Last weekend was a fairly quiet one, Motorsport wise, with 2020 just getting into its stride and promising lots of action to come. There were some events at home and away of course last weekend. In Monaghan Pakie Duffy/Evin Hughes in their Subaru won the Navigation Trial, with Peter Deery/David McCrudden 2nd and Aidan Keenan/Sean Marron 3rd to make it an Impreza top three. At Mondello Christopher Evans was the very impressive winner of the Dave Griffin Memorial autotest, from Eddie Petersen, who was also in a Toyota MR2. Daniel Byrne, who drove a Starlet, was 3rd and won his class.
Further afield, Carlos Sainz clinched victory on the Dakar, his 3rd win on the event. It was rather a different marathon this time of course, having switched from South America to Saudi Arabia. That didn’t deter ‘El Matador’. Carlos drove a BMW Mini X-raid and was co-driven by Lucas Cruz. Nasser Al-Attiyah, also a previous Dakar winner and a genius over the sand dunes, made a late charge in his Toyota Hilux, but couldn’t catch the flying Spaniard Carlos. Nasser did get ahead of Stephane Peterhansel. The very experienced Frenchman finished 3rd in another of the BMW Mini X-raid machines.
This weekend coming home action will be focused on the Lagoon Bar and Restaurant (Termon) for the Donegal Mini Stages. There is also the MG Car Club’s Derek Walker Trial on the Ards Peninsula with the HQ at Shane Braniff’s Echlinville Distillery. In the wider world the Monte Carlo rally, opener for this season’s World Rally Championship, has enthusiasts drooling with anticipation of what could be one of the hotly contested rallies ever.
In Donegal, Damien Gallagher/Mac Walsh head the mostly local list of competitors. Damien and Mac are in their trusty Mk2 Escort. Clerk of the Course Johnny Baird has picked two challenging stages, each repeated three times, and by their nature a Mk2 Escort should do well. Kevin Gallagher/Gerard Callaghan start 2nd on the road. They are in a Darrian, which could possibly be better suited to the faster 2nd stage. Aaron McLaughlin from Carndonagh and his co-driver Darren Curran are 3rd on the road in their Lancer, and if it is a wet Saturday their Lancer’s four wheel drive car capability could make a difference. The top six is made up of Paul & Karl Reid at 4 in their Escort, Monaghan crew David Moffett/Martin Connolly at 5 in a Starlet and Johnny Jordan/Paddy McCrudden at 6 in a Starlet. The remainder of the top ten reads: JR McDaid/Eamonn Doherty (Escort) at 7, Marty Toner/Sharon Clarke Moore (escort) at 8, Trevor and Kenny Bustard in their Lancer at 9 and James Cassidy/Domhnall Lennon (Escort) at 10. There are several drivers outside that top ten who could come to the fore, and it should be an interesting day.
On the MG Car Club’s Derek Walker just some of the top crews include Frank Lenehan/Tim Faulkner (Starlet), Robert & Catherine Dickson (Mini Cooper), Ralph Ewing/Valerie Heron (MG Midget), Will Corry/Peter Moreland Moore (Midget), Simon Woodside/tba (Mazda MX5).
On the Monte, much has been written and shown as regards the testing exploits of the world’s top drivers preparing for this most famous and challenging rallies, with the hot money on Ogier in his new mount, the Yaris, as well Tanak and Neuville in their team Hyundai i20s. Of course being the Monte, with all the different road and weather conditions in that part of France, it is wide open.
On the subject of the Monte, Mads Ostberg has clinched a deal to drive a works supported Citroen C3 R5 on this year’s WRC, starting on the Monte where he is the top R5 seed. At least PH Sport will have some involvement in the Championship, but their WRC team will be much missed, as they always add a touch of class. There is a very strong R5 line up, and it will be especially interesting to see how young Oliver Solberg, who has Omagh’s Aaron Johnston co-driving, fares in this company. Of course experience of the Monte stages is all important. Kalle Rovanpera lines up with the full Toyota Yaris team for this season, and should start the Monte in top form having clinched victory on the Arctic Rally last weekend.
Craig Breen has been retained by the Hyundai team in a support role, but will not be competing on the Monte. He is driving the following weekend on the Boucles de Spa Legends, driving a BMW M3. This clashes with the Galway International, which of course he won this time last year and went on to take victory on the Irish Tarmac Championship. The worry over the Corrib Oil supported Galway International not taking place because of a lack of paid up entries has now passed, and the rally is on ‘full steam ahead’ course.
Kris Meeke and Mikko Hirvonen are also entered for Boucles de Spa. Alastair Fisher has reportedly been testing a Dom Buckley VW Polo GTI R5 with a view to Galway. Sam and Josh Moffett have switched from Fiesta R5’s to Hyundai i20 R5s. Garry Jennings reckons he will be doing Galway in his Subaru. He told us that he hasn’t seen the car since Donegal, that there are a few bits and pieces being done for the rally, and that he won’t sit in it until the day before but ‘it’ll be alright!’ 22 year old William Creighton was a nominee in the Billy Coleman Award scheme and will use the funding in a bid for the British Junior Rally Championship title. Creighton has driven a Peugeot 208 R2 to class success on the Tarmac and Valvoline Forest Championships, but is going to switch to an M-Sport Fiesta R2.
Another young driver from Co Down, Daniel Harper, who concentrates on racing, has been awarded the 2019 NI Motorsport Award. Having won major success with Porsche, Daniel sprang a major surprise when he announced that he was joining the works BMW Junior Team this year.
Co. Antrim’s Alan Carmichael is one of the first drivers to commit to the new UK National Championship incorporated in this year’s British Rally Championship.
WRC’s managing director Oliver Ciesla has outlined plans for the future and these include hybrid WRC cars from 2022 and also that Pirelli will become sole tyre supplier from 2021 to 2024.
Regards: Brian, Liz & Michael Patterson