Irish Notes 27th November 2019

There were two very different rallies on the agenda last weekend – the North Ulster Car Club’s Targa Rally as well as the enormously long and tough Roger Albert Clark.

On home ground, through Co Antrim, the Targa Rally, which was supporting the John Mulholland Motors Friends of the Cancer Centre, was won by Mark Francis/Katie Lemon in a Mazda MX-5. Indeed the top three finishers were in MX-5s, with Liam Shaw/Conor Shaw 2nd and Angus Johnson/Reid Thomas 3rd. Eamonn Byrne/Joanna Lenehan had a very good run in their Yaris to finish 4th o/a and win class 1, while Kevin Daly/Mark Maxwell were 5th o/a in their Hyundai Accent and they won class 3. Conditions were not easy on the Targa and many of the top seeds ran into problems during the day.

I can see clearly now – Marty McCormack makes the most of the clear visibility after fog and heavy rain made the conditions tough for all the competitors.

On the Roger Albert Clark, with 32 stages over five foggy wet days plus some night sections through forests in Wales, Scottish Borders and Kielder, conditions were far from easy either. Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell were the victorious front runners most of the way and they were harried and pressed throughout by Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke, both in Mk2 Escorts. Roger Chilman/Patrick Walsh made it an Escort top three.  Wayne Sisson/Neil Shanks put up some dramatic stage times in their big Mitsubishi Galant to take 4th place, albeit over 15 minutes in arrears of McCormack. Stuart Egglestone/ Brian Hodgson (Escort) were 5th and Barry McKenna/Arthur Kierans were well down the order in the early part of the rally but then improved dramatically in their RS1800 over the final few days to come up into 6th place.

There was early disappointment for two drivers from here who were tipped to do well, both Adrian Hetherington and Paul Barrett sidelined when their Escort engines cried enough. Just some of the other top drivers who were sidelined for various reasons included Matthew Robinson, Simon Webster, Alan Walker, both Ghislain & Gregoire De Mevius and Phil Collins.

The battle at the front of the rally was one of intrigue throughout. McCormack seemed to have the upper hand but had worrying moments as well on the Sunday leg when his Tiger Risk backed Escort developed a misfire and also the steering rack went awry. Their support crew, under the direction of Marty’s brother, Greg, did very well to sort both problems in record time at a 30 minute service halt. Pritchard had his worrying moments as well, particularly when his Escort suffered a puncture. Through it all McCormack pressed on and opened the gap to his Welsh rival (and friend) to well over a minute.

Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell ended up clear winners of the RAC. The pair had a tooth and nail battle with Jason Pritchard until the Welshman punctured on the latter part of the rally.

On the opening stage on the final day, Pritchard was the faster of the two by over 20 seconds, a stark reminder to McCormack that, with four Kielder stages still to go, he could ill afford to relax. Marty responded by notching up a couple of fastest times, to be sure to be sure, of recording his third Roger Albert Clark Rally win. It was a great adventure, as well as a marvellous achievement by the Magherafelt man, who more usually can be seen behind the wheel of a digger or a drilling machine making holes in the roads.

The rally wasn’t all about the drivers at the front of course – far from it. Seamus Burke/Martin Brady were another crew who battled hard as the rally progressed and came up into 15th place. Like Barry McKenna, Seamus crossed the Atlantic to compete on this event.  Drexel Gillespie, albeit in Super Rally, made it to the finish in his Volvo 122S.  Templepatrick man Drexel, who was co-driven by Gill Cotton, explained:  “we were going round the final corner of the first Friday stage when a half-shaft broke. We were able to get a time and get out of the stage, but of course we had no spares. So we phoned Kevin Savage (Volvo historic specialist, international co-driver and Clerk of the Course of the Malcolm Wilson Rally) and he said yes, he had half-shafts, put the Volvo on a trailer and come on up. Problem was, Kevin’s place is up at Kirkby Lonsdale, close to the Lake District, so it was 4.0’clock in the afternoon before they could get there. Then, as the half-shaft had sheared close to the differential, the axle had to be stripped and cleaned before the new shaft could be fitted.

Keith McIvor and David Burns eventually finished 37th.

Kevin and Drexel’s mechanic Gerry Buckley did a great job. So, it was 8.00pm before they started for Carlisle, which then of course wasn’t so far to go. Drexel and Gill resumed the rally on the Saturday morning and finished the event three days later, which was still a lot of stages. Drexel commented afterwards: “I’m delighted to have done it, it was pure enjoyment. The car went very well apart from the shaft. Much of the time we were first on the road, so the stages were very smooth. We didn’t set the world on fire – this is a 1964 Volvo 122S in more or less  standard trim, with maybe 101 brake horse power. Some of the stages were repeated so it was a bit rough 2nd time through, and the back axle shook a bit loose, but it was no problem. Some of the hills took a while to get up as well, but the car ran like clockwork. Amazingly we got a 1st in class, thought we were behind 80 year- old or thereabouts Bob Bean in his Lotus Cortina, but the way it turned out we have been awarded it! One of the things we really noticed was that anywhere we stopped, service areas and so on, lots of people came up to us to tell us how nice it was to see the Volvo, a change from all the Escorts!”

David Greer & Brian Crawford had a great run in the new DGM built Manta 400. The Andrews Heat for Hire colours were chosen just before the RAC in respect of the recent passing of Russell Brookes.

David Greer/Brian Crawford made it safely through in their immaculate, newly built, Andrews Heat for Hire liveried Opel Manta 400. Brian explained – “David (Greer) bought the Manta 400 several years ago. It was damaged, and the more we looked at it the more we thought that it would never repair into a nice car. So we obtained another shell, fabricated it and started from there. David decided to livery it in Russell Brookes’ Andrew Heat for Hire colours as a matter of respect. David once upon a time did a Ford promoted rally school where Russell was a tutor and he thought a lot of him. We phoned Mike Broad, as well as Russell’s widow Julie, and his son Rob to see if they would agree, and they were delighted to hear that we thought so well of Russell. They were happy with what we were doing. Jimmy McRae, who drove a sister Manta, looked at the car during the rally and told us he was very jealous! However, that changed somewhat when he saw the fog later!’

Brian continued: ‘Preparations in general for the rally were massive, the tyres, the fuel, the responsibilities, logistics and expense. Work for me went to the wall for what seemed like weeks. The rally took over my life. On the event the car went very well, no major hiccups.’

David did mention that the wipers wouldn’t switch off – something they didn’t discover for four days as it never stopped raining! They had one puncture, on the stage before Ae, and that cost many minutes. David also complimented the notes which worked very well for them but in the fog, especially in the darkness combined with the fog stages, they just weren’t prepared to stick their necks out when you couldn’t see the end of the bonnet, let alone the verges in the forest. The Saturday night was the worst. The real sting in the tail was the final stage, 17 miles or so. For them the intention was always to finish. David couldn’t believe the buzz of the rally, the number of spectators. He reckons it is now the ‘go to’ rally in Britain.” Yes, a great adventure! And a further endorsement of Marty McCormack’s achievement in winning it for the third time!

From one Historic Rally our thoughts turn to another – this coming weekend and the Rentokil Initial backed Killarney Historic. The Kerry based event, which has a proud history and unique ambience as well as roads, also has a huge entry: 160 cars plus reserves. Owen Murphy/Anthony Nestor head the Historic list. They won the event last year in their Lotus Sunbeam, but apparently back axle parts for the car are more or less impossible to source, so Owen is hiring David Percy’s Historic Escort for this outing. This is an almost new car and has the Sherwood BDA engine, which seems more or less be ‘de rigeur’ for these Historic Escorts. Owen has never driven the car, but seems not to be phased by that and hopes to manage a short test drive on Friday afternoon. And then his plan is to repeat last year’s victory!

The driver starting behind Owen, Craig Breen, has other ideas of course! WRC star Craig will drive a newly built, absolutely beautiful Viking Motorsport Escort BDA. (in red naturally!). Viking is the brainchild of 2003 World Rally Champion co-driver Phil Mills. He will be on hand to see that all goes well on the rally. When asked about the car, Phil told us: “it is a new build, first time out, has the Sherwood engine, everything top spec. I’m very impressed with Craig – he is so genuinely enthusiastic, really wants to do this!” Of course, with Killarney man Paul Nagle, (whose late father Maurice was the instigator of the Killarney Historic), on the notes as co-driver this will no doubt double-up on the enthusiasm front! Another Killarney man, Rob Duggan, a very talented driver, is at 3 and he drives an Escort from the Merion Evans stable. Rob has Ger Conway co-driving and doubtless there will no lack of enthusiasm in that car either.

In fact, looking down the top ten and beyond, it really is a scintillating line up. Mark Falvey and Neil Williams are at 4 & 5 in Escorts, and then at 6 it is Belgian ‘pilote’ Paul Lietaer in an Opel Manta 400. Of the next six cars it would be a brave man who would bet against at least one, or indeed several of them, not being in the leaderboard mix on this iconic event.  Just consider the driving talent amongst those six: the utterly precise driver Martin Doherty from Donegal, the tigerish Cathan McCourt, former West Cork winner Robert Barrable, local legend Denis Cronin, Tarmac front runner Jonny Greer (in a Sierra Cosworth) and Alan Ring (BMW M3). Is it any wonder that the enthusiasts will be flocking to Killarney this weekend?

The seeding for the Modified part of the rally starts at number 62 with Chris Armstrong, then it is Gary Kiernan, Colin O’Donoghue, Ryan Loughran and Jason Pritchard – all in Escorts. The first ‘non-Escort’ is Richard Conlon at 70 in his Toyota Corolla TC.  The first of the 8 stages (Molls Gap) is at 08.00 on Sunday morning (where the cars will turn Right at the gap, not Left) and the finish ramp is at 15.28.  Sensibly, a little more respectable time than in recent years. There will be two runs over Molls Gap, the second one is at 10.59. There will also be two runs over the Ballaghbeama and Shanera stages, and then single runs over Rockfield and Coolick.

Also this weekend is the MG Club’s Autosolo at Nutts Corner TTS. Birr MC is having its ‘Turkey Chaser’ autotest at Garahy’s garage in Birr. One week further on (6th-8th December) we have the Monza Rally Show to look forward to, where Josh McErlean will drive a Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing i20 R5. News just released as well from Hyundai is that the 2020 i20 R5 will have a new suspension/dampers  upgrade in both asphalt and gravel format, as well as an updated steering ‘set-up’, plus new pistons and liners for the turbo engine which will give more power – up to 290 hp.

Also next weekend the Grizedale Forestry Stages will take place and an entry has been submitted by young Joel Eakin from Claudy. We carried the story recently about his disappointment regarding the last minute cancellation of the Mid-Antrim MC event. Joel had spent so much time and money upgrading his Civic to gravel specification especially for that one rally, the Glens, so now he is having to go across the Irish Sea to get some gravel experience. More news on this lovely little rally next week.

Photo copyright Brian McDaid.

Last weekend the Déjà Vu organisers presented a cheque for €25,000 to the Donegal Hospice, this being the proceeds from the Donegal Déjà vu held a couple of months ago. Coming up at the end of December (29th) in Donegal at McCafferty’s Bar in Letterkenny’s Lower Main Street, is a marshal’s appreciation night, the proceeds going to the Little Angels Special School. (At least we think it is the Little Angels, the advertising pamphlet we received says ‘Little Angles’!).

Rumours persist today (Wednesday 27th) that the Toyota Gazzo Racing Team will announce their 2020 WRC programme with Sebastian Ogier heading the revised team line up after WRC Champion Ott Tanak’s departure to Hyundai. Elfyn Evans is favourite to join Ogier alongside Kalle Rovenpera with a strong suggestion that Latvala will still have a role in the team as a development driver.

Late News: Toyota Confirm: We are pleased to confirm an exciting, all-new driver line-up for the 2020 season:

Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia
Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin
Kalle Rovanperä / Jonne Halttunen

Regards, Brian, Liz & Michael Patterson.

A small selection of photo’s from the Roger Albert Clark – courtesy of the RAC Rally.

 

Irish Notes 20th November 2019

Unexpectedly it was announced last Saturday evening that Triton Showers would continue their title sponsorship of the MI National Rally Championship through 2020. The occasion was the annual National Championship Awards ceremony, which was held in the Sheraton Hotel Athlone. It was widely believed that after five years the Triton Showers association with the series would end, but Triton Showers’ main man in Ireland Kevin Barrett took nearly everyone pleasantly by surprise when he announced out of the blue that the company was to continue what has become the country’s blue ribbon National Championship. Kevin’s heart is very much in rallying and he was reluctant to leave the Championship in the wilderness with no sponsor, hence the change of heart. There will be 7 rounds, with 6 to count, in 2020:

Pictured at the Triton Showers National Rally Championship awards ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone were (left to right): Kevin Barrett, Triton Showers, Josh Moffett, winning driver, Aaron Vard represnting the Vard Family, Andy Hayes, winning co-driver and Trevor Applegate, Triton Showers. Photo: Seamus Counihan.

 

1 Mayo Rally (March 8th)

2 Circuit of Kerry (April 5th)

3 Carlow Rally (May 10th)

4 Cavan Rally (May 24th)

5 Tipperary Stonethrowers (August 9th)

6 Clare Rally (September 13th)

7 Donegal Harvest (October 10th)

 

Some of the main players collecting their awards on Saturday Night included the new champions Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes. Their names go on to the prestigious Vard Trophy. Interestingly Josh is the fifth different winner in the five years of the Triton backing. Former Champion Roy White and his co-driver James O’Brien collected the runner-up Trophies. Third placed driver was Kevin Eves and he was also the tops in ‘2 Wheel Drive’, while Anthony Nestor was the 3rd placed overall co-driver and he also received the best GpN co-driver award. Kevin Eves’ co-driver Chris Melly received the 2WD co-driver Award and was 4th o/a in the standings. Shane Maguire won the GpN Award.

Not unexpectedly it has been announced this morning that Citroen have withdrawn from the WRC.   Their statement cites “Following the decision of Sebastian Ogier to leave Citroen Racing after the 2019 WRC season, Citroen decided to withdraw from its WRC programme in 2020 due to the absence of a first class driver for the 2020 season.”

Home rally action last weekend included the Omagh Motor Club’s C-More Flying Targa Rally where Eddie Peterson/Philip O’Reilly in their Toyota MR2 took victory from Eric Patterson/Raymond Donaldson (MX5). Douglas Reid/Jonathan Stewart, also in a Mazda, were 3rd. On the Autotest front Guy Foster (Mini Special) took the win on the round 5 Hewison Trophy series at Arklow. Daniel Byrne (Mini) was 2nd and James Wilson (Mini Special) 3rd.

 

McGrady Insurance NI Rally Champion – Stephen Wright pictured on this year’s Sezoens Rally.

County Monaghan’s Stephen Wright is now confirmed as the 2019 McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK NI Stage Rally Champion, Stephen saying, “ Taking on any Championship was not on my radar at the start of the year but the competitor friendly format and variety that each event in the Championship offered kept bringing me back.” Stephen finished the foreshortened series (the last round did not run) in a tie position with Derek McGarrity and Stephen took the title on a count back tie decider. He is the first driver from the Republic of Ireland to win the NI series. Champion co-driver title went to Derek McGeehan’s son Mark. Derek led the points for much of the season but it all came to naught when he retired from the Tyrone Stages, his Mini WRC ‘going off’ a cylinder. Derek then ended up 3rd in the series, with 8 times NI Champion Derek McGarrity runner-up. John Devlin just pipped James Kennedy at the last gasp for the coveted 2 wheel drive title. Beragh’s Adam Vance was the GpN winner, Belfast’s Kyle White the best Junior. Drew Wylie once again captured the Historic title.

 

Next season’s NI Championship is being revamped to consist of just five asphalt rallies. The reasoning behind the all-asphalt format seems to be that some competitors found it too expensive and time consuming converting their cars for different disciplines. In addition to the NI Championship there will be an ANICC Gravel Cup consisting of four rallies – Fivemiletown, Fermanagh Lakelands, Bushwhacker and Mid Antrim.

 

The five NI Championship rallies will be:-

1 Kirkistown:   15th February.

2 Bishopscourt: 7th March

3 Maiden City: 25th March

4 Sperrins:  6th June

5 Tyrone: 18th July.

 

In addition to these changes, the management structure of the ANICC is also changing. Nicky Moffitt has been the hard working secretary for 39 years and been on the Council for 42. He has done the most marvellous and comprehensive work for NI Motorsport all those years. He will still be involved, and will give the incoming secretary Grace King all his assistance. Nicky is working more than ever with Motorsport UK and will be taking over the chair of the Rallies Committee in the New Year from Andrew Kellett. Nicky will also be on the board of Motorsport UK next year. Other changes include Robert Harkness stepping down as President of the ANICC and Donald Grieve moving up from vice President to President.

 

This weekend rallying at home will mainly be concentrated on the North Ulster Car Club’s Targa Rally this Saturday 23rd November, officially titled the John Mulholland Friends of the Cancer Centre Targa Rally. Over 100 entries have been received, with the top six seeds being Chris Evans (Toyota), Paul Mooney (Nova), Robert Woodside (MX5), Eric Patterson (MX5), David Crothers (MX5) and Douglas Reid (MX5). Such is the quality of the entry that there are top names scattered throughout the field – Mark Francis for example is at 8, Eamonn Byrne at 11, Dermot Carnegie at 15 and Frank Lenehan at 17.

 

Hoping for a 3rd win on the Roger Albert Clark Rally, Marty McCormack. Photo: Paul Lawrence

Also this weekend is the Roger Albert Clark Rally through the forests of Wales, Kielder and South West Scotland. The rally actually starts this Thursday evening from Leominster on the Welsh border and there will be two stages through the fast but tricky Radnor forest in darkness. On Friday the crews will tackle some classic Welsh stages. They then have a long transit section up to Carlisle for a Friday night rest halt. Saturday sees tough stages through Kielder, then it is into the Scottish forests on the Sunday and back to Kielder on the Monday: 32 forest stages in total. It will be a long haul for the drivers. No.1 seed Marty McCormack freely admits it is the most demanding and draining of rallies. Draperstown man Marty will have Barney Mitchell co-driving in his Escort and is aiming for his third Roger Albert win. With almost 160 crews on the entry list, and with some very talented drivers in fabulous cars, this very special rally, a throwback to rallying’s glory days, will not be an easy one to win.

 

Generally at this time of the year, on the run-up to Christmas, there is no shortage of Motorsport books on offer. One that particularly caught our eye is “Ever the Bridesmaid”, the Autobiography of Tony Ambrose. The late Tony Ambrose raced and rallied an MG TC in his early days and then was asked to partner Lyndon Sims in an Aston Martin DB2/4 to contest the RAC Rally – which they won. Fairly soon Tony Ambrose was adopted into the BMC Competition team and co-drove for many top drivers in Minis and Austin Healey’s, eventually winning the European Championship in 1965 with Flying Finn Rauno Aaltonen, who was also known as ‘The Rally Professor’. Ambrose was one of the first BMC team members to request a ‘recce’ car to go and make notes of the stages, a pioneer really of Pacenotes to make the stages faster and safer. His red MG TC, GGC865, has sadly disappeared in the mists of times. The book is reportedly a delight, giving much insight into those halcyon days when BMC cars ruled the rallying world. ‘Ever the Bridesmaid” was published by Veloce Publishing, but seems quite hard to obtain. We located one under the ‘Mini Sport’ banner – just the job as a Christmas present!

 

Last minute snippets – The first closed road stage rally in the New Year looks as if it could be a new Donegal mini  stage event, located at Termon Kilmacrennan on January 25th……  Peugeot Sport has launched a new rally car – the 208Rally4……Next weekend’s Killarney Historic Rally is all on course but one crew Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell are short of a spanner man to help with running their FIA MK2 Escort.  The mechanic that usually helps them has been diagnosed with illness.  Andy Boswell’s mobile number is 0044 7946674244…….The MG Car Club (Ulster Centre) are running the first test (at TTS Nutt’s Corner) of this Saturdays’ North Ulster Car Club’s Targa Rally……The 500 Motor Racing Club are organising a rally car test day for December 7th at Kirkistown……the Irish Racing Car Show takes place this weekend in Dublin’s RDS……….The Manus Kelly tribute night this Saturday in Letterkenny is reportedly a sell-out with 600 tickets sold and the hotel is having two sittings to cope – a measure of the magnitude of the tragedy of Manus Kelly’s fatal accident plus the high esteem in which he was held.

The finalists for Motorsport Ireland’s Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award have been announced. David Kelly (24), from Donegal Town, has been named alongside Derek Mackarel (23), from Clones, Co Monaghan, and Josh McErlean (20), from Kilrea, Co Derry.

All three drivers are in the running for the prestigious Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver Award, which has a prize fund of €100,000.

 

Regards, Brian Liz & Michael Patterson

Irish Notes 13th November 2019

Callum Devine and Brian Hoy sliding thier way to 3rd O/A, Rally Hungary

Punctures, fog, floods and excursions were the hallmarks of what transpired to be the very tough European Championship Rally Hungary last weekend, so fair play to former British Junior Rally Champion Callum Devine from Northern Ireland for finishing 3rd o/a. Also to young Englishman Chris Ingram – he finished 4th on the rally following a final stage puncture, but won the European Championship, a fantastic achievement. Outgoing European Champion Lukyanuk was leading the rally going into the last stage but his Citroen also incurred a punctured tyre which he had to stop and change, dropping him to 2nd o/a behind Turan in his Skoda. Because Ingram’s Skoda had also suffered a final stage puncture, for several minutes at the finish nobody knew for sure who had won the title, but it was Chris Ingram. That last stage incident typified Lukyanuk’s up and down season. Chris Ingram on the other hand, co-driven by Ross Whittock, kept his head down throughout the long, tough and horrendously expensive series to win this European Championship, a feat that has eluded many top British drivers over the years. Indeed it is over 50 years (1967) since our last winner, the brilliant Vic Elford.

Chris Ingram/Ross Whitock clinched the FIA ERC title in Rally Hungry – Photo Thomas Fenetre / DPPI

Catapulted into this calibre of competition, 25 year old Callum Devine from Park in Co. Londonderry was not phased one little bit. Co-driven by Fermanagh man Brian Hoy in a Hyundai i20 R5, Callum, whose catchphrase used to be ‘just trucking along’, and now also quips, ‘I also drive diggers’, kept his head firmly in gear despite at least one time consuming puncture. He set a fantastic fastest time through the fog and floods of the final 27.48 km final stage to move into that 3rd position.  He described it as his toughest rally yet. It really was a fairytale dream result for the NI crew.

Craig Breen and team members celebrate the 2019 WRC Manufacturers Title following the cancelation of Rally Australia due to forest fires.
Photographer: Fabien Dufour
Worldwide copyright: Hyundai Motorsport GmbH

This weekend coming should have been the final counter in this season’s World Rally Championship, Rally Australia. However it is not to be. The rally has been cancelled at the very last moment due to the bush fires raging through Queensland and New South Wales. Indeed the flames are reportedly now roaring close to the rally base, Coffs Harbour. Toyota’s Ott Tanak has of course already the Championship driver title clinched. The spotlight was now going to be on the Manufacturer’s title. Hyundai currently leads the points from Toyota, and

subject to ratification by the FIA the Korean car manufacturer will take the title.  The seriousness of the devastating fires can not be underestimated. Several people have already sadly died in the fire storm. An enormous amount of damage to property, farmland and forests has been inflicted. Countless numbers of animals and livestock have died in horrible fashion.

The rally organisers had already announced that the constituent ‘lower level rallies’ which were to run as part of the weekend were cancelled. Then the decision was, rightly taken to cancel the whole thing, as well as an FIA prizegivng which was due to take place on the Monday evening after the rally. To have attempted to run any sort of car rally under these conditions was a completely ridiculous proposition.  Once the decision was made to cancel the rally the teams, drivers and co-drivers, plus personnel, all leant their weight to helping the local communities in any way they could, including donating food etc.

David Kelly in action in his Toyota Starlet. Image credit Jim McSweeney

Kieran Reed has received the ‘wild card’ nomination for the Billy Coleman.

On a different theme, following their class 16A win on the Fastnet Rally a couple of weeks ago, 24 year old David Kelly from Donegal Town has been nominated for the selection of this year’s MI Billy Coleman Young Driver Award scheme. David has been competing in a Citroen C2R2 and more recently a Toyota Starlet. He has now acquired the latest specification M-Sport R2T Ford Fiesta. David plans to do some navigational events over the winter in a left hand drive car in preparation for next season and tackling some British events in the new LHD Fiesta. He joins seven other nominees for the Billy Coleman award, which now carries €100,000 in support for next season.

Latest Young Driver news as well is that Kieran Reed from Rathmore in Co. Kerry has received the ‘wild card’ nomination for the Billy Coleman. 25 year old Reen reportedly impressed throughout the year, winning class 16 on every rally he entered, took a pair of overall junior wins and was also crowned the Southern4 Junior Rally Champion. Reen’s nomination brings the total to 9 drivers who will face the panel to adjudge the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver winner.

Looking forward to the weekend of 21st – 24th November, the Roger Albert Clark Rally is fast approaching. The event is receiving a lot of interest, and entries. We have already noted that Marty McCormack and co-driver Barney Mitchell in their Escort are the No.1 seeds, and top drivers include Paul Barrett, Adrian Hetherington and Keith McIvor. Also making the trip are Barry McKenna/Leon Jordan and Seamus Burke/Martin Brady, both crews in Escorts.

The weekend after the Roger Albert it will be the turn of the Rentokil Initial Killarney Historic Rally.  Clerk of the Course Darren McCormick has planned a challenging route, starting with Molls Gap, which this time has a different finish than usual, a real sting in the tail. The other four stages, some done twice, are not exactly a walk in the park either, so whoever comes out on top in either the Historic or National sections will surely have earned the plaudits.

We mentioned in previous Irish Notes the standard of driving talent which the Historics section has attracted. Just as a reminder, Craig Breen will surely top the list in a newly acquired Viking Motorsport Escort, and he will face tough competition from the likes of Rob Duggan, Robert Barrable and last year’s winner Owen Murphy. The National section has also attracted a top class entry. Just some of the top names entered include Damien Tourish, Chris Armstrong, Gary Kiernan, Tomas Davies, Daragh O’Riordan, Wesley Patterson, Martin McGee, Ryan Loughran and David Condell. Interestingly, Wesley Patterson has built a new Escort, which is reportedly a beautiful car. He planned to compete on the Mid Antrim Club’s Glens Rally. But of course that disappointedly came to naught, so Lisburn man Wesley has had to fire up his regular ‘tarmac’ Escort for Killarney.

Following the cancellation of the Glens of Antrim Rally it has been confirmed that Monaghan’s Stephen Wright is indeed the NI Rally Champion. Stephen didn’t really start this season with any great intention of contesting the NI Rally Championship but he ended up winning the title! He feels that he will probably have another go at it next year, as the timescale involved suits him well, as he is heavily involved now in the family business. There were many drivers who were hugely disappointed at the Glens cancellation. One of them was young Joel Eakin from Claudy. His father Peter, who sponsors one of the rounds of the Championship, writes – “Joel has competed in every round of the Championship this year, his first full season in the sport. He only took up rallying last year. As a young driver on a tight budget running in class 1 it has been great competition all year, only ever a few points between himself and Adam Vance – only 1 point going into the last round – good competition all through the season to be ruined by this decision (to cancel). We along with other competitors had our car changed to forest spec at great cost, tyres bought etc. I don’t think this club thought of the competitors. This does nothing for the reputation of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship that has already been struggling. We need to encourage young drivers in our sport and this did not help.”  Joel missed out on a class win on a tie break: was 2nd in GpN by half a point and was runner up in the Juniors to Kyle White. To get a bit of a blast on the gravel, Joel may make the trip to the Lake District and the Grizedale Stages (7th December).

Josh McErlean from Kilrea in Co. Londonderry is on course to compete on a rally with a difference – the Monza Rally Show in Italy. Driving a Peugeot 208 R2 Josh won this year’s British Junior Rally Championship. With support from the BRC and Hyundai Customer Racing Josh tackled the WRC Wales Rally GB in a Hyundai i20 R5 and set some decent times until sidelined with a technical problem. Now he is to reacquaint himself with the i20 R5 to compete in the eight stages of the very high profile Monza event, Keaton Williams co-driving. Josh is one of the nine nominees for the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver Award. Interestingly, Hyundai are running a Trophy prize fund at the event for customer teams. The top three drivers will be awarded a cash prize, with the aim of helping them fund their 2020 rallying season. The Trophy winner will receive €10.000 and the second and third placed drivers €5.000 and €3.000 respectively.

Seb Perez/Gary McElhinney – Mallorca Rally Dijous Bo.

Donegal’s Gary McElhinney continues to rack the stage miles abroad with a great run on last weekend’s Mallorca Rally Dijous Bo co-driving for young Seb Perez. Driving an Amigos backed historic Porsche 911, the pair not only won their class but also came home 7th overall in the modern event after 2 days of tarmac stage competition in the north of the Mediterranean Island.

Closer to home the Omagh MC is running a Targa Rally this weekend. When we checked earlier this week the rally had 52 entries, and just some of the top names included Niall Donnelly (MR2), Norman Ferguson (Peugeot), Frank Lenehan (Starlet), Eric McIvor (MX5) and Simon Woodside (MX5). As an aside, Omagh has reached the conclusion and agreement of the parties that there will be no electioneering posters and photographs on poles etc – now that will be make for a more pleasant rally!

Regards, Brian & Liz Patterson

Grizedale Stages Rally 2019 – Pre-Event Stage Data & Sample Video

Grizedale Stages Rally 2019.

Below is a short sample video along with our usual stage data samples for the Pokerstars Rally 2019. We have completed our pre event recce and the notes and video are ready for posting from W/C Monday 25th November.


 

 

Grizedale Stages Rally 2019 – Stage Data.




 



Grizedale 1080p Sample

Grizedale 1080p Sample


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Online Entries available here – http://www.grizedalestages.co.uk

 


 



 

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Irish Notes 6th November 2019

Rumours have somewhat swirled around of late that Craig Breen would tie up a deal with Hyundai to drive for them in Australia and then on 10 rounds of the 2020 WRC, or in a development role. Well, the first part has come true, in that Craig and his co-driver Paul Nagle will replace 2016 Rally Australia winner Andreas Mikkelsen ‘down under’. Perhaps Craig is considered to have a more favourable start position than Mikkelsen, in what are sure to be Australia’s dusty conditions. On top of confirmation that about to be crowned World Rally Champion Driver Ott Tanak is shifting to the Korean car manufacturer for 2020, it poses the question of just what appearance the Korean team will have in 2020.

It seems inconceivable that they will for example dispense with the services of Thierry Neuville, who is still ‘in contract’. It is likely, not a given of course, that the Belgian will be mainly instrumental in tying up the World Rally Manufacturers title on next week’s Rally Australia. Neuville won Australia in 2017 for Hyundai. Two things are certain – Hyundai could possibly end up with the strongest team by far in the WRC, and also that this weekend’s Rally Australia could be an end of season cracker. Most teams either have the manners not to make announcements about their driver line-up for next year until after this season’s final event, or else are undecided.

Hyundai team boss Andrea Adamo is considering an R5 programme for the 2020 WRC season – “I would really like to do it,” he said. “I put an internal budget together, I want to do it in the proper way. For sure, I will need small support from customers because I don’t have the total budget, but I want to do it right. It would have to be the flagship of the R5 car,” he explained. Speaking to WRC.com he said “We have to show our customers we are not throwing the towel in. We are working very, very hard to make the new R5 car right up there – we do this to keep our customers, otherwise our rivals will approach them,” he added. Craig Breen is currently working on upgrades to the R5 car.

Now that the Tanak move has been confirmed, many other parts of the driver jigsaw should begin to fall in place. Which means as well that, apart from the obvious kudos of Australian success, most drivers will be anxious for a top result, just to cement or sway those last minute decisions that teams will have to make on their driver line-up for next year. It will be no time at all from the end of Australia to registration for the Monte Carlo Rally and confirmation with the FIA on who is driving for whom. The rumours are already circulating in social media, which means that they are probably wrong, – particularly about Sebastien Ogier and/or Elfyn Evans perhaps going to Toyota Gazoo. Time will tell, there is a lot at stake for the teams and the crews. It is all a bit of a non-stop helter-skelter really, especially as regards the Hyundai team, who seem to delight in switching around their drivers between events. No real point in speculating, it will come out in the wash. Rally Australia is 14th – 17th November, and it could be quite an occasion, not just on the stages.

Monaghan driver Stephen Wright secures the 2019 McGrady Insurance NI Rally Championship after a strong season in his Fiesta R5. Photo by NI Rally Championship.

Expectations were high that this weekend’s final round of the McGrady Insurance NI Championship, the Glens of Antrim Rally, was going to be a cracker. However that hope has crumbled to dust with the news that the Mid Antrim Club has cancelled the event, citing some unpaid entries as the reason. It would appear that Monaghan’s Stephen Wright, co-driven this season by Liam Moynihan, has won the NI Title. Multiple former NI Champion Derek McGarrity tied with Stephen on total points when the ‘one & a half final round points rule’ was put in place for the Tyrone Stages, and on a ‘count back-tie break’ scenario Stephen wins with two maximum scores and three 2nd places, as against McGarrity’s two maximums and two seconds. Without the one and half points ruling Stephen was also ahead in the points. When we spoke to him on Tuesday evening, Stephen commented, “I think it is a great pity for all those who have worked hard to put the rally together that it is cancelled. I was looking forward to Saturday, and trying to win the Championship. Now to be told on Tuesday that I have won it is quite unexpected, and of course I am happy about winning.”

Not so happy, indeed furious, was Derek McGarrity. He is no stranger to what would have been the main stage on Saturday, Slieveanorra, and he had spent a lot of money and effort preparing his Skoda R5 for the gravel, anticipating a grandstand finish to the series. Interestingly, McGarrity offered to cover the cost of the unpaid entries and he would have tried to recoup that himself. But the organisers told him the decision was taken. Makes one wonder is it a motor club or a finance house supposedly organising the rally. A lot of other drivers also had major commitments made to compete on the rally, but that is disappointingly not now going to happen. On the un-seeded entry list we had printed out on Monday morning there were 53 entries, so the cancellation was to say the least unexpected and considered by many to have been unnecessarily abruptly arrived at. The rally had been reduced to two stages repeated, so surely there would have been minimum expense. For the record, Derek McGeehan is now shown as 3rd o/a in the points, Desi Henry 4th, James Kennedy 5th and John Devlin 6th. No doubt the various Championship class points positions will now also be re-calculated. Disappointing as well for the rally sponsor Blue Sky Resource Recovery and for the standing of NI rallying in general. As the respected Sammy Hamill of the Belfast Telegraph writes: “Can’t believe Saturday’s final round of the N.I. Rally Championship has been called off. Sometimes Motorsport just shoots itself in the foot”.

Kyle White/Sean Topping secured the NI Championship Junior Title with fast mature approach to to the 2019 season. The young Belfast driver plans for 2020 are still undecided but the Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman award is a target for next season.

Ah well, rather than head for the beautiful Glens this Saturday we will just have to keep our eyes on the computer and chart the progress of Callum Devine in Hungary or double F1 champion Fernando Alonso on the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship in Saudi Arabia. (Fernando is taking part in the 2020 Dakar, driving for Toyota, and this weekend is part of familiarisation. Reportedly he is struggling to cope with co-driver instructions! Devine will be co-driven on the European Championship Rally Hungary by Brian Hoy and the pair are seeded at number 15 in their Skoda Fabia R5 Evo. Chris Ingram/Ross Whittock are the No.1 seeds. They are in a Peugeot 208 R5 and lead the European points, with a decent chance of wrapping up the European Championship. Alexey Lukyanuk, current European Champion and no stranger to rallying here, is seeded at 3 in a Citroen R5. Russian driver Tukasz Habaj is at 2 in a Skoda R5 Evo.

On the weekend after Rally Australia one of the biggest rally events of the year in these islands will take place: the five day Roger Albert Clark forest stage event (21st-25th November). Several drivers from here are making the trip to compete, and they include 2017 winners Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell in their Escort. Just some of the other top crews from here making the trip over for this momentous 30 plus special stage forest rally include Paul Barrett/Gordon Noble (Escort), Adrian Hetherington/Andrew Grennan (Escort) and Keith McIvor/David Burns (Escort). And of course, David Greer and his co-driver Brian Crawford have entered in a new Opel Manta 400. They were planning to give the new car a shakedown this weekend performing ‘OO’ duties on the Glens. Ah well, that’s that then. We will have more news on the Roger Albert next week.

2017 Roger Albert Clark winner Marty McCormack in action in his Mk2 Escort.

Looking further ahead, the Rentokil Initial Killarney Historic Rally is shaping up to be a massive event, with a big entry of top historic and national cars. The event is the opening round of the 2020 Irish Tarmac Historic Championship, and the final counter of the Plasticbags.ie Southern4, the Moriarity’s Centra – Kingdom of Kerry Rally Championship and the HRCR West Wales Rally Spares Stage Masters Challenge. Darren McCormick is Clerk of the Course, following in the footsteps of his father Gary. At a reception last weekend, with many dignitaries in attendance including the TD Minister for Sport Brendan Griffin, Mike Marshall, deputy CoC, outlined some of the entries. The headline catcher was Craig Breen to drive a newly acquired Viking Motorsport Ford Escort RS 1800, with Paul Nagle co-driving. The pair will be fresh from Rally Australia, so should be in top form. Just some of the other top drivers in the Historics include Robert Duggan and Robert Barrable, both in Escort BDAs. Last year’s winner Owen Murphy is switching from a Lotus Sunbeam to an Escort BDA. Forestry Champion Cathan McCourt, Adrian Hetherington and Donegal’s Martin Doherty should all be near the top of the entry. Seven times Circuit of Ireland winner, Jimmy McRae, is also making the trip to Killarney and will drive his Firenza Can-Am.

The above is just a taster of what will surely be a superb entry. There will be 8 stages on the menu, all to run in daylight, and service will be in the Liebherr crane factory just outside Killarney. Of special interest to many people will be the new award to be presented to the Historic winner, the Maurice Nagle Perpetual Club. Maurice was a stalwart of the club since its inception 42 years ago and the Killarney Historic Rally was Maurice’s innovation, taking over the ‘Killarney Lakes’ date when that event moved to May. Sadly Maurice died very shortly after acting as course car on last year’s Historic event. He was a man whom everyone he came into contact with thought the world of. Such was the support for financing the new Trophy, organised by Dan Cashman, that there was €3,500 surplus which was donated to the Cork-Kerry Cancer Bus.

Finally for now we wish to express our sadness at the death, following illness, of Russell Brookes. The late Russell, 74 years old and from Worcestershire, was one of the most successful and determined rally drivers in the British Isles in the second half of the 20th century. One of our outstanding memories of Russell was from the 1978 Circuit of Ireland. Russell won the Circuit in ’77, with Billy Coleman 2nd. In ’78 his Escort suffered a cracked cylinder head before being shipped from Boreham, so the car only arrived into Belfast just hours before the start of the five day rally. Russell crashed the car into the scenery on the opening Knockagh stage. It took many minutes for the spectators to manhandle the car into a field from where Russell regained the stage in his now well bent Andrews Heat For Hire backed Escort. Well, that was him out of the reckoning and plumb last. Or so the top drivers thought: and that included stars of the calibre of Markku Alen in the works Fiat Miriafori, Hannu Mikkola, 1000 Lakes winner Kyosti Hamalainen, Pentti Airikkala, Tony Pond, Roger Clark, Graham Elsmore, Jimmy McRae, home favourites such as Billy Coleman, Adrian Boyd, the McCartney brothers and Bertie Fisher.

Russell Brookes, Manta 400 and Andrews Heat for Hire. A fabulous combination embossed in many a rally enthusiast’s memory.

Well, as was his determined way, Brookes, the hero that he was, drove for the five days, 55 stages making up 550 competitive miles laid out by Clerk of the Course Terry Ingles, Russell won the rally from Jimmy McRae (Chevette) and with Markku Alen 3rd and Roger Clark 4th. It was an outstanding achievement, just one of many, by a remarkable man. He was one of the top drivers for over 20 years. He tirelessly looked after his long time sponsor Andrews Heat for Hire, making the company and his car instantly recognisable household names. He enthusiastically promoted rallying in general and was generous with his time, liaising with motor clubs and rally supporters. He also did enormous charity work. He was intelligent, articulate, always a pleasure to work with, although he did not suffer fools or stupid comment gladly. We thought the world of him. To his wife Julia, his family and many friends we offer our deepest condolences.

Regards: Brian, Liz, Michael Patterson and family