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

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: 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