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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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.