Below is a short sample video along with our usual stage data samples for the Mayo Stages Rally 2020. We have completed our pre event recce and the notes and video are ready for posting from Posting from Thursday 27th Feb to Wed 4th March.. The rally has moved back to more traditional territory, although it is some time since the rally has run in the Castlebar – Westport area. Three stages done three times that reflect the area well with a mixture of some high speed roads (SS1) with some fairly technical stages (SS2&3). It should prove to be a good challenging start to the 2020 Triton National Championsip.
Mayo Stages Rally 2020 – Stage Data.
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Storm Dennis didn’t deter the North Armagh Club’s marshals, officials or winner Stephen Wright at the Pacenotes Magazine Kirkistown Rally last Saturday. In contrast conditions on the Swedish Rally were balmy compared to what used to be thought of as the norm in that Nordic land and Welshman Elfyn Evans ploughed his Yaris WRC through the gravel to a fantastic win. On Sunday the rain had somewhat abated for Carrick on Suir’s Wm. Loughman forestry event, and there it was James Wilson who took the glory to open his 2020 Valvoline account.
Sensational in Sweden! A victory in Sweden has moved Elfyn Evans into joint lead of the Driver’s Championship.
Co-driven in their Toyota Yaris WRC by Scot Martin, Elfyn Evans’ Swedish win was not only sensational in itself, it moved Elfyn into the joint lead, with Thierry Neuville, of the World Drivers Championship. Elfyn won Wales Rally GB a couple of years ago with M-Sport, and then several times he has led WRC rallies, only for victory to slip through his grasp. There was no such disappointment this time for the Welshman, and the calibre of the drivers behind him served to emphasise the magnitude of his achievement. Ott Tanak finished 2nd, and perhaps that can be considered fairly noteworthy also, considering the violence of the World Rally Champion’s crash on the Monte. 19 year old Kalle Rovanpera was 3rd and won the power stage. What, a 19 year old showing the cream of world rallying talent the road home? Fantastic! This young man, like Elfyn Evans on only his second outing with the Gazoo Toyota team, must surely be a future rallying force to be reckoned with.
Certainly this was a different kind of Swedish because of the mild weather, lack of snow, a mixture of ice gravel and mud on the stages, but it was basically the same for all the drivers, so Rovanpera’s showing was no fluke.
Behind Evans and Neuville at the top of the WRC drivers points with 42 apiece, Ogier is 3rd on 37, Rovanpera 4th with 30, Lappi 5th (24) and Tanak 6th (20).
Elfyn Evans and Scot Martin celebrate their magnificent result in Sweden.
Craig Breen/Paul Nagle finished 7th on the event, Craig feeling that, after his break away from WRC, it took him a little while to get in the groove. Young Oliver Solberg, with Omagh’s Aaron Johnston co-driving, looked to be heading for an R5, WRC2 podium finish, but their new Skoda picked up a puncture on the final stage and they lost several minutes to finish down the order. Solberg did set some cracking times in the 2nd part of the rally. Fermanagh’s Jon Armstrong was competing in the Junior section of the rally but unfortunately his Fiesta R2 was sidelined on the Friday.
At Kirkistown on the Saturday, as the wind and rain fairly hurtled across the exposed expanse of the disused runways, Stephen Wright, with Gary McKenna co-driving in his Fiesta R5 had a day long battle for supremacy with Derek & Mark McGeehan (Mini WRC). Current NI Rally Champion, Stephen Wright, came out on top by 5 seconds from the father and son McGeehan team. Derek McGarrity, who is usually so fast around Kirkistown, finished 3rd in a Skoda Fabia R5. Derek reckoned that not having driven the Skoda on a wet road, (the stages were streaming!) he was too slow to get in the groove. Paddy Robinson was co-driving for McGarrity. Some consolation for McGarrity was that his son Michael, driving a Peugeot 208, won class 4. Michael had Damien Garvey co-driving.
Winners of the 2020 Pacenotes Rally Magazine Stages, Stephen Wright and Gary McKenna – Pic Jonathan McDonald
Some of the other class winners included Andrew Bushe/Ivor Lamont taking the Historics in their Chevette HSR. Marshall Kennedy/Wendy Blackledge won class 2 in their Peugeot 306 GTi. Philip White/Kyle Duffin had a great run in their Micra Kit Car to secure Class 3. Sam Adams/Michael Johnston (Escort) won class 5. There was a terrific tussle between Keith White and James Kennedy for two wheel drive honours, with White finishing in front. Both were in Escorts, but in different classes – Keith White/Gavin Campbell took the class 7 honours, James and Heather Kennedy class 6. Andrew Bustard/Martin Harte (Lancer) won class 8 and Liam McFall/Matthew McKenna, also in a Lancer, class 9.
Keith White and Gavin Campbell won the 2WD category in their Ford Escort MkI. Pic Jonathan McDonald
On the Carrick on Suir Forestry James Wilson, co-driven by Arthur Kierans in their Hyundai i20R5, had an unopposed run to a clear victory on this opening round of the Valvoline Forestry Championship. No.1 seed Andrew Purcell was sidelined at the end of the opening stage. Michael Carbin/Conor Mohan (Lancer), held 2nd place throughout the day and finished the six stages 41 seconds behind Wilson. Liam Ryan/Keith Moriarity (Fiesta R5) finished 3rd o/a, a further 38 seconds back. Gary Kiernan/Daren O’Brien were best two wheel drive in their Escort, finishing 5th o/a, while South East Champion Mickey Conlon, also in an Escort, was 7th o/a and 2nd two wheel drive. Jordan Hone has taken somewhat of a break from rallying, and he came back on this event with a bang to finish 9th o/a in his Opel Adam and took victory in class 2. Jordan was co-driven by his father Paul.
Armagh’s James Wilson (Hyundai i20 R5) and co-driver Arthur Kierans won the Willie Loughman Carrick-On-Suir Forest Rally. Photo: Martin Walsh.
News stories this week include Craig Breen announcing an extension to his programme, contesting the Finnish Championship, starting with Ralli SM Itaralli, driving a Hyundai R5 and co-driven by Co Antrim’s John Rowan. Their first event will be on the 29th February at Joensuu. John has stood in for Paul Nagle a few times at test sessions with Craig, in Italy and France, but this will be another ball game: ‘Full-house’ competition with Craig and in Finland as well for the first time. John commented, “I’m well chuffed!”
Another driver heading to far off places is Frank Kelly. His ‘baby blue’ Escort is ready to be trailered over to Spain for the Rally Costa Bravo. His daughter Lauren will co-drive in that one. From there the trailer will be hitched up to travel down into Italy for a rally at Pesaro on 27/28th/29th March. This will be a sort of ‘superspecial showboating’ rally for Frank, and his wife Rose Marie will co-drive for him, for the ‘first time since the youngsters were born!’. From there it will be hitch up the trailer again for a rally in Switzerland, at Saignelegier, Jura on 17th/18th April. Then there will be a long haul for the Finnish Ikaalisten Kylpyla Rally on 8th/9th May. The enormously well respected and admired Frank has received all sorts of help offers from organisers and various others to see this exciting rally excursion through, and has planned it well also to take advantage of good value flights back and forward in between times, so that he can do a bit of work in his security camera business as well. Fair play to him – living life to the full when he has the opportunity!
Another driver wanting to do something different this season is Forestry two wheel drive Champion David Crossen. Along with co-driver Aileen Kelly he does propose a warm up plan to contest the Limerick Forestry at the end of this month. However, having concentrated on the Valvoline Forestry series for quite a few years, he is then picking a variety of rallies: for example, the Circuit of Ireland is on the menu and Tipperary Stonethrowers, plus three forest rallies ‘across the water’ in the BTRDA series. Aileen Kelly has been doing a sterling job for David, but the Cork lady has been making some progress in USA rallying and that is probably where she will end up this season, leaving David with a vacant seat to fill. PS: David has just become the father of a baby boy, William. The new arrival and mum Shelley are doing well!
News of a different sort is that it would appear that the new tracking system introduced to Irish rallies a few weeks ago has been voted down by many of the clubs. This is as much about the rising level of entry fees as anything. So it would appear for now that the tracking will only continue on a very limited basis.
Date Change: the Ballyvourney based Moonraker Rally, 3rd round of the forestry series, is being brought forward from the 18th April to the 28th March. The change was due to some unavailability with the Rally HQ, the Abbey Hotel, Ballyvourney.
Kevin O’Driscoll from the West Cork Rally has reported that there are 55 entries received to date which represents a busy start.
This coming weekend the rally action switches to the Fivemiletown Forestry Rally on Saturday and the Birr Stages on Sunday. The Fivemiletown event has Niall McCullagh/Ryan McCloskey at 1, Valvoline Forestry Champion Cathan McCourt/Barry McNulty at 2 and Conor McCourt/Caolan Mckenna at 3, all three crews in Fiesta R5s. Then at 4 is Janis Vorobjovs/Ivo Pukis, in a BMW M3X. Last September the Lithuanian driver Martynas Samsonas came to the Bushwhacker in a not dissimilar BMW and displayed a clean pair of heels for most of the day to our top local drivers. Could this be more of the same? Martynas Samsonas is in this Fivemiletown entry, but surprisingly listed down at 15. His BMW is to be co-driven by Ervinas Snitkas. Samsonas is in the suspension business and is sponsoring the rally. Another surprise package on this rally is the inclusion of Callum Devine at number 92 as well as top Scottish driver Freddie Milne at 93. Devine is listed to drive his usual Hyundai i20 R5, with Brian Hoy co-driving. Milne is to drive his Subaru Impreza WRC S14 and with the experienced Patrick Walsh in the hot seat. Rounding off the top half dozen for Saturday is Michael Carbin/Conor Mohan (Lancer) at 5 and Patrick O’Brien/Stephen O’Brien, also in a Lancer at 6.
Martynas Samsonas (right) will compete in his BMW at the Samsonas Rally Fivemiletown Pic Jonathan McDonald
The entry has all sorts of talented drivers, as well as surprise packages. Top two wheel protagonists are likely to be Shane McGirr in his Starlet (on his home patch) and with Denver Rafferty co-driving. Immediately behind Shane at 22 and 23 are Ryan Barrett/Paul McCann and Paul Barrett/Gordon Noble, both crews in Escorts. Just some of the other top Escort drivers include Oran Donnelly, David Condell and John Gordon. The above is just skimming the surface of the 90 plus entry of talented drivers. Should be an interesting 10 stages. This Samsonas Rally Fivemiletown is the opener for the new McGrady Insurance NI Rally Challenge and represents an alternative to the main NI championship which is now all tarmac.
On the Sunday then the Birr Stages or Abbeyleix Manor Hotel Tarmac Stages to give it its proper title, has also attracted a good entry. Particularly so as the event is not a round of the Triton this year: but it is a counter in the South East Stages. Tarmac Champion Josh Moffett, with Andy Hayes co-driving in his Hyundai i20R5 has entered, along with top drivers such as Owen Murphy in his newly acquired Fiesta R5, while Daniel Cronin, Stephen McCann and Aaron McLaughlin are all entered in Fiesta R5s. Steve Wood is making the trip from Wales to drive his Fiesta WRC. Keith Moriarty will be co-driving. Clerk of the Course Bill Ryan was worried that the rally wouldn’t receive a decent entry, but it seems to have worked out well, with 90 plus crews listed in the main entry. An innovation this year is a ‘demo run’ of Group B type cars. Just some of the entries include Conor Falvey in a Porsche, Ivan Warwick in his very special Quattro: James Tannahill in a Peugeot 205 T16 and Mike Dunnion in his Vauxhall Chevette HSR. The rally is being sponsored by Pat Horan Motors (Camper Centre) and Oliver Stanley Motors, Durrow. Indeed, most of the rally action is around Durrow.
Below is a short sample video along with our usual stage data samples for the Limerick Forestry Rally 2020. We have completed our pre event recce and the notes and video are ready for posting from Posting from Wednesday 19th Feb to Wednesday 26th Feb. The stages are in top condition and once again the organisers had the stages set up for our recce, so the safety video is as goos as it gets.
Limerick Forestry Rally 2020 – Stage Data.
Limerick Forestry 2020 HD
Notes & DVD are now available to order. Telephone 028 90844111 or order online at RallyNews.net – Click Here
Matt Edwards took the spoils on last weekend’s Cambrian in his GS Yuasa backed Fiesta.
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.
William Creighton and Liam Regan took top Junior British Rally Championship (JBRC) points on the Cambrian. Photo: Jakob Ebrey
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.
Snow Joke – A heavily revised Rally Sweden route is now in place for the weekend due to a lack of snow and frozen roads.
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).
Derek McGarrity won the last round of the 2019 NI Championship in his Skoda.
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’,
Wastewater Solutions Circuit of Ireland International Rally 2020 event launch in Antrim Castle Gardens.
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.
Below is a short sample video along with our usual stage data samples for the Samsonas Fivemiletown Rally 2020. We have completed our pre event recce and the notes and video are ready for posting from Tuesday 11th February.
Samsonas Fivemiletown Rally 2020 – Stage Data.
Notes & DVD are now available to order. Telephone 028 90844111 or order online at RallyNews.net – Click Here
Below is a short sample video along with our usual stage data samples for the Birr Stages Rally 2020. We have completed our pre event recce and the notes and video are ready for posting from Thursday 13th February.
Birr Stages Rally 2020 – Stage Data.
Birr Sample 2020 HD
Notes & DVD are now available to order. Telephone 028 90844111 or order online at RallyNews.net – Click Here
On last weekend’s Galway International Rally Fermanagh’s Alastair Fisher, co-driven by ‘Gordy’ Noble, took a first stage lead in their Dom Buckley prepared VW Polo GTI R5, then stayed in front for the rest of the day. Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley (VW Polo GTI) and Sam Moffett/James Fulton (Hyundai i20 R5) had a massive battle throughout the day’s 9 stages for the runner up spot with Sam Moffett fastest on the final stage to just ease ahead of Donagh Kelly, taking 2nd place by 1.7 seconds. Fisher won by over 20seconds.
Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble (VW Polo GTi R5) on their way to victory in the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally. Photo: Martin Walsh.
However Sam Moffett was subsequently excluded from the results by the stewards as his car did not appear at post event scrutiny as instructed. Sam Moffett has the right of appeal to this Stewards’ decision, so the results remain provisional in the meantime, as they appeared at the rally finish. This does mean that all the crews who finished behind Sam Moffett will move up one place if the Sam Moffett appeal is unsuccessful. Obviously, championship points already published will need to be revised.
Earlier in the rally Desi Henry/Stuart Loudon had made a push for a top three slot but their Hyundai stopped in stage 4 because of a broken hub. Garry Jennings was expected to figure but the Subaru driver decided overnight, with thoughts of last year’s rally tragedy still on his mind that, in consideration of his wife Kerry and his young children that he would not start the rally. 69 crews did start. Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson put up a good performance in their Polo GTI R5 to take 4th, Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarity (Hyundai) finished 5th and Stephen Wright/Liam Moynihan (Fiesta) were 6th.
Alastair Fisher gets a hug from his mum Hazel. Photo: Martin Walsh
Alastair Fisher remarked at the Clayton Hotel finish of this Corrib Oil backed rally, “It is good to take our first Tarmac (Championship) win.” Co-driver Gordon Noble said, “The VW was new to us, and we softened the suspension, but otherwise everything went well. We had a good run over the early stages and then managed our lead, went reasonably quick, although sharp enough at times as Donagh Kelly and Sam Moffett were battling hard behind us. That kept us on our toes. The gap was manageable, but we didn’t dither. Conditions were quite tricky, heavy showers, some small puddles, mud on the road. We picked a ‘wet’ Pirelli tyre from the start, and stayed on them.” For Alastair it was quite a relief to win, not just because this was his first run in the VW, more down to the fact that he has been so close to a ‘Tarmac victory’ so many times, but up to now it always eluded him.
Forestry Champion Cathan McCourt finished 7th in his Fiesta, Declan McCrory 8th. Declan is shown in the results as having won ‘RC3’ but his co-driver Stephen O’Hanlon told us that their Fiesta was a normal R5 car and the results ‘RC3’ classification was an error somewhere along the line. He also said that they had a subdued rally following a very big ‘moment’ early in the first stage, but they did learn a lot on the event! Paul Barrett was 9th in his Fiesta R5 and William Mavitty, in his Lancer was 10th. Eamonn Kelly won RC4 in his Fiesta R2T, with Jason Dickson 2nd in the class and Johnnie Mulholland 3rd. Early retirements from the top runners, as well as Desi Henry, included Daniel Cronin, Eugene Donnelly and Joe McGonigle. The latter was in a new Fiesta R5 and was delighted with his new car. He did manage to get on the pace in the latter part of the day but lost time early on with a puncture and then towards the end got caught in very heavy rain and the car aquaplaned into the scenery, causing some rear suspension damage and retirement for the day.
Pat O’Connell, co-driven by Mark Wiley in his Lancer, won the National part of the rally, from Jason Black/Karl Egan (Starlet RWD) and with Richard Whelan/James Whelan 3rd in their BMW 1 series. Jason McSweeney/Liam Brennan (Fiesta R5 RHD) are shown in the results as having won the National, but this is not so. They were in class 24, which really should have had its own section. Pat O’Connell, who remarkably was on his first Galway despite his years of experience, commented afterwards, “We had a really good run, no problems. I felt the conditions were not as bad as they appeared, thought it would be worse, maybe a little smooth tar on Blacks Road, but mostly pretty good grip despite all the water and mud.” Maurice & Stephen Meskell (Escort) won the Historics and Noel & Jason Murphy won the Juniors by a slender 4 seconds from Gareth Deazley/Ashley Boulton, both crews in Civics.
Kris Meeke on his way to victory on the Boucle de Spa Legends.
Also last weekend Kris Meeke, driving a Mk2 Escort, took a storming victory on the Boucle de Spa Legends. Mikko Hirvonen and Craig Breen were anticipated to be his likely main rivals, but that wasn’t to be. Hirvonen had some early trouble with his Mk2 Escort and finished down the order somewhat. Breen withdrew his entry when he was nominated to drive for Hyundai on Rally Sweden. Craig and his co-driver Paul Nagle are due to commence testing for Sweden this week.
Further news on Craig Breen is that it was announced yesterday that he and co-driver Paul Nagle have concluded a deal to contest the full ERC in a Team MRF Tyres Hyundai i20 R5 prepared by the Italian outfit BRC Racing. Craig said: “I am really happy to start this adventure with MRF Tyres. We worked together last year placing emphasis on tyre development. It will be a great adventure to get back to some rallies I have done in the past along with some new rallies.”
William Creighton & Liam Regan looking forward to the new season.
This weekend coming heralds the opening round of the British Rally Championship, the Cambrian, in North Wales. The event is also the opening BTRDA counter. Just over 20 crews have entered for the BRC part of the event, with top names including defending Champion Matt Edwards, Tom Cave and Rhys Yates. Billy Coleman award winner Josh McErlean, to be co-driven by Keaton Williams in his R5, is hoping that he will be able to mix it with the top crews. Valvoline forestry champions Cathan McCourt/Barry McNulty should also be in with a shout, as could Alan Carmichael/Claire Williams (Fiesta R5). Just some of the other drivers who are making the trip from here include David Kelly, William Creighton, Brian Brady and Brendan Cumiskey. Shane McGirr is having a crack at the BTRDA part of the rally in his Starlet, with Denver Rafferty co-driving.
Further ahead, on the 15th February, is the North Armagh Club’s Kirkistown stage rally, opening round of the McGrady Insurance NI Championship. The series this year is being cut back to five tarmac events, and following Kirkistown it will be the Bishopscourt Stages (7th March), Maiden City (25th April), Sperrins (6th June) and Tyrone Stages (18th July). There will be a separate NI Challenge series for those competitors wanting to compete in the forests.
NI Rally Championship sponsor Fintan McGrady in action. Pic Graham Baalham-Curry
Rally Sweden will go ahead, albeit with a heavily revised route including two days in Norway. After a day of discussions and driving through the stages on Tuesday, representatives from the organisers, the FIA and WRC Promoter agreed to run the Torsby-based World Rally Championship event despite drier and warmer conditions than Rally Sweden CEO Glenn Olsson says he can ever remember. Two-time world champion co-driver Timo Rautiainen inspected the stages and, based on his report, the revised schedule of stages was agreed. The new timetable will include 112 miles of stages, with a single pass of Norwegian tests on Friday and Saturday – these replace the southerly Swedish roads initially planned. The Torntorp, Hagfors and Vargåsen stages will be dropped – meaning Colin’s Crest will not be included on the route next week. Thursday night’s superspecial stage in Karlstad remains, as does the Torsby Sprint test on Saturday evening. Sunday’s Likenas test also stands, with the second stage becoming the power stage. The Historic segment of the Swedish has been cancelled.
Cal McCarthy in action: Pic Kevin McCarthy
Preparations are coming on well for next month’s Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally. Round 2 of both the ITC and the BRC, the event will have a rally launch this Friday (7th) in conjunction with the Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce at 8pm in the Clonakilty Park Hotel.
There is a meeting planned to take place this Wednesday evening at 8.30 in the Hibernian Hotel, Mallow. This has been prompted by clubs and competitors voicing their dissatisfaction/disillusion as to how the wind is blowing in several Irish Rallying matters.
Last weekend’s Monte Carlo Rally was certainly a dramatic affair. Neuville’s win was charged with emotion, while closer to home, in Donegal, Ryan Loughran produced a very accomplished drive to take the victory spoils, while Will Corry Jnr took the top spot on the MG Car Club event down the Ards Peninsula.
For Irish fans the big news at the end of the Monte was that Craig Breen/Paul Nagle will be driving for Hyundai on the Swedish, the next WRC round. Craig finished 2nd on the Swedish in 2018 and that is why he is joining Neuville and Tanak for the Swedish. Hyundai did plan to test there this week, but reportedly there is not enough snow and ice. (Necessary for the rally to run at all).
Mixed road conditions however, with some ice, snow, slush, mud, wet and dry conditions throughout were the order of the day on the Monte. Seven times Monte winner Ogier settled into his first drive with Toyota by taking the opening stage win on the Thursday night, but then Neuville blitzed the 2nd stage to take the lead for Hyundai. On the Friday morning World Champion Ott Tanak, on his first drive with Hyundai, crashed out in hugely dramatic fashion, happily without injury. The battle for the lead through Friday and Saturday developed into a three way second- swapping battle between Neuville, Ogier and Elfyn Evans. Even 9 times World Rally Champion Loeb couldn’t get a ‘look-in’ against these three. The Welshman, Elfyn, like Ogier, was on his first competitive run with Toyota. Elfyn led by a couple of seconds starting the Sunday’s four special stages, but he admitted that his driving just didn’t click when it mattered on that final morning, while Neuville drove ‘out of his skin’ to forge ahead and take victory, with Ogier second and Evans 3rd. Esapekka Lappi flew the flag for M-Sport Ford and was 4th. Young Kalle Rovanpera did extremely well to fight back to 5th and Monte master Sebastien Loeb had to be content with 6th this time having picked the wrong tyres for the final morning.
It was one of the hardest fought Monte victories ever, which must have made the win all the sweeter for the Belgian Neuville, He now lives in Monaco, and has been close to winning several times. This time the dream came true! Eric Camilli finished 9th on the Monte in a Citroen C3 R5, 40 seconds ahead of Mads Ostberg, who was also in Citroen C3 R5, Mads lost 2 minutes early on in the rally when his Citroen sustained a puncture. Although both were in Citroen R5s, Camilli and Ostberg each won their category, which takes a bit of figuring out.
Eighteen year old rally star Oliver Solberg, who has Omagh’s Aaron Johnson co-driving, managed to finish last weekend’s Monte Carlo in his VW Polo GTI R5, maybe not with a hugely successful result, but did gain a massive amount of experience. For the next WRC round (Sweden Feb.13th-16th) Oliver and Aaron are switching to a new Skoda Fabia Rally2 Evo. Solberg Jnr is reportedly mighty impressed with the Skoda. Apparently new R5 cars have now to be called Rally2.
On the Donegal Mini Stages Ryan Loughran/Gareth Doherty scored a narrow victory, by just 4 seconds, from fellow Escort crew Damien Gallagher/Mac Walsh. Johnny Jordan/Paddy McCrudden were 3rd in their Starlet, just over a minute further back. Aaron McLaughlin/Darren Curran (Lancer) were 4th, Marty Toner/Sharon Clarke Moore (Escort) were 5th and William McFadden/Demi McFadden (G3) 6th.
Kevin Gallagher/Ger Callaghan led initially, and although the weather was fine, there were still wet muddy stretches particularly at farmyards, and their Darrian incurred a bent rear suspension in stage 3 forcing them to call it a day. The new tracking system on the rally proved to be a success. (Big brother is watching you comes to rallying!)
The Echlinville Distillery based MG Club’s Derek Walker Trial had a maximum entry of 50 plus cars, and despite a recalcitrant reverse gear selector on their MG Midget, Will Corry/Peter Moreland-Moore set the pace through most of the 21 farmyard tests down the lovely Ards Peninsula to score a clear victory over the hard charging Robin Lyons/Reid Thomas in their Mini Cooper S. David Cochrane/Ruth Steele (MG Midget) were 3rd.
Other home events last weekend included the Skibbereen & District Car Club’s 100 Isles Navigation Trial at Aughaville which was won by Diarmuid French/Brian O’Mahony (Impreza) from James Fitzgerald/Ken Carmody also in an Impreza. In fact Aidan Sherry/Oisin Sherlock made it a Subaru Top Three
Looking forward to this weekend the Corrib Oil backed Galway International gets underway on Saturday afternoon with scrutiny followed by a ceremonial start in Eyre Square at 7.00pm. There are three stages on the Sunday each repeated three times, with service in Loughrea. The finish will be at Galway’s Clayton Hotel from 4.30pm. Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy are listed at number 1 in their Subaru Impreza WRC, followed by the cream of the Irish Tarmac Championship contenders, all in various R5 cars. The top six after Jennings are Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble at 2, Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley at 3 in their VW Polo GTI R5, Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarity (Hyundai i20 R5) at 4, Sam Moffett/James Fulton (Hyundai) at 5 and Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson (VW Polo GTI R5) at 6. Heading the Modified/National category will be Pat O’Connell/Mark Wiley in their Lancer, seeded at 22, Eugene Meegan/Sarah Whelan are at 24 in their Lancer, Richard Whelan/James Whelan (BMW) are at 25, Jason Black/Karl Egan (Starlet RWD) at 26, Tom Flaherty/Patrick Curley (Escort) at 27 and Gary McNamee/Darren O’Brien (Civic) are at 28.
David Kelly testing over the Christmas Break
Emerging during the last week is the news that 24 year old David Kelly, a Billy Coleman Award nominee, has his sights set on contesting the Junior section of the British Rally Championship. David, from Donegal, will drive a Fiesta R2. Indeed the BRC Juniors can only compete for the title in a Fiesta R2. Callum Devine, who will tackle this year’s European Championship in a Hyundai i20 R5, has sold his Fiesta to Callum Black. Devine remarked that he would at least be saving Black some money as he wouldn’t have to sign write the Callum on the car. Former multiple Tarmac Champion Eugene Donnelly is collaborating with Mellors Motorsport to offer a prize drive in a Proton R5 to the winner of R2 on this year’s Tarmac Championship. The Proton, which is called an Iriz R5, has been developed by Donnelly to suit the Irish asphalt stages and is available in right and left hand drive homologated configuration.
Eugene-Donnelly’s Proton-Iriz-R5- on the 2020 Cork-20
Ollie Mellors also plans to contest the British Rally Championship in a Proton Iriz R5, starting on the 8th February Cambrian. Interestingly the Llandudno based Cambrian has a small BRC entry, to the extent that the rally organisers may cut the stage mileage in an effort to balance the books.
Early details of the 23rd February Abbeyleix Manor Hotel backed Birr rally reveal that the event will have 2 stages repeated three times. The entry fee is €650. The event is not a round this year in the Triton Showers National series but is a counter in the Top Part West Coast and Hugo Loonam Motors Midland series. The Omagh MC is running their Fivemiletown Forestry stages event on the 22nd February and the club has put in a great effort to prepare the stages. We made the notes earlier this week and couldn’t believe how good the stages are. Niall McGonigle and his team have pulled out all the stops on this one. Preparations are also well underway for Carrick on Suir MC’s Wm Loughman Forestry (16th February), opening counter in this season’s Valvoline MI Forestry series. The Suirway Group South East Stages Rally Championship Awards will take place this Saturday night at Waterford’s Dooleys Hotel. The Wm Loughman event is also a round of the South East Stages series. At a meeting about to take place it seems likely that the entry fee for the Triton National Championship rounds will be standardised at €795 per event, to include the tracker fee and also the benevolent contribution. The idea of the competitors paying a €200 deposit on their tracker transponder will likely be shelved.
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.
Carlos Sainz on his way to his third victory on the Dakar Rally.
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).
All set for 2020!
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.
The Countdown begins!
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.
Creighton is no stranger to the Ford brand – he drove a Fiesta R5 to a podium place on the Tyrone Stages in 2019. DMC Photos
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.
Creighton will bid for Junior British Rally Championship in 2020. Jakob Ebrey Photography
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.
Powered by a Hyundai i20 R5, Devine 25, and co-driver Brian Hoy, 26, will receive additional support from FYTH, Curran Gate, The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy and Hyundai Customer Racing.
Autosport International at the NEC produced several interesting stories not least that Callum Devine is going to contest the European Rally Championship, driving a Hyundai R5. Co. Londonderry man Devine, a former Billy Coleman Award winner, will again have Brian Hoy co-driving and they will enjoy support from, amongst others, the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy as well as Hyundai Customer Racing. He plans to contest all eight rounds of the European Championship, with particular emphasis on the six counters in the ERC1 Junior title. Callum managed a marvellous 3rd overall on the recent Rally Hungary, but is under no illusion that the European series will be easy. It is a big step up the rallying ladder and his realistic aim is to “push on the Tarmac events and keep learning on the gravel rallies, above all get finishes”.
James Wilson said, “I have been very fortunate in that I had the opportunity last year to drive the R5 as part of the extended Billy Coleman Award programme and managed to secure a third place overall at my first loose surface.
The European season starts with Azores Rally in late March. Also at the Autosport Show it was announced that young Josh McErlean, current winner of the Billy Coleman Award will also drive a Hyundai R5 this season to tackle the six rounds of the Junior British Rally Championship. Josh is the current British Junior Rally Champion. Keaton Williams will co-drive. The opening BRC round is the Cambrian (8th Feb), followed by West Cork, Clacton, Ypres, Ulster, Galloway and Wales Rally GB. Also in a Hyundai R5 for this coming season is Keady’s James Wilson, with Arthur Kierans co-driving. Wilson is planning to tackle the Irish Forestry series and also selected rounds of the Irish Tarmac. The season will start for James on the Carrick on Suir forestry (16th Feb).
McErlean will pilot a Hyundai i20 R5 on the 2020 British Rally Championship. Photo Hyundai Motorsport GmbH
Looking back to last weekend, Derek Butler/Denis O’Donovan won the Cork MC’s 1000 Shakes Navigation Rally, driving a Subaru. Owen Murphy/Daire Evans finished 2nd, with James Fitzgerald/Ken Carmody 3rd, to make it a Subaru clean sweep at the front. The top six was made up of: 4th Aidan Sherry/Oisin Sherlock, 5th Brian Duggan/Eoin Treacy and 6th Denis Murphy/Michael Walsh. Darren O’Mahony won the Novices and Brian Duggan the Beginners.
Earlier this week, after stage 8, Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (BMW Mini 4wd) led the Dakar Rally, with Nasser Al-Attiyah/Matthew Baumel 2nd in their Hilux. Petterhansel was 3rd. Although Fernando Alonso was 2nd fastest in stage 8, he was down in 13th place in the overall rankings. Reportedly in stage 9 Sainz was losing time and Petterhansel was moving into the lead. There is still a long way to go of course. Sadly one of the motorbike riders, Paulo Goncalvis, was fatally injured in a stage 7 crash. Paulo was reportedly a really good guy and a very accomplished and successful competitor. Our thoughts and sympathies go to all those involved. The 8th stage was cancelled for the bikes & quads.
Carlos Sainz in action on the Dakar
Looking forward to the Rallye Monte Carlo, just 10 WRC cars are entered. There are no ‘team’ Citroens of course. Three Hyundai team cars are to be driven by Ott Tanak, Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Loeb. The three Toyotas, with the drivers named as Sebastien Ogier, Elfyn Evans and young Kalle Rovanpera make up an all change driver team. Three M-Sport Ford Fiestas are to be piloted by Teemu Suninen, Esapeka Lappi and Gus Greensmith. The tenth WRC will be a Yaris driven by Katsuta Takamoto running under the Toyota Gazoo banner, but not classified as a ‘manufacturer’s entry’.
Just some of the other interesting entries include Mads Ostberg in an R5 Citroen, Welshman Rhys Yates in a new Fiesta R5 Mk2 entered by M-Sport and young Oliver Solberg at number 41 in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, with Omagh’s Aaron Johnston co-driving. In terms of who will be doing the winning on this 88th running of the Monte – it is as wide open as ever, with the unpredictable weather adding to the uncertainty. World Champion Ott Tanak will be on his first rally with his new team, Hyundai. Thierry Neuville is in the i20 that he is totally familiar with and having finished as runner up in the world rally championship for the last four years, surely he will be trying extra hard. Former multiple WRC Champion and Monte winner Ogier is certainly no slouch when it comes to the Monte and he will be trying especially hard as he tries to establish himself with his new team, Toyota. This season, or rather this team is supposedly ‘his final rally fling’. Then of course there is that man Loeb, regarded as the Monte past master and theoretically in the twilight of his rally career. Who would bet against him pulling something special out of the hat? But then the Monte can throw up some surprising scenarios and virtually any of the current lot of WRC drivers could make a dash on this 2020 WRC opener. On the subject of WRC cars, it would appear that well placed senior WRC people are of the opinion that, for better or worse, a hybrid WRC car will just be far too expensive to produce.
Looking further ahead, current NI Rally Champion Stephen Wright has placed an entry for the North Armagh’s Kirkistown Rally, opening round of this season’s McGrady Insurance backed NI series. Paul McKenna has also enrolled for the 15th February event. The Galway International is coming together slowly but surely, and a few more top entries to add to last week’s mentions in Irish Notes include Donagh Kelly as well as Merion Evans, both in VW Polo R5s. We forgot to mention last week that David Guest has upgraded to a Fiesta R5. Joe McGonigle, Stephen Wright, Desi Henry and Jonny Greer have all entered in R5s.