Irish Notes 17th July 2019
Fingers and thumbs were worn to a frazzle last weekend switching channels and results screens from Silverstone to Estonia, Sligo to Wimbledon, not to mention Lords for the cricket and Wales for the Nicky Grist rally.
Over on the Shell Helix Rally Estonia 2019 with its fifteen jumpy, fast, gravel Special Stages the overall result was fairly predictable, but interesting nonetheless. Ott Tanak & co driver, Martin Jarveoja, in their Toyota Yaris WRC were the start to finish winners. As well as promoting his home Estonia Rally, which had government backing as a WRC candidate event, Ott tried a few tweaks on his Yaris in preparation for the upcoming Neste Rally Finland. Indeed, for the top half dozen drivers, preparations for the 2nd/4th August Rally Finland was very much on their agenda. Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger-Amland in their Hyundai i20 WRC finished 2nd after a good run: albeit just over a minute back on the flying Tanak. A further 24 seconds back was Esapekka Lappi in the Citroen, and then it was Elfyn Evans (Fiesta WRC) in 4th. Craig Breen/Paul Nagle were a very respectable 5th on their first run in the Hyundai 120 Coupe WRC, an excellent warm up for Rally Finland. Craig had no surprises in the car and settled into a decent pace.
A big talking point on the event was the performance of 17 year old Oliver Solberg, co-driven by Co. Tyrone’s Aaron Johnston in a VW Polo GTi R5. Solberg’s drive over the early stages was simply breathtaking. He built up an early R5 lead of over a minute and was then able to pace himself to the end, finishing 7th o/a.
Closer to home, on the Triton Showers National Championship Sligo Stages, Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes in their Fiesta WRC took a clear victory, with their title rivals Roy White/James O’Brien, also in a Fiesta WRC, 2nd. This win takes Josh Moffett inexorably closer to the National title, an achievement which has so far eluded him. Roy White hammered away through these beautiful Sligo stages, but dropped a second or two on nearly every stage, to finish the day 23 seconds in arrears. This Sligo event was the sixth in the Triton series and Moffett has won five of them, so one more half decent result will mean he will be more or less home as regards the title. Johnny Greer/Kirsty Riddick in their Fiesta R5 were 3rd on the rally, which, apart from being a very good drive, was a brilliant opportunity to make ‘real time’ tweaks to the car in preparation for this weekend’s Carryduff Forklift Down Rally. Jonny will be going all out to emulate his last year’s win on what is effectively his home event.
Kevin Eves/Chris Melly in their Corolla won the Modified section in Sligo and were 4th o/a, with David Moffett/Martin Connolly 5th. Johnny Jordan/Paddy McCrudden fought back to 6th after a time loss on the 2nd stage caused by a spin and puncture. Shane Maguire/Darragh Kelly in their Mitsubishi won GpN and finished 8th one place behind Derek McGarrity who was hampered by throttle issues on his Fiesta WRC. Leading retirements included Frank Wray whose Subaru WRC blew a turbo and JF Shovelin whose Escort broke its manifold. Daniel Cronin dropped well back following an early spin and then later on a puncture on his Fiesta R5. Donegal’s Ryan Moore (Honda Civic) won the Junior Class 16 and Brian Moore won 16A.
On a general note, the rally received high praise indeed from many of those involved as well as spectators for the professional way every facet of the rally was handled. Even the weather was kind, making for a great day out.
Also last weekend was the Nicky Grist Rally. Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton in their Focus WRC took the overall win, over a minute ahead of Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson in their Fiesta WRC. Brendan Cumiskey/Liam Moynihan were 4th, driving a Fiesta WRC. Conor McCourt/Brian Hoy managed 8th o/a in their Fiesta R5. In the Historic section Jason Pritchard (Escort) won, 4s ahead of George Lepley/Tom Woodburn (Avenger) and with Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell just 1 second further back in 3rd. This was Marty’s first trip for a while in his Mk2, and he reported that he loved it. He plans to tackle the Cork Forestry at the end of this month, all part of a build-up to try to repeat his win on the Roger Albert Clark the last time it ran, two years ago.
Tucked away in the latter stages of the results was a name reminiscent of some of the yesteryear glory days of rallying here – Robin Eyre- Maunsell. Robin still loves to compete on the occasional forest rally. This time he was driving a Micra and, co-driven by Peter Scott, he made it to the finish. Which was rather good! At one of his hilarious after dinner speeches years ago Robin was asked how to become a millionaire in rallying. Quick as a flash he retorted in that very special voice of his, “Quite simple really, start with two million!”
This coming weekend the action switches to the Down Rally on Saturday and Imokilly on Sunday.
The NI event, sponsored by Carryduff Forklift, has attracted an interesting cross-section of entries, mainly because th UK Protyre Asphalt Rally Championship goes head to head with McGrady Insurance NI Rally Championship. Damian Cole, who drives a Fiesta WRC and is co-driven by the experienced Paul Spooner, is seeded at 6. Some of the other drivers who will be trying for `Protyre points’ include Melvyn Evans (Skoda Fabia R5) and his son Merion Evans. The latter was to drive a Hyundai but that was damaged in Ypres so he has switched to an ex Jan Kopecky Skoda R5. Another driver who will be vying for points on that Protyre Championship is John Stone (Fiesta WRC), as well as Alan Kirkaldy (Fiesta R5) and Oli Hopkins (Mirage).
Current British Rally Champion Matt Edwards is making the trip to Co. Down to compete in his Fiesta R5, with a view to readying himself and the car for the 16th/17th August Ulster Rally, a round of the BRC. Obviously last year’s winner Jonny Greer should be quick out of the box, and it will certainly be interesting to see if the other ‘home’ drivers, such as Derek McGeehan, Derek McGarrity and Jon Armstrong (Mini WRC) will fare against this varied opposition. There are lots more good drivers of course and such has been the demand for entries on this popular Down rally that some top drivers are seeded well down, and many didn’t get an entry all. One real eye opener is that Kenny McKinstry, so often over the years the man to beat on the stages, is seeded away down at 23 in his Subaru Impreza WRC S14. Changed days indeed! The rally is based at the EIKON Centre near the Maze, and there is a spectator stage there as well as the service area. The event starts at 08.30 and there will be 11 stages in total, including several runs over two revised Hamiltons Folly stages.
Also this weekend is the Imokilly Stages event and CoC Pat Maguire has arranged two very attractive stages outside Midleton, and also an attractive shakedown stage. The rally is a counter in the Southern Four series. The top six drivers are David Condell (Escort), Gary Kiernan (Escort), Richie Moore (Escort), David Guest (Skoda S2000), Vincent McSweeney (Mitsubishi) and Tomas Davies (Escort). The event is sponsored by Ollie Kierce Cars. The Midleton Park Hotel is an associate sponsor.
News over the last few days includes notification that 19 year old Josh McErlean from Kilrea has been nominated as a candidate for the MI Billy Coleman Young Driver Award. Josh has put up some stirring performances in the Juniors over the last couple of years and currently leads the British Junior Championship in his Peugeot 208 R2. Josh is a mechanical engineering student at Jordanstown University,
The Down Rally, which had an oversubscribed entry, has squeezed in quite a few Historics, not least of whom include Stanley Orr (Mk1 Escort), Drew Wylie (Escort), Andy Johnson (Chevette HSR) and the ‘new’ breed of Historic, a Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth, to be piloted by the irrepressible Frank McMullan.
The Jim Walsh Cork Forestry entry remains open and COC Paul Casey reports that entries are starting to build nicely and we will have more news on the 2 day Forestry event next week.
Elfyn Evans will miss Rally Finland after sustaining a back injury on last weekend’s rally Estonia. Gus Greensmith will replace the Welshman for the Finish WRC event. Evans finished fourth overall last weekend but following some physio work on his back, he has been advised against tackling the notoriously fast Rally Finland. M-Sport have given Evans their full support for the future and had stated that Greensmith was always due to drive for the factory team again this year, but this situation has fast tracked that position. Haydon Paddon will drive the third car as planned.
Brian & Liz Patterson & Michael Patterson