Irish Notes 15th May 2019
Hiccups there are aplenty in rallying. On the WRC events they are possibly bigger and more public. This time it all went right for Toyota Yaris driver Ott Tanak and his co-driver Martin Jarveoja as they took the rally victory and maximum power stage points, while Neuville had a big time hiccup in his quest to hold his WRC points lead. On the previous two events Tanak’s Yaris was sidelined by niggly mechanical problems. Not so this time, Tanak and his Yaris were more or less perfect. World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier drove his Citroen almost over the limit to take 2nd place. While Sebastien Loeb, whose intriguing pace notes often include the instruction ‘plus plus’ who was on his first gravel outing in a Hyundai, was breathtakingly brilliant as he settled down to his i20.
“Flat out with the Choke Out” was an expression that Ott Tanak picked up from one of the Northern Ireland rally men when he was with M-Sport and his Fiesta WRC was fitted with D-Mack tyres. On this Rally Chile, in sometimes foggy and wet conditions, over very fast ‘shiny’ roads, Ott was stunningly fast. Last season he was tipped as a future World Rally Champion. That aspiration seemed to be fading fast over the last couple of rallies, but on these Chile stages, which were new to all the WRC drivers, the Estonian had the look of a driver not to be denied. Behind the top three, Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin did a sterling job for M-Sport to take 4th place – a really excellent drive. Teemu Sunninen in the 2nd M-Sport Fiesta had a few dramas on the slippy surfaces, but still 5th was a good result. Esapekka Lappi in the 2nd Citroen rounded off the top half dozen.
One of the biggest stories of the rally, an unfortunate one, was the retirement of Thierry Neuville and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul when their Hyundai barrel-rolled. Thank goodness they were only badly shaken, not seriously hurt. Thierry’s WRC points lead also took a tumble, but he is still definitely in the hunt. Latvala was only a second or two ahead of Neuville on the Saturday morning, in 3rd place, when the Neuville Hyundai crashed out. Then on Saturday afternoon Latvala was relegated off the leaderboard into Rally 2 when his Yaris sustained a broken driveshaft when it ran over a rock.
Kris Meeke and co-driver Sebastian Marshall was another crew to have a tough time. Kris was joint leader with Latvala on the opening stage, but then lost a few seconds in the mud and rain on the Friday. However he was still well in contention starting the Saturday leg until his Yaris ran wide on a corner and upended into the bushes. Kris and Seb were able, eventually, to get going and lost some more time running with a broken screen. Kris then took the screen out completely at a control, and then set some very good times running his Yaris without a screen. Eventually his Toyota was rebuilt as good as new and by setting some top three times he worked himself back up to 8th o/a by the finish. Subsequent to that he was penalised a minute for taking the screen out in a control zone, which relegated him to 10th, which was a real downer. Meeke is driving well, but it’s been a season of punctures and penalties so far. It was very dispiriting for the man who originally hails from the Bush Crossroads in Co. Tyrone. Surely, with all his ability, it has to get better for Kris soon.
Young Kalle Rovanpera won RC2 in his Skoda R5, from Mads Ostberg (Citroen R5). Gus Greensmith and co driver Elliot Edmondson overcame several mechanical niggles with their Fiesta R5 to take an excellent 3rd in the R5 category. The overall top WRC points standings are now:- Ogier 122, Tanak 112 and Neuville 110. The Championship now moves back to Europe and the next round is the Vodafone Rally de Portugal on 30th May – 2nd June.
Also last weekend were the Magherafelt Lanes Rally and Carlow Mini Stages. On the Magherafelt Targa event, with interesting tests run in bright sunny conditions, Liam & Niall Shaw in their Mazda MX-5 came out tops, ahead of Martin & Aaron Loughran, also in a Mazda. David Burns/Jason McGuickan (Fiesta ST) were 3rd. In Carlow there was the closest of close finishes, with Ryan Loughran/Gareth Doherty just edging Damian Toner/Mick Coady by 0.7 of a second for victory. Toner had led for most of the way, but the win just slipped away at the end. Jack Newman/Andrew Browne made it an Escort Mk2 top three.
Other events last weekend included the Plains Rally where Euan Thorburn took victory in his all conquering Focus WRC. A Focus WRC also came out tops on the Manx National, this one driven by Jason Pritchard. Donegal crew Martin Doherty/Kevin Flanagan had a great run on the Island to finish 13th o/a and win the Historic H1 category in their Escort RS 1800. Other crews to make the trip from here and to achieve decent finishes included Ian Chadwick/Kevin Horgan in an Impreza, and Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride in Dessie’s Porsche 911. John Devlin did the National B section of the rally with Ashley Trimble co-driving. Ashley is contesting the Protyre Asphalt Championship and partnered up with John in pursuit of points. A class win was just reward after a strong drive in thier Mk2.
This weekend coming on the home rally agenda it is the turn of the Donegal Forestry Rally, round 4 of the Valvoline backed Irish Forestry Championship. Top title contenders Michael Carbin (44pts), Niall Henry (40 Points) and Cathan McCourt (37pts), along with top 2wd contenders David Crossen and Mickey Conlon are all expected to contest the Bundoran based event on Saturday. Clerk of the Course John Crumlish has laid out three interesting stages, each to be run twice and it should prove a challenging and worthy day for the Championship contenders.
The motor club members have worked hard to ensure the stages are in good nick, which they are. The surface of gravel stages is a subjective topic. For example there were mutterings about this from some drivers after last weekend’s Plains Rally. However there is an arrangement there that Rally4Wales can only repair the roads after a rally, not before. If contractors cause damage, it is local companies who are employed to put down some stone. It reminds us of a time some years ago when we were commissioned by Motorsports International to note a rally in North America. When we got back we were asked how we got on, which was fine. However we did say that we thought the stages were very rough. The representative we were dealing with looked at us askance and enquired if we had ever driven the Safari route. Enough said. It is a rally after all, not a Formula 1 racetrack.
Looking forward to the weekend following, the Cavan Stages Rally looks really exciting, with many top names taking the opportunity for a real ‘tune-up’ before Donegal. Clerk of Course Stephen Kellett has arranged a superb set of stages, really brilliant roads, for the Sunday 26th May 9 stage event (plus a shakedown stage). The Cavan Rally may not be a round of the Triton Showers National Championship, but having an opt-out looks as if it will do no harm at all. Drivers of the calibre of Donagh Kelly, Declan Boyle and Garry Jennings are all tipped to be making the trip to Cavan. An interesting entry will be Joe McGonigle, down to drive a Fiesta WRC, Donegal man Joe wanting to try something different from the Mini WRC he has been campaigning. Cavan is a round of the Border Championship.
Further ahead, events on the horizon include the Clare Stages (Sunday 15th Sept) and the Directors of the Clare Club have decided to rename the event the Dougie Hughes Memorial Clare Stages Rally. Dougie always supported the Clare Club and indeed represented them at CAC meetings in Dawson Street. M. Fitzgibbon Contractors will be the main sponsor. Gerry O’Brien is again the Clerk of the Course. The rally will be based in the Hotel Woodstock and three smooth good quality stages are planned, each run three times. The club is planning a huge incentive scheme to help with entries.
A new event on the calendar is the Donegal Mini Stages on the 10th August. Johnny Baird will act as CoC. The main sponsor and host venue will be the Lagoon Bar & Restaurant, Termon. Johnny is planning to run two stages three times over a good mix of roads. The rally will be open to all, with special emphasis on beginners and novices.
Both the Donegal International and the Down Rally published the regulations this week and online entries are now live at both events respective websites.