Irish Notes 2nd January 2019
Traditionally a quiet rally time, there were still a few interesting events on over the Christmas period. Matthew Mason for example won ‘Not the Boxing Day Rally’, Joe McGonigle claimed victory on the Maiden City Turkey Run Rally, and Danny Barry was the victor on the Carlow Club’s Rallysprint at Mondello Park. Happily the weather conditions over the holiday period were mild and dry throughout.
Further afield it was even warmer for Gary McElhinney as, co-driving for Ahmed Huwel in his Fiesta the pair took victory on the Morogora Rally to clinch the Tanzania Championship. Some boy is Gary. And then he was no sooner home than he got involved with Donagh Kelly testing his new Skoda R5. Could this be opening the door for Donagh to attempt a crack at another Tarmac Championship Crown?
The UAC’s ‘Not the Boxing Day’ consisted of a series of slalom like tests around the countryside close to the golf club at Moira which was the start/finish venue. The nature of the tests certainly provided a ‘blow the cobwebs’ away day for the full list of drivers. Matthew Mason was co-driven by Davy Young on this occasion and pushed his Micra to the limit to win by just two seconds from Stephen Ferguson/Milton McWilliams in a Peugeot 106. Peter Caldwell/Rory McPolin (Mazda MX-5) were just 1 second further back in 3rd.
Former winner and number 1 seed Will Corry seemed to be well in the hunt, but fell back, as did Marshall Kennedy in his Peugeot. Corry, who is a test driver with Ariel Sports in Somerset and is reportedly doing wondrous things with the latest Atom, had an adventurous sort of a day in a Midget. He had intended doing the event in his father’s Mk1 Escort, but that didn’t work out. He hadn’t really time to prepare the Midget, so the day then developed into a laugh a minute catalogue of punctures, broken exhaust, damaged fuel line and several visits to White Mountain Tyre depot for MG surgery! Still, Will had great fun and described the tests/stages as ‘classic!”
On the Turkey Run Rally at Shackleton, Joe McGonigle/Sean Hassett in their Mini WRC finished just 3 seconds ahead of Alan Carmichael/Jordan McCaw (Hyundai i20 R5) after the five quite long stages. Desi Henry/Mark Henry were 3rd in their Skoda Fabia R5. Donegal man McGonigle said afterwards, “That was one of my worst days rallying ever. I was dosed with the flu, hadn’t the energy to get round the second lap of the stages, hit a bale on the last stage, and all the way through could see where some drivers were ‘straight-lining’ some chicanes, cutting across the grass to avoid others, and the stages were dirtier, lots more mud, than usual. Still we won.” His co-driver Hassett commented, “Worst best day of his life!” Top ‘2WD performance’ on the day came from Barry Morris/Declan Campbell who were 4th o/a in their Escort Mk2. Amy Cox/Caron McCormack had a good run and finished 7th o/a in their Skoda Fabia.
At Mondello Danny Barry had a great day’s rallying in his Citroen DS3 R5, to take a clear win over Liam Ryan (Corolla WRC). Wesley Patterson and Enda O’Brien had a massive battle in their respective Escorts for 3rd o/a and best two wheel drive. Patterson just had the edge on this occasion and finished 8 seconds up on O’Brien. Following his win, Danny Barry told us,” It is 6 or 7 years since I have done the event, and it was pretty different this time. They (the organisers) handed me a sheet of paper with all the chicanes and so on, and I was told I could walk the course if I wanted to. So I just made it up as I went along, caught a couple of cars on the first run, and had a half spin, dropping about 15 seconds. After that I knew where I was going, the Citroen was really good, and there was a surprising amount of grip. This was just my second time out in the car. I’m too busy at work. I’d like to do a couple of rallies next year, maybe outside Ireland.”
Also over the Christmas period the closing date for Monte entries passed and the top end of the list gives a fair indication of WRC participation for next season. Elfyn Evans, to be co-driven now by Scott Martin, was confirmed to be driving an M-Sport Fiesta WRC, along with Teemu Sunninen and Pontus Tidemand. The M-Sport Ford route was just about the only one left for Craig Breen, so unbelievably, he has no WRC drive. Surely this position will change. Craig is too solid a driver and team player to be left on the sidelines. Although having said that, Haydon Paddon as well as Mads Ostberg also finds themselves out in the cold. Haydon’s former team, Hyundai, has signed Sebastien Loeb for a limited programme. Loeb is contesting the Dakar, which, being concentrated in Peru, is shorter this year, but the Frenchman may still find it a bit tight to get back for the Monte recce.
The opening WRC rally takes place from 22nd to 27th January. One of the other big changes on the Monte is of course Kris Meeke driving for Toyota, with Seb Marshall in the ‘hot seat’. So, that makes Tanak, Meeke and Latvala the main players for Toyota, World Champion Ogier and Esapekka Lappi for Citroen, Sunninen, Evans and Tidemand for Ford, Neuville, Loeb and Mikkelsen for Hyundai. This is quite a line up and of course subject to change as the season progresses.
Here at home it is relatively quiet for the first few weeks of the New Year, but of course it won’t be long before the Valvoline Forest series rolls into action with the Wm Loughman Rally, which will run on Sunday 20th January, not Saturday 19th.
Brian & Liz Patterson