Below is a short sample video along with our usual stage data samples for the Donegal Harvest Rally 2019. We have completed our pre event recce and the notes and video are ready for posting from Monday 30th September.
Donegal Harvest Rally 2019 – Stage Data.
Donegal Harvest Sample 2019 1080p
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Dessie Henry powering to victory on last weekend’s Bushwhacker. Photo NI Championship.
Last Saturday’s McKelvey Asbestos backed Bushwhacker rally produced a predicted winner in Desi Henry, but a complete surprise in the leader for most of the day, Martynas Samsonas in his very special rocket ship BMW. Desi Henry, co-driven by Conor Mohan in his Fiesta WRC, was hampered initially by being first on the road, sweeping the top layer of loose gravel. As the day progressed Henry gradually closed up on the flying BMW at the front. Suspension specialist Samsonas from Lithuania lost some momentum when his BMW engine suffered a clogged breather pipe, and allowed Henry to lead when it mattered, for the chequered flag.
Niall McCullagh also put in a storming finish aided by some other drivers having problems. They included Patrick O’Brien/Stephen O’Hanlon, their R5 blowing its turbo and blowing as well an almost certain podium place. As it was Niall McCullagh, co-driven by Ryan McCloskey in his Fiesta R5, scored one of his best results with 3rd place.
The overall win for Desi Henry means that, more than ever, he could take the McGrady Insurance NI Championship title despite missing some of the earlier rounds. Derek McGeehan, Derek McGarrity and Stephen Wright are the three who on paper are in contention for the Championship, with Desi Henry well back but coming into the picture like an express train. McGeehan, co-driven by his son Mark, finished down in 11th place having lost some time when he spun his Mini WRC. Derek McGarrity/Paddy Robinson were once again plagued by an elusive misfire in their Fiesta WRC and they finished 8th. Stephen Wright /Liam Moynihan (Fiesta R5) were 7th, Stephen still gaining gravel experience but still leads the Championship points.
Martynas Samsonas impressed once again in his powerful BMW. Picture M Sergeant
Just outside the top three on this McKelvey Asbestos sponsored Bushwhacker, Conor McCourt/Caolan McKenna finished 4th in their Fiesta R5 and Jock Armstrong made the trip from Dumfries worthwhile by taking 5th. Jock was co-driven in his Subaru by Graham Henderson. The 2 wheel drive battle eventually went to Adrian Hetherington/Gary Nolan in their Mk2 Escort. They finished just 3 seconds ahead of Shane McGirr/Denver Rafferty (Starlet) after a marvellous day long battle.
Some of the other class winners included Drew Chambers/Wendy Blackledge (Peugeot 206 GTI), Austin Snow/John Henderson (Lancer), Damien Conlin/Gareth Lewthwaite (Nova), Ruari Maguire/Cathan McCourt (Corsa) Hugh McQuaid/Enda Gerety (Escort).
Also last weekend, Kenneth Murray/Gordon Noble won the Dungannon based Moonraker Rally from Philip & Kyle Somerville in a Rover Mini. John & Jonathan Henderson were 3rd in their Micra and Michael Reid/John Lindsay 4th in their MG Midget. The event took place over the back roads West of Dungannon.
This weekend the main home rally focus will be on the CB Toolhire backed Cork ‘20’. The rally has received a strong entry and in the sign of the times the top end of the list is dominated by R5 machinery. Callum Devine/Brian Hoy are the top seeds in a Fiesta, then it is Jonny Greer/Kirsty Riddick in a similar Fiesta. Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell are at 3 in a Dom Buckley VW Polo GTi R5 and it will be interesting to see how they go on the car’s Irish debut. Merion Evans/Jonathan Jackson are at 4 in a Skoda, Daniel Cronin/JJ Cremin, 2nd here last year, are at 5 in their Fiesta, and Andrew Purcell/Liam Brennan start at 6 in their Fiesta, hopefully fully repaired since its Wexford mishap. Then at 7 we have Cathan McCourt and listed at 8 is Eugene Donnelly, just back from his honeymoon. However, reportedly Rob Duggan in an R5 is taking over that entry, which should add yet another dimension to the leaderboard battle. At 9 is David Guest and at 10 Sacha Kakad. Jordan and Paul Hone are slotted in at 14 for their first run in an R5 car (it was mooted to be a Hyundai, but that has been changed to Fiesta R5).
Creighton stuned the opposition at the Galloway Hills Rally after recovering from a puncture and going on to win the BRC Junior category. It’s all go again this weekend in Cork. Image credit: Colin Smith
Top two wheel drive exponents are Damien Toner/Michael Coady and David Condell/Paul Kelly, both in Mk2 Escorts. William Creighton/Liam Regan are seeded at 41 in their Peugeot 208 R2, just ahead of Johnnie Mulholland/Charles Gallagher in their Fiesta R2T.
The Cork ‘20’ is the final round of the Irish Tarmac Championship and carries ‘points and a half’ so both William and Johnnie still have a chance of winning the ‘R2’ category. The overall title has of course gone the way of Craig Breen/Paul Nagle on the Ulster Rally.
Besides the interest in the top of the Cork ‘20’ list as to who will be doing the winning and losing through the rallies’ 12 glorious stages, there are many interesting drivers and cars entered. Owen Murphy/Anthony Nestor for example will be battling it out for Historic honours in a Lotus Sunbeam. John & Stephen Coyne are in a fabulous Porsche 997 GT3. Adrian Kermode/Paula Swinscoe are in a Porsche 911, as are Brendan McAree/Niall Kelly. Alan Ring/Adrian Deasy are out in a BMW M3. Aaron Browne/Daniel Hanratty head the Junior contingent in their Civic.
The rally, which was originally to be based in Macroom but is now stationed in Little Island to the East of Cork City near Midleton. The event starts at 10.30 on Saturday morning, main service is at Macroom, overnight halt back at the Radisson Blu in Little Island and the finish is there on Sunday afternoon at approximately 5pm.
Also this weekend the Trackrod Rally will run through the classic Yorkshire forests. The event is a counter in the BTRDA as well as the British Historic Rally Championship. The Historic entries include Matt Edwards in a Fiat 131 Abarth, Bob Bean in a Lotus Cortina and the always very fast Nick Elliott in his Escort. Two crews making the trip from here include Stanley Orr/Graham Henderson and they will drive their Mark 1 Escort, while in a Mk2 will be Adrian Hetherington/Ronan O’Neill. In the
Stanley Orr/Graham Henderson make the trip to Yorkshire as the final round of their BHRC campaign.
BTRDA section just some of the top seeds include Stephen Petch in his Fiesta WRC and Ollie Mellors in a Proton R5. The historic category will tackle a big stage on Friday night, and then resume on Saturday morning, which will be a great warm-up for the Roger Albert Clark. When we contacted him at his Co Down workshop, Stanley Orr commented on the big Friday night stage, “Yes, it is so fast, it is going to take a big commitment in the dark. I have been going over the DVD of the stages, and trying to really pin down the distances.” Stanley has had a brilliant year in the British Historics, except for a major disappointment on the Epynt event when his Mk1’s engine went off a cylinder and he had to switch it off. He went on to say, “Other than that, I could have had the overall Championship sewn up, five class wins out of six rallies, five to count. I have the class won ok, but the overall win is not going to be easy. We are 2nd o/a at the moment The car is good, the engine was great on the Ulster. Simon Webster (Mk2 BDA) is the man to beat. Like myself he is not a youngster, and he has been at the top, led rallies, for many years, but luck hasn’t been on his side. This year it is all going well for him, and he has good experience in Yorkshire, whereas the last time I was there was in the Eighties.” We will watch the Trackrod results with interest!
News this week includes the arrival of a new, latest homologated version of the VW Polo GTi R5 to come to Ireland. The car is headed for the Donagh Kelly stable. Donagh’s Skoda R5 is now at Derek McGarrity’s business in Co. Antrim. Robin Phillips competed in the Bushwhacker with his immaculate Subaru Impreza WRC. Robin won the rally 25 years ago and the organisers gave him the number 25 in recognition! News of another star is that Jimmy McRae is competing on the National section of Wales Rally GB in a Porsche 911. The next round of the NI Rally Championship is the Tyrone Stages on the 19th October. Once again the Cookstown MC event will have super smooth asphalt stages around the Magilligan complex fornenst Benone Beach.
Bangor’s Allan Harryman had a great result at the weekend, co-driving John Papadimitriou in his Skoda Fabia R5 to victory on the MyKteo Fthinoporino Rally. British Rally Champion Matt Edwards is to drive a Hyundai R5 and not his usual Fiesta R5 on next week’s Wales Rally GB. Matt will have Mark Glennerster co-driving as usual, and they will have Josh McErlean/Keaton Williams as team-mates for the weekend.
The very tough European Championship Cyprus rally takes place this coming weekend, with Chris Ingram/Ross Whittock the No.1 seeds in their Skoda Fabia R5 ‘Evo’. Previous winner Nasser Al-Attiyah is seeded at number 4 in a VW Polo GTI R5. Mikko Hirvonen is at 6 and to drive a Fiesta R5. Fermanagh’s Marshall Clarke is co-driving for Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari in a Skoda R5.
Multiple rally winner Oliver Solberg has just celebrated his 18th birthday, so should be ‘legal’ to drive as planned on next week’s Wales Rally GB, with Tyrone’s Aaron Johnston co-driving in his VW Polo GTi R5. It should be quite an occasion for the Solberg family with father Petter completing his retirement tour on the same event, also driving a VW Polo R5. It was on Wales Rally GB 16 years ago of course that Petter clinched his World Rally Championship victory, with Phil Mills co-driving then and is co-driving again this time.
Breathtaking terrain no doubt, but the WRC Rally Turkey’s rock strewn, dusty, tyre shredding tracks made the going very tough for the drivers. Oh and there were bouts of torrential rain interrupting the searing heat. It was World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier, very much on his mettle, who shrugged of these most difficult rally conditions and took a hard earned victory just ahead of his Citroen teammate Esapekka Lappi. This Citroen ‘one–two’ result not only rejuvenated the Citroen team, it added real impetus to Ogier’s challenge to retain his Champion’s crown. Ott Tanak still heads the WRC driver’s points but his run of wins ground to a halt in Turkey when the electrics of his Yaris WRC stopped playing ball. Tanak did rejoin for the final day and set fastest time in the power stage.
The other main player in the WRC title battle is Thierry Neuville. The Belgian battled hard in Turkey but got caught out in the dust on Saturday afternoon and his Hyundai became stuck off the road for four minutes. This did his WRC title hopes no favours at all. He eventually finished 8th, with Meeke 7th. Andreas Mikkelsen did keep the Hyundai flag flying with his 3rd place finish. Teemu Suninen in the pace-setting M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC was 4th, Dani Sordo (Hyundai) was 5th and Jari-Matti Latvala (Yaris), following punctures, was 6th.
One of the drives of the rally came from Gus Greensmith who was 10th o/a and won the R5 division in his very battered Fiesta R5 Mk2 – battered because he crashed at the finish of the penultimate stage but managed to keep going. Confusingly the R5 class is now divided into two sections so it is not easy to figure out who is winning what, but Jan Kopecky finished 11th o/a in his Skoda R5. In overall terms, Hyundai continues to lead the WRC Manufacturer’s points, while in the driver’s points Ott Tanak has 210, Ogier 193 and Neuville 180.
Meanwhile Frank Kelly, co-driven by his daughter Lauren, took a trip to Belgium last weekend and had a ball on his way to 2nd place on Escort Rally Special, based at Chimay. Frank lost some time early in the event, firstly with difficult visibility, then with clouting a couple of straw bales. As the rally progressed he started to mix in with the fastest times to finish 2nd o/a. Frank paid great tribute to his fellow driver from home Jack Newman, who put up great times and was ahead of Frank most of the way, but then Jack was forced to retire his Mk2 on the final stage. Francois Duval was the outright winner, while Welshman Tomas Davies did well to finish 3rd. Alister McRae made the trip from Australia and he finished 4th.
David Bogie secured the SRC win at the Galloway Hills on his MINI WRC debut Image credit – Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography
Slightly closer to home, Tom Cave/Dale Bowen in their rebuilt Hyundai R5 were fastest on all 9 stages (the rally should have had 9 stages, but the event was running so late the final test was abandoned) to take a clear victory on the Galloway Hills Rally, final round of this season’s British Rally Championship. Despite this dazzling display, Cave didn’t win the Championship, that honour going to Matt Edwards/Patrick Walsh in their Fiesta R5. Edwards knew before the start he didn’t have to win the rally to retain his British Rally Champion’s crown and his best plan was to keep his Fiesta’s nose clean, adopt a steady pace through the difficult and technical Galloway stages and the title would be his. That is exactly what the North Wales man did do. Jonny Greer, co-driven this time by Dai Roberts in his Fiesta R5, had a very good rally to finish 2nd o/a, 54 seconds behind Cave, over a minute ahead of Edwards.
James Wilson continued his R5 learning curve with a solid 4th in his Hyundai, guided once again by Arthur Kierans.
William Creighton/Liam Regan were stars of the show, recovering from an early puncture on their Peugeot 208 R2 to take 5th o/a and win the BRC Junior section. Marty Gallagher/Dean O’Sullivan also gave the rally a real good go and finished just over 5 seconds behind Creighton. Marty was driving a Fiesta R2T and both drivers will receive a substantial slice of the
Ruairi Bell / Darren Garrod – Ruairi Bell helped to cement his plans for 2020 by winning €60,000 towards an FIA JWRC campaign. – Jakob Ebrey Photohraphy
junior prize fund. Earlier in the day it had been Jordan Hone/Keaton Williams who had set the Junior pace in their Opel Adam. However a rear wheel of the Opel dropped into the ditch in stage 6, the car then catapulted across the track into the
other ditch. They were able to finish the stage but could go no further because of radiator and other damage. Ruari Bell/Darren Garrod finished in 11th o/a and they won the €60,000 voucher from M-Sport and Pirelli for topping the Ford Fiesta R2 Trophy standings. In the Scottish Championship part of Galloway, run over a lesser mileage, David Bogie, driving Derek McGeehan’s Mini WRC, had a clear win over Jock Armstrong in his Subaru.
Also last weekend we had the Clare stages rally and Roy White/James O’Brien in their Fiesta WRC took the victory, with Daniel Cronin/JJ Cremin 2nd in their Fiesta R5, just 15 seconds back. Ian Barrett/Paul McGee brought their Darrian into 3rd. Roy commented after the rally that it hadn’t been an easy event. Although he thought the stages were very good, he found the constant damp and mizzly conditions throughout the day made it very challenging. He also said that Daniel Cronin had set some very good times, so the pressure was constantly on. Having said that, Roy did admit that his main aim for the day was to get his Fiesta WRC to the finish in a good enough position to clinch the West Coast Championship, which he did.
Roy White-James O’Brien – winners of last weekend’s Dougie Hughes Memorial Clare Stages – Photo – Dermot Kellaher
Ian Roche/Anthony Nestor brought their Impreza WRC into 4th, Declan McCrory/Stephen O’Hanlon (Fiesta R5) were 5th and Aidan Wray/Kieran McGrath did well to bring their GpN Lancer Evo 10 into 6th o/a. Third placed Ian Barrett took the accolade for highest 2wd finisher, while best Escort tag went to Sean Moran in 12th o/a and a class winner. Ed Synan/Tom Collins in their Subaru Impreza WRC had a bit of an overheating issue on the opening stage then put in some decent times until a gearbox worry brought their rally to a premature end. Mike Quinn non-started following engine problems with his Subaru on the Wexford rally. Niall O’Sullivan/Sean Crowley won class 11F in their Citroen C2 and Niall O’Connell/Tommy O’Connor finished 1st in class 2 with their Citroen C2 R2 Max. Best Juniors were Cathal Nolan/Emel McNamara in their Civic and they won class 16. The other junior winners, who won class 16A and also drove a Civic, were Jake Lennon/Aaron Lennon.
Looking forward to this weekend’s Bushwhacker Rally, a counter in the NI Championship, there is certainly an interesting entry. Top drivers include current Championship leader Derek McGeehan in his Mini WRC, Connor McCloskey and Derek McGarrity in their respective Fiestas, Stephen Wright, who has a fighting chance of the Championship, Jock Armstrong, who makes the trip from Scotland to compete in his Subaru, with Graham Henderson co-driving. Drivers in two wheel drive machinery include Shane McGirr and Adrian Hetherington.
News this week includes young Oliver Solberg winning another rally in the USA, driving for Subaru America. As mentioned above, Roy White has won the West Coast Rally series following his Clare win, and former National Champion Roy and last year’s Cork 20 winner, told us that his racing overalls are washed and on top of the wardrobe in a bag until next year! Roy says he has no plans to change his 2010 Fiesta WRC, but at the same time he is keeping a close eye on the progress of the new Polo R5 and the latest Fiesta R5. Roy reckons his rallying schedule for next year will be something similar to this season.
Former GpN National and forestry champion Owen Murphy got married to Ciara (Deasey) last weekend at Thurles X. Very Best wishes to them for the future. Reportedly it was a very pleasant day indeed!
Niall O’Connell/Tommy O’Connor in their Citroen C2R2 Max have won the 2wd division of the West Coast Championship and we are happy to report that they were using Patterson Notes.
On the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally last weekend, Cornelius O’Sullivan/Aileen Kelly finished a very creditable 4th o/a in their Lancer, while John O’Sullivan/Shane Farrell were 7th in a Fiesta.
Looming large on the rally horizon, as well as the Omagh based Bushwhacker this weekend is the Cheviot Rally on Otterburn and also the McRae stages at Knockhill. Next weekend 27th/28th/29th September we have the Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire, the Cork ‘20’ and the iconic European Championship Cyprus Rally. The Cork ‘20’, as well as having fabulous stages, is shaping up to have a really good entry as well. Latest addition to the top entry which includes Callum Devine and Jonny Greer in Fiesta R5’s, along with Merion Evans in a Skoda R5 The biggest story is that Marty McCormack to drive one of the new Polo R5’s. This will be the Irish debut for the VW, which has already proved itself a winner in different parts of the world. The following weekend of course it is the turn of the WRC Wales Rally GB. We will have more news on all these next week.
Last weekend’s Lakeland Stages provided plenty of action, with Desi Henry/Damien Connolly in their Fiesta WRC keeping Sam Moffett/James Fulton (Fiesta) at bay, Desi winning by 22 seconds. Cathan McCourt/Barry McNulty kept their Fiesta R5 in the hunt throughout to emphasise their Valvoline Championship winning form this season to take 3rd, just 11 seconds behind Moffett. Vivian Hamill/Andrew Grennan had a good run to 4th in their Fiesta R5, Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley seemed to get to grips with their Fabia R5 and they were 5th, with Patrick O’Brien again showing a lot of class to take 6th in his Lancer. Thomas Nugent was co-driving for O’Brien. David Condell & co driver Paul Kelly were the top 2wd finishers in their Escort from John Gordon/Thomas Wedlock, also in an Escort.
Lakeland win sets Desi Henry up for a late title challenge.
David Crossen was the expected 2wd front runner but he damaged the steering rack of his Escort and the car snapped sideways exiting a stage 3 corner and his rally finished in the ditch. Also in a sheugh was Shane McGirr, his Starlet sliding off on a ‘6R>’, fortunately with no damage, but stuck. (Shane is still on course for the Galloway Hills Rally.) Adrian Hetherington also retired his Escort. Such was the pace over the Lakeland’s many big crests and dips, the retirement rate was high. Surmounting all the challenges, Kyle White/Sean Topping in their Peugeot 208 R2 won their class and achieved ‘best junior’ on the day tag. Marc Johnston/Colin Irvine won class 5 in their Escort and Stanley Orr/Graham Henderson in their Mk1 Escort RS1600 won class 10, best Historic.
The rally was a round of both the NI Championship and the Valvoline Irish Forest series. In the NI Championship Derek McGeehan, co-driven by his son Mark, still leads the points after finishing 13th. Derek told us that he took it fairly easy over the big jumps dips first time through, also finding the stages slippy. Second time through he gave his Mini WRC its head and in one place it virtually landed on its headlamps. He got away with it, but it was a reminder that even WRC cars have their limits. Besides which, Derek has the car hired to David Bogie for this weekend coming, to drive on the Galloway Hills. Derek McGarrity was one of Derek’s closest pursuers in the points table before the rally, but McGarrity retired his Fiesta somewhere around stage 4, reportedly with a damaged wheel. This leaves Stephen Wright as McGeehan’s closest pursuer. Stephen and his co-driver Arthur Kierans brought their Fiesta R5 home in 8th. There are still two rounds to go, which also means that Desi Henry could well come into the title race reckoning.
While competitors were battling through the forests in Fermanagh almost 100 cars were starting the VW Wexford Stages. James Stafford in his Darrian was able to cruise to victory following a massive battle with Andrew Purcell (Fiesta R5). Despite a stage 2 excursion into a field which also involved circumnavigating some cows, Purcell held the lead for a while on the Saturday. Purcell then had a spin on the final Saturday stage which meant Stafford held a slender lead on the Saturday night. Then on the 2nd Sunday stage Purcell, a comparative stranger to asphalt rallying, took a lefthander just a fraction too fast and put his Fiesta off the road and out of the rally. Stafford went on to win by almost 2 minutes from Stephen McCann (Fiesta R5), with Wesley Patterson a very accomplished 3rd in his Mk2 Escort, albeit a further 37 seconds back.
Meanwhile, while all this was going on in Ireland, there were two new closed road special stage events taking place across the Irish Sea. One of them was the ‘Three Shires’, where Martyn and Dawn England took a clear victory in their Fiesta R5. Their winning margin was almost 1minute 30 seconds over Andy Fraser/Alan Jones in a Darrian. Alex Allingham/Ross Weir were 3rd in their Escort, a further 36 seconds back.
Action on the Three Shires Rally
Osian Pryce triumphs on Rali Bae Ceredigion
Then on the Sunday the Rali Ceredigian took place, a landmark event as it was the first closed road special stage in Wales. Osian Pryce/Dale Furniss in a Hyundai R5 had a massive battle with Tom Cave/Dale Bowen, Pryce taking the win by 7.7 seconds after the 8 very demanding, very exciting stages. Cave did have some brake worries which didn’t help his cause. Hugh Hunter was in the top four but retired his Focus WRC with a broken clutch. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke were a brilliant 3rd in a Mk2 Escort, Damian Cole/Max Freeman (Fiesta WRC) 4th. (Cole’s company, ‘Get Connected’, also sponsored the rally). Meilyr Evans/Ruodri Evans were 5th, and Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell 6th, both crews driving Mk2 Escorts. Notable retirements included Merion Evans who led after the first stage but put his Skoda off the road in stage 2, while Hugh Hunter’s Focus WRC suffered a broken clutch and Daniel Harper’s Mini WRC stopped with a broken driveshaft.
Looking forward to this weekend, the Galloway Hills rally takes place on Friday night and Saturday. In Turkey we have a round of the WRC, while at home the Dougie Hughes Memorial Clare Stages will run on this Sunday. On the latter event, former National Champion Roy White is the number 1 seed. Roy will drive his Fiesta WRC with James O’Brien co-driving. Behind White is a strong top line-up, with Ed Synan/Tom Collins at 2 in a Subaru Impreza WRC and Mike Quinn/Tony Healy at 3 in another Impreza WRC. At 4 is Ian Barrett/Paul McGee in a Darrian, with a similar machine at 5, to be driven by Kevin Gallagher. The top half dozen is rounded off by Aidan Wray/Kieran McGrath in their Mitsubishi Lancer. Ian Roche (Impreza WRC) JF Shovelin, Johno Doogan and John Bonner, all three in Escorts, make up the top ten. Just some of the interesting drivers/cars outside of that include Keith Lyons in his Fiesta R5, Gary McNamee at 17 in his Civic, Alan Callaghan at 19 in his Subaru and James Murphy at 20 in a Fiesta WRC.
Over in Scotland, for the British Championship finale Galloway Hills, which has moved its base from Castle Douglas to Dalbeattie, there is a mixed entry, with contenders in both the BRC and the Scottish Championship to face some classic stages. The BRC title fight is between defending Champion Matt Edwards and Tom Cave. In theory Edwards in his Fiesta R5 is well in front in the points race, but both drivers will play their joker which doubles their points for this rally – so both need a result! Cave will drive his Hyundai i20 R5. Just some of the drivers who are in with a chance of a good result include Alex Laffey, Jonny Greer, Alan Carmichael, Enda McCormick and James Wilson. David Bogie has decided not to go for BRC points and he will drive Derek McGeehan’s Mini WRC. There should be some hot action in the Junior division as well, even though Josh McErlean has the title sewn up. There is still a €60,000 prize to be picked up in the Ford Fiesta Trophy – Ruari Bell, James Williams and Finlay Retson are all in with a shout for that one. Also in Junior action will be William Creighton (Peugeot), Marty Gallagher (Fiesta) and Jordan Hone (Opel Adam).
Recently crowned Junior British Rally Champion Josh McErlean will contest Wales Rally GB (3-6 October) in a Hyundai i20 R5. McErlean, from Kilrea in Northern Ireland, sealed the British title on his home round of the BRC – the Today’s Ulster Rally last month – and will now contest Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship in the latest specification R5 machine courtesy of Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing and the British Rally Championship.
Josh McErlean will drive a Hyundai i20 R5 on Wales Rally GB
News this week includes Elfyn Evans coming back for WRC action. Elfyn will have a new M-Sport Fiesta WRC for his return on Wales Rally GB. Elfyn’s back injury is now reportedly 100% ok, so no doubt he will be trying flat out to repeat his home win of a couple of years ago.
Former co-driver Michael Gibson and his wife Val ran in the Great North Run last weekend, a feat they have accomplished many times, and once again, along with several friends, raised a substantial amount for the Marie Curie Foundation. Michael still does the occasional rally with Neil Simpson. As has happened to so many co-drivers, a back injury some years ago meant Michael reducing his rally activities.
Coming up next week is the always popular Bushwhacker Forest Rally, the next round of the NI Stage Championship. This always popular forest event is as usual based in Omagh and despite losing the Carrickaholton Forest this year, Omagh MC has made up stage mileage with a route including both the Lough Braden stages and the Killeter forests.
The provisional winners after Wexford of the Hugo Loonam Motors Midlands East Rally Championship reads: 1st Billy Nolan & Shane O’Mahony 81 points, 2nd Ritchie Dalton & Jeff Case 75 points, 3rd James Stafford 74 points & Shane Gorman 71.5 pts.
The Cork ‘20’ rally is shifting its rally HQ hotel from Macroom to Little Island outside Cork as the Riverside Hotel unexpectedly closed a few weeks ago. As usual the Cork ‘20’ stages are an absolute delight, really brilliant, and the new more streamlined format should mean that a driver could complete his ‘recce’ in one day.
On last weekend’s Woodpecker it was Ollie Mellors who took the win from relative newcomer to 4wd, George Lepley. The latter was just 20 seconds down at the finish having set several fastest times in the latter part of this quite tough forest stage event. Stephen Petch was 3rd. Sean Devine, co-driven by Niall Burns in his Fiesta R5, made one of his now occasional rally outings and got a decent result, 15th o/a. Marty McCormack was 17th o/a and 2nd Historic home in his Mk2 Escort. Barney Mitchell was co-driving for Marty. The Historics were won by Tom Llewellin, also in an Escort. Marty remarked after the rally, “It was hard to get back into the Mk 2 after the R5. There is a lot more driving in it, it was some shock on the first stage, steering heavy, arms aching! We started on the wrong tyres, dropped about 30 seconds. The stages were quite slippy. Still it was a valuable outing for the Roger Albert Clark.” Magherafelt man Marty went on to say that he is going to try a Mellors Motorsport Proton R5 this week, possibly to use on this coming weekend’s Ceredigion. His own Skoda R5 needs a shell after its tumble on the Ulster Rally.
Also last weekend the MG Car Club ran their Ulster Classic Trial through farmyards in Co. Down and David Cochrane/Ruth Steele in their MG Midget just pipped Will Corry/Adele Kennedy in a similar car for the win. Robert and Catherine Dickson were 3rd in a Morris Cooper S.
This weekend coming on the two day Wexford Rally, James M Stafford in his Darrian heads a 90 plus strong entry. Local man Stafford should have strong opposition, with Gary Kiernan at 2 in his Escort, Mike Quinn, again driving a Subaru WRC at 3. Richard Moore starts at 4 in an Escort and the top six is rounded off by Stephen McCann and Andrew Purcell, both in Fiesta R5s. Tomas O’Rourke at 7, this time driving a Hyundai i20 R5, should go well. Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson, who has lots of Wexford experience over the years, starts at 8 in his Escort, Richard Moffett (Starlet) is at 9 and the top 10 is completed by Kevin Barrett in his Subaru Impreza WRC. The rally is a counting round of the South East Stages Championship as well as the Midlands East series.
Also this weekend, on the Saturday the new Three Shires closed road event takes place and then on Sunday it’s the turn of the new Aberystwyth University based Get Connected Rali Bae Ceredigion, the first closed road special stage rally in Wales. As well as a top class entry, the organisers are throwing the kitchen sink at the Welsh event in terms of press coverage. In the middle of all this is the Fermanagh Lakelands Rally, a counter in the Valvoline Forestry Championship as well as the McGrady Insurance NI series. Top seeds are :- (1) Sam Moffett/James Fulton (Fiesta R5): (2) Desi Henry/Damien Connolly (Fiesta WRC); (3) Vivian Hamill/Andrew Grennan (Fiesta R5): 4 Cathan McCourt/Barry McNulty (Fiesta R5): 5 Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley (Fabia R5): (6) Derek McGarrity/Paddy Robinson (Fiesta WRC): 7 Patrick O’Brien/Thomas Nugent (Lancer): 8 Kenny McKinstry/Kenny Hull (Fiesta R5): 9 Niall Henry/Damien Duffin (Citroen R5) & 10 Derek McGeehan/Mark McGeehan (Fiesta WRC). The latter crew, father and son team Derek and Mark McGeehan, currently lead the NI Championship points table, with Derek McGarrity and Stephen Wright chasing hard. Multiple former Champion McGarrity has had one ‘non score’ this season, as has Stephen Wright, so in a way this increases the pressure on McGeehan. Stephen is seeded down the order a bit; his Fiesta R5 allocated the number 17. Arthur Kierans will co-drive.
An interesting addition to the equation at the front is the addition of Desi Henry. He has only contested one round this season, the Maiden City Stages, which he won, so his Fiesta WRC should be right up with the leaders on this Saturday’s six stages through the woods. John Devlin currently leads the points in the two wheel drive section of the NI Championship. However John has been having a good run on some Tarmac series events outside Ireland with his Escort, and will miss the Lakeland. This leaves the door open somewhat for James Kennedy, Drew Stewart and Kyle White.
In the Valvoline series, Cathan McCourt has done enough to take the title for this year. There could be some excitement in the 2wd division, with pacesetter during the year David Crossen hoping to atone for a broken gearbox on the recent Cork event with a good performance here. Just some of the drivers who could make it hot for Crossen include David Condell, Adrian Hetherington, John Gordon and Paul McErlean, all in Escorts. Then there’s Shane McGirr, back in his pocket rocket Starlet. And of course there is Stanley Orr, who seems to forget he is driving a historic Mk1 Escort! We mentioned above that David Crossen leads the 2wd points. His nearest challenger is William Creighton, but his co-driver Liam Regan is driving his own rally car on the event, so William has not entered. There will still be plenty of action amongst the Junior drivers in the smaller category cars – just some include Derek Mackarel, Ruari Maguire, Kyle White, and several more.
Despite not running in the Lakeland Stages this weekend, William Creighton is the latest nominee for the Motorsport Ireland Young Rally Driver Award.
Wiliam Creighton – Latest nominee for Motorsport Ireland Young Rally Driver Award
News this week includes the decision announced by Ballynahinch MC that they will not run their Down Rally next year, in order to give the organising team a break. This is some indication of the stress and work involved in running a successful stage rally, especially on asphalt. It may also, although this denied, be an indicator that WRC Rally NI will happen at end of next summer. As matters stand at the moment, this is still far from definite – the FIA dates meeting has taken place, the opportunity is there, but in these uncertain political times, nailing down the complete package of relevant factors is not easy.
Events on the near horizon include WRC Turkey, the BRC Galloway Hills and the Clare Stages – all to take place over the weekend of 13th/14th 15th September. Then on the weekend 21st/22nd September we have the Bushwhacker Rally and then on 28th/29th September the Cork ‘20’. Both these latter events have rather streamlined their formats compared to last year. In the Bushwhacker’s case it is rather a matter of needs must as there is harvesting taking place, while the Cork event sees it as a matter of making the event more competitor friendly.
Further stories include Frank Kelly heading to Belgium the weekend after Wexford for the very special Mk2 Escort Rally, and after that on to the San Marino Rally in Italy. Jack Newman is also tipped to be heading to Belgium to compete, as is Paul & Karl Reid, and Richard Whelan.
17 year old Oliver Solberg and his NI co-driver Aaron Johnston achieved yet another milestone last weekend when they clinched the Latvian and Baltic Rally Championship by finishing 2nd on the Estonian Louna-Eesti Rally. Oliver missed out on winning the rally by just over 3 seconds, beaten by George Gross in a Fiesta WRC, 100hp stronger than Oliver’s VW Polo R5.
As expected Craig Breen and Paul Nagle will drive for Hyundai on the forthcoming Wales Rally GB.
A few pics from last weekends very successful Donegal Deja Vu event.