Irish Notes 12th February 2020
Last weekend’s Cambrian Rally was the opening counter in both the British and BTRDA Championships, as well as several other series, with Matt Edwards winning the rally outright to take maximum BRC points. Edwards, who has won the British title for the last two years, was co-driven by Darren Garrod in a new latest generation M-Sport Fiesta R5. Tom Cave led the rally initially but his Hyundai R5 clipped a rock face and he lost several minutes, but fought back to finish 6th. Osian Pryce/Noel O’Sullivan (Hyundai) took 2nd and Rhys Yates/James Morgan (Fiesta) were 3rd. Two Proton R5s were 4th and 5th, driven by Oliver Mellors and James Williams respectively.
Josh McErlean from Kilrea was up as high as 3rd overall until his Hyundai R5 was sidelined by broken steering after hitting a rock in the penultimate stage. The Cambrian stages are tough, harsh and unyielding in places. Current Billy Coleman Award winner McErlean was co-driven by Keaton Williams. Their next test in the BRC will be the West Cork Rally.
Finaghy’s William Creighton had a more successful outing. Co-driven by Liam Regan in his newly acquired Fiesta R2T19, Creighton won the BRC Junior Award, while Donegal crew David & Darragh Kelly, also in a Fiesta, were 3rd best BRC Juniors. Other notable results by drivers who made the trip from here across to Wales included Alan Carmichael/Claire Williams (Fiesta R5) winning the National Category on the rally by finishing 11th o/a.
Closer to home Simon & Gary Woodside in their Mazda MX5 claimed victory on the Rosspark Hotel Targa Rally, with David Crothers/Barbara Kane 2nd and Steven Cromie/David Stewart 3rd, both crews also in Mazdas. In Drumlish, Pakie Duffy/Evin Hughes won the Midland Motor Club’s Navigation Trial last weekend, driving a Subaru Impreza. Indeed all of the top 10 were in Subarus, with one Legacy tucked into 7th, otherwise an Impreza wipe out! Derek Mackarel/Conor Boylan were 2nd and Mickey Carbin/Conor Mohan 3rd.
This weekend coming it is the turn of Rally Sweden, Kirkistown and the Wm. Loughman Forestry.
On the Swedish, 2nd round of this year’s WRC, the crews will face a shortened route because of a snow scarcity, but it should still be an exciting rally with 180 km of stages, starting with a Super Special in Karlstad on Thursday evening. The icing on the cake for Irish fans is of course having Craig Breen/Paul Nagle in a ‘works’ Hyundai for the rally. The Irish pair join World Rally Championship leader Thierry Neuville and current World Champion and last year’s Swedish winner Ott Tanak, so they are in good company. M-Sport Ford is running two cars, for Esapekka Lappi and Teemu Suninen. Toyota Gazoo will have five WRC cars tackling the rally. The usual team members, Sebastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanpera will be the drivers. In addition Takamoto Katsuta will drive a Yaris WRC, and the always popular and exciting Jari-Matti Latvala will be in a WRC Yaris, albeit privately entered. Just what exactly will happen over the weekend we must wait and see, especially as regards the conditions, but no doubt there will be plenty of excitement. Late news this morning is that it has started snowing with a few of the WRC drivers posting photo’s on social media.
Here at home we can only hope there is not too much snow in the hills above Carrick on Suir for the Wm. Loughman event, opening counter in this year’s Valvoline Forestry series. Just some of the drivers entered include Enda McCormick, James Wilson and Andrew Purcell in ‘R5s’. Mickey Conlon should be amongst the leading Escort drivers, while top R2 contenders include Marty Gallagher (Peugeot) and Jordan Hone (Opel Adam).
At Kirkistown the North Armagh Club’s Pacenotes Magazine Stages Rally kicks off this season’s McGrady Insurance NI series. The rally has attracted an interesting entry. Current NI Rally Champion Stephen Wright, with Keith Rainey co-driving in his Fiesta R5 heads a strong list, with former Champions Derek McGarrity (Skoda Fabia R5) and Kenny McKinstry (Subaru Impreza WRC) seeded in close proximity. Other top drivers include Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC) and fresh from his Cambrian success Alan Carmichael (Fiesta R5). Some of the top Escort drivers in the 80 plus entry include James Kennedy, Keith White and Drew Stewart. There is an innovative class as well, for Micras. Several top drivers have decided to rally for fun in Micras, enough of them indeed to make up a class of their own. Contestants include, Stevie Whitford, Pete Dowds and Barry Meeke. Another interesting Micra entry comes from Laura Phillips, the daughter of former NI Champion and VW works driver Robin Phillips. This time Robin will co-drive for his daughter.
On the news front, the always popular West Cork Rally organisation has released entry details of their St Patrick’s weekend Clonakilty event, a round of both the Tarmac and British Championships. The organising Cork Motor Club has tightened their collective belts to keep the entry as it was in 2019 – that is €1095 for the full rally – 14 stages, 220 competitive km. The club’s release emphasises this is in the face of “additional regulation, complexity and cost to our sport” and if the regulatory costs were to be reduced, the saving would be passed on to the competitor. One driver who is always a great fan of West Cork is former multiple forest and GpN Champion Owen Murphy. He has obtained a Fiesta R5 and hopes to contest West Cork, and may tackle the Birr stages as a shakedown. Owen is always formidably competitive in West Cork, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in the burgeoning R5 field.
The Birr rally will take place over the weekend of 22nd/23rd February and is based once again in the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel. Not being a counter in the Triton Showers National series this year, Clerk of the Course Bill Ryan has planned a rather different rally from his norm. There are to be two quite long stages near Durrow, each stage repeated three times in a very compact format. The stage roads are fairly fast, smooth and open. The service area is near Urlingford. The format of the rally should make for a good day out for the drivers, and would also lend itself to being a seriously handy test venue, especially for West Cork.
On the Saturday of the same weekend as the Birr Stages the Omagh Motor Club is running the excellent Fivemiletown forestry stages. Admittedly one is a forest and the other an asphalt event, but still it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to run two such good stage rallies on the same weekend, especially in these times when entries are slightly sparse on the ground. Reportedly the Fivemiletown event is attracting a decent entry. Certainly the stages are brilliant. More detail on both events next week.
The Limerick Motor Club is very well advanced in the arrangements for the 1st March forestry rally, 2nd round of the Valvoline MI Championship. Well known co-driver Anthony Nestor is organising things, and apart from the stages being in lovely order, Anthony and his team have gone to the extraordinary lengths of setting the stages up completely so that the pace note DVD is showing exactly how the three stages close to Abbeyfeale will appear ‘on the day’. An innovation that Nestor has introduced is a blue and white canvas type wraparound on the first bale of each chicane which not only, rather like a chevron board, can be easily seen from a distance and indicates the direction of entry to the chicane.
The Ulster Automobile Club is running it’s stage event over Easter weekend (10th/11th April) and will regain the use of the title ‘Circuit of Ireland’,
rather the Easter Stages title that has applied in recent times. The event will be the third round of this season’s Irish Tarmac Championship and will be sponsored by Philip Johnston’s Wastewater Solutions Company. Graeme Stewart is the rally director. The event will again be based in the Chimney Corner Hotel at Glengormley and the service area is at the Dundrod Motorsport Centre. (The Ulster Grand Prix pits! Or at least hopefully it will continue to be the UGP). The rally should consist of 140 stage and 395 road miles. There are three stages on Good Friday and three on the Saturday, every stage repeated three times.
Finally for now, it is with immense sadness that we record the death of Nicola Dignam, nee Lyons, a daughter of Ken Lyons of Limerick. Nicola, or Nikki as she was known, took ill a few years ago, she seemed to recover, but the illness came back and she lost the battle peacefully at home surrounded by her family. Nikki was married to Alan and they have 3 children, Anna, Kian and Nial. The family is based in Co. Wexford. Her death is surely just the most awful tragedy for all concerned. We extend our very deepest condolences. Brian & Liz Patterson.