres in the beginning, made a slow start, but then set a fastest time on stage 3. He said after the event: “It was a good rally and very satisfactory for me. I really enjoyed it and the format allowed me to experiment and alter the front suspension geometry as I haven’t been happy with the car on fast corners recently. I think we have found the answer.”
Also last weekend, slightly further away, David Higgins won the New England Forest Rally for Subaru USA. Barry McKenna/Andy Hayes were 2nd in their Fiesta. Young Oliver Solberg was fastest on three quarters of the stages but ended up 5th after some disastrously time consuming punctures on his Subaru on day one. Both Frank Cunningham and Seamus Burke were amongst the retirements.
On the European Championship Rally Di Roma Capital, Giandomenico Basso in his Skoda R5 took the win, with European Champion Lukyanuk (Citroen R5) down in 4th following road penalties. Chris
Oliver Solberg continues to impress. Several fastest times on last weekend’s New England Forest Rally were scuppered by some time consuming punctures. Looks good though.
Ingram/Ross Whittock (Skoda) finished down in 6th. Chris was not particularly happy with his own driving on this one, but is still well placed in the series and was 3rd in the points after the last round in Poland, with the points still to be updated at time of writing.
On the Rally Weiz, a new round of the European Historic Championship in Austria, ‘Lucky’ and Fabrizia Pons took victory in a Lancia Delta Integrale.
Looking forward to this weekend, the Cork Forestry takes place over class stages on the Saturday and Sunday, and has some class drivers as well. Both the 4 wheel drive and 2 wheel drive divisions look to be very competitive. In 4WD Barry McKenna, who was a leading light on last year’s Cork Rally, will face some very tough competition from the likes of Donagh Kelly, Sam Moffett, Cathan McCourt and Valvoline Forest Championship points leader Michael Carbin. In the 2 WD division, David Crossen in his Escort seems to be the man to beat at the moment, but he faces the toughest opposition from the likes of Shane McGirr, Marty McCormack, Gary Kiernan and a whole lot more. Some very talented Junior competitors to look out for include Jordan Hone in his Opel Adam R2. To add spice to the mix there are some very good ‘Junior 1000’ drivers such as Donegal’s Kyle McBride and Peter Beaton from Scotland.
We are only skimming over the wealth of talent in all the divisions of this rally. CoC Paul Casey has put together a great combination of stages, including the Ballyhoura territory, 150 km of competitive tracks. The event is being sponsored by Crafted Fitted Furniture and the service halts are at the Annabella Complex in Mallow on the Saturday and on the Sunday at the Mallow Autograss in the heart
2018 Cork Forest J1000 Winner Peter Beaton returns for another go in 2019. Pic By-Cian Donnellan
of the Ballyhoura Mountains. The first car away from the start is at 10.00hrs on the Saturday and the Finish is at 17.15hrs on Sunday. The opening stage, Mount Hillary, is at 10.55 on Sat morning.
Missing from the Jim Walsh Cork Forestry line up is Adrian Hetherington: he is heading over to Wales for the Harry Flatters Rally, as is Stanley Orr, both contesting the British Historic Championship.
Interesting figures: on the Junior section of the BRC, with the 17th August Ulster Rally the next round, Josh McErlean has so far won £6,000 in Peugeot bonus money, William Creighton £5,500 , James Wilson £3000 and Marty Gallagher £1000. Interestingly, Wilson is to drive a Hyundai i20 R5 on this weekend’s Cork Forestry. Having had a run over the Ulster stages just outside Newry, we can report that they are very good, immensely challenging, a real test and at the same time very enjoyable.
Talented and likeable New Zealander Haydon Paddon is to drive a Fiesta WRC on next weekend’s Neste Rally Finland (1st – 4th Aug), so that will be another new face alongside Craig Breen (Hyundai) and Gus Greensmith (M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC).
“The apple never falls far from the tree” is a saying that has been around for a long time but could have been created for 2013 World Rally Champion Petter Solberg and his rallying sensation son Oliver. Now Petter is to mark his rallying retirement by driving a VW Motorsport Polo GTi R5 on this October’s Wales Rally GB and his son Oliver, to mark his 18th birthday and the appropriate licence, is to drive an identical VW. Stand back for fireworks! Phil Mills won the World Rally Championship with Petter and he is stepping back into the hot seat for this one last Petter rally fling. Tyrone’s Aaron Johnston will sit with Oliver. No doubt the spectators are in for a treat.
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.
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.
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 –