We almost had a Co. Down outright winner on last Saturday’s Carlisle Stages Rally, but unfortunately a puncture on the final stage dropped Comber’s David Crossen to 4th. David was co-driven in his Mk2 Escort by Cork’s Aileen Kelly and they set some cracking fastest times through the day, even another puncture, on stage 2, not really hampering their progress. However the pair did win their class.
Another class winner was Stanley Orr, driving his Mk1 Escort. Stanley was co-driven by Graham Henderson and they were running in the Historic section of the rally. Stanley is well placed in the British Historic Championship. The ‘Open’ section of the rally was won by Roger Chilman/Patrick Walsh, while the Historic victory was taken by Matthew Robinson/Sam Collis. Adrian Hetherington was also competing on the rally but retired when his Escort gearbox cried enough.
On the Sunday, although many were glued to their TV sets to see Rory McIlroy take a much needed victory on the Canadian Open and Lewis Hamilton scoring the win on the Canadian Grand Prix despite his rival Vettel crossing the finish line first in his Ferrari, but having to accept a five second penalty for squeezing the Hamilton Mercedes off the road at one point, there was rally drama closer to home.
For the Heartlands Mini Stages Rally outside Portlaoise, Declan Gallagher switched back to his potent Toyota Starlet and, co-driven by Derek Heena, scored a runaway victory. Torrential rain on the final loop of stages created big problems for the drivers. Pat O’Connell/Mark Wiley had been 2nd for most of the day but Pat got caught out in stage 5 when his Lancer slid into a chicane. Jonathan Pringle had held 2nd on the opening stage, but his Escort succumbed to a broken alternator bracket. Pat described the road on that final loop as ‘mental slippy’, but, although he wasn’t able to continue, he reported the damage to his Mitsubishi as minor. This mishap allowed Mark Alcorn/John O’Donnell into 2nd place with their Escort.
The sensation of that final loop was young Gary McNamee. The Oldcastle man suspected that heavy rain could arrive late in the day. He ran Michelin 21s on his Civic during the early stages, but carried two Pirelli N3s in the boot from stage 2. When the rain arrived, which Frank Kelly described as making the roads like lakes and akin to a skating rink, Gary bolted on the Pirellis and went for it. Always a good driver in wet conditions, Gary and his co-driver Brian Brady scythed their Civic through the top contenders to take a brilliant 3rd place after setting fastest time on the final stage. He remarked afterwards that he thought it was a ‘lovely little rally’, but would have liked a few more chicanes on the first stage where he was on maximum revs in top gear. (His 1.6 litre Civic goes from a standing start to maximum revs (9,900) in just 550 metres).
Just over 80 cars started the rally. Richard Moore & John McGrath were 4th, Martin Toner/Sharon Clarke 5th and Wesley Patterson/Johnny Baird 6th, all three in Mk2 Escorts.
Further news items include the new M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 making its public debut at the 28th/29th/30th June Ypres Rally in Belgium. It will be driven by Eric Camilli in the role of ‘VIP Car’ – whatever that means! The car should be homologated by Rally Estonia and Sunninen, who is reportedly changing his co-driver to Jarmo Lehtinen, will drive it there. The government in Estonia is throwing its weight behind the event to make it like a mini WRC rally. Ott Tanak has risen to film star status in Estonia and is very much supporting the event. Certainly it would be a great shakedown for the 1000 Lakes – sorry Rally Finland! Elfyn Evans is also down to contest Estonia in his M-Sport Fiesta WRC car.
This weekend Tanak and all the other ‘works’ drivers will be in action on the Italian round, Rally Sardinia. Tanak, having won the last two rounds will doubtless be going for a hat-trick. A reminder of how close the points position is approaching this 8th round is that Ogier (Citroen) is on 142 points, Tanak (Toyota) 140 and Neuville (Hyundai) 132.
Also this weekend is the Motul Rally van Wervik, a brilliant small rally (with 150 plus entries) in Belgium, very close to Ypres Rally territory, but not with the same stages. In recent years a few drivers have entered Wervik to get themselves into the groove for Ypres. It is especially attractive for anyone contesting the British Rally Championship, as Ypres is again a round. One of those is Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell in their Skoda R5. Others from here making the trip include: John Reddington/Darragh Mullen in their Mk2 Escort, as well as Anthony O’Brien/Niall McDaid in their Lancer. Some of the drivers going from the UK include Jason Pritchard, Damien Cole and Hugh Hunter.
Motorsport Ireland has announced a ‘tweak’ to the Billy Coleman Award scheme. The award started 19 years ago with the aim of giving young Irish drivers a helping hand into International Rallying. The main change to the scheme is cutting back on the number of nominees and additional support, to the tune of €15000 to the two runners up. The overall award is still €50000 of support. The age limit remains at under 26 years.
Looking forward to next weekend’s Joule Donegal Rally, it is interesting that, although the classic event is a round of the Tarmac Championship there are only three ‘R5’ cars in the top ten, six in the top 50. World Rally Cars predominate, with many drivers aiming for an outright win, rather than Tarmac points. That is not to say that an R5 car couldn’t win outright, but a WRC car must surely have the edge. Craig Breen, Sam Moffett, Desi Henry, Donagh Kelly, Declan Boyle and Garry Jennings have all opted for WRC cars. As has Joe McGonigle and Seamus Leonard, the latter listed in a Focus WRC. The highest seeded drivers in R5 cars who will be going for Tarmac points will be last year’s Donegal winner Manus Kelly along with Alastair Fisher, Josh Moffett and Callum Devine.
There are also some good drivers further back in WRC cars as well, including PJ McDermot, Stuart Biggerstaff, Declan McCrory and Ken Block. Of course just outside the top ten is a startlingly good line up of the Modified cars, with iconic Mk2 Escorts predominant although Declan Gallagher in his Starlet could upset that particular apple cart, as could Kevin Eves in his dynamic Corolla.
The most successful co-drivers on the Donegal Rally in recent years have been James O’Brien (5 wins) and Rory Kennedy (4 wins). Rory is sitting with Garry Jennings on this year’s Donegal and we managed a few words with Letterkenny man Rory earlier this week. He opined that Garry must have a chance at another victory, even though his Subaru is not the newest car: “It is as good as Garry can make it. The problem with the driveshaft on the Cavan Rally a few weeks ago was a fault that has never happened before: just one of those things” When asked about the victory odds, Rory continued, “it is hard to see past Craig Breen, he has proved himself on more than one occasion. And Sam Moffett has come really good again recently, as has Declan Boyle. Alastair (Fisher) is going really well, although a WRC car should have the edge over R5. It is wide open though!”
Donegal Motor Club has sourced good quality accommodation for rally crews entered in this year’s Joule Donegal Rally. Each house sleeps 6, is fully equipped to a very high standard and has parking, Wi-Fi, and an on-site restaurant and bar. Enquiries to the Club via e mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org and as per event website.”
Another event coming up fast now (30th June) is the Carrick on Suir Motor Club’s Ravens Rock Rally – the next round in the Triton Showers National Rally Championship, as well as the Suirway Group South Eastern series. James Coleman is again the Clerk of the Course, with Rally HQ at Dooley’s Hotel in Waterford. The rally itself will be centred at Dungarvin with some brand new stages nearby and the service based in the town.
Unfortunately due to a severe weather forecast for Wednesday 12th June the RIAC Picnic in the Park has had to be postponed. The new date is Wednesday 24th July (4pm-8.30) at Marlay Park by kind agreement with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council.
Brian, Liz and Michael Patterson plus Paul McAuley