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.
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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.
Certainly December is a relatively quiet time in rallying, yet there has been a fair bit of water under the bridge since our last ‘Irish Notes’ three weeks before Christmas. Kilrea’s Josh McErlean was adjudged the Billy Coleman Young Rally driver of the Year, so he will be the recipient of lots of kudos from MI and other sources. Callum Devine received the Manley Memorial Trophy ‘International Driver of the Year’, award at that same MIS Motorsport Insurance backed MI Awards luncheon in Dublin.
Alonso charging back up the Dakar field after breaking a wheel on day 2. DPPI Media
Switching to faraway fields, well desert actually, Co. Down man Michael Orr guided Yazeed Al-Rajhi in his Toyota Hilux to victory on the Sharqiva Baja ahead of Carlos Sainz (Mini JCW) with Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi 3rd in his Peugeot 2008. This win for Al-Rajhi and Michael Orr was enough to seal the Saudi Toyota Desert Championship for them. There was of course much interest in the Saudi Championship as it was anticipated as a warm up for the Dakar.
Closer to home Robert Woodside/Steven Dowds in their Mazda MX-5 won the UAC’s ‘Not the Boxing Day Rally’ against strong opposition. Over 100 cars started the Moira based event and Trevor Ferguson/Gary Campbell were runners- up, while Liam Shaw/Conor Shaw were 3rd to make it a Mazda MX-5 top three. Actually the top six were all Mazdas. Robert & Peter Haslett were 9th in a Yaris and Kevin Daly/Mark Maxwell 10th in a Hyundai Accent.
On the Maiden City Motor Club’s Turkey Run Stage Rally at Ballykelly Aaron McLaughlin/Darren Curran in their Fiesta R5 took victory by 35 seconds from Alan Carmichael/Ivor Lamont (Hyundai R5). Barry Morris/Declan Campbell in a Darrian were 3rd. On the autotest scene Daniel Byrne (Peugeot 106) came out tops at the Trial Drivers Club event at Arklow. Eddie Peterson (MR2) was 2nd and Niall Murray (Starlet) 3rd. Also in Co. Wicklow Fergil Gregory won the Leinster MC Trial at Bray, from Craig MacWilliam, both drivers in Erskine-Yamahas.
The 2019 Suirway Group South East Stages Rally Championship concluded with the Carlow Rallysprint and when Karen O’Dowd worked out all the points it shows that Castleblaney man Mickey Conlon (on Patterson Pacenotes) has won the Championship with 109 points from Waterford’s Keith Power (108) and Pierce J Doheny 3rd on 99 points. Frank Barrett was the winner of the sprint, but that does not seem to have had any overall effect on the South East Championship.
Towards the end of last season we also reported the cancellation of Rally Australia because of bush/forest fires. Many of the rally crews did their best to give some assistance to those affected. As has been widely publicised the fires have become progressively worse and tragically many lives have been lost. Our thoughts are with all those caught up in this ecological disaster.
To change the tone, what is on the immediate rally horizon? It is relatively quiet for a few weeks, although the Dakar rumbles along (at quite a pace though), and then it is all stations go with the Donegal Mini Stages, the MG Club’s popular Derek Walker Trial and Rally Monte Carlo all on the same weekend, 25th/26th January. Then it is the turn of the Galway International one week later, 1st and 2nd February. The latter event is the opening round of the 2020 main Tarmac Championship. The rally will again be based in the Clayton Hotel. Gary Leonard is the Clerk of the Course, and he has reportedly planned a compact route, with recce on the Saturday and the stages on the Sunday: out towards Loughrea. The rally will have a fairly early start and an early finish so that crews who want to head home can do so at a decent time. The event has already received about 40 entries, including current National Champion Josh Moffett and his brother Sam, as well as Cathan McCourt and David Guest.
A new initiative is the introduction of a bonus scheme by M-Sport Poland directed at drivers of R2 Fiestas, namely €2000 of M-Sport parts vouchers for the R2 class winner if he, or she, is in a Fiesta. There is €750 for 2nd and €250 for 3rd. One possible fly in the ointment is that there has to be six Fiesta R2s in the starting line-up. With Galway being so early in the season that could be a bit touch and go. However as the season progresses from West Cork onwards , and the scheme applies right through the season, there will surely be at least half a dozen R2 Fiestas in every event. Many of Ireland’s current top drivers started in Fiestas, so the small Fords can rightly be described as a ‘great stepping stone’.
The Donegal Mini Stages event is based in the Lagoon Bar outside Kilmacrennan, with top co-driver/competitor Jonny Baird the man in charge. The two stages are top class, lots of driving in them, and they are repeated three times. The entry is confined to cars such as Escorts, Civics, Super 2000 and so on, but no R5s. There are already 50-60 entries in with rally secretary Suzanne McClafferty. Recce can be done either the previous Sunday or else the Friday immediately prior to the rally.
As regards the Monte Carlo Rally, it is disappointing to say the least that we do not have any drivers amongst the works entries. No Kris Meeke, no Craig Breen. The last ‘works’ team to announce their drivers has been M-Sport Ford. Joining the team is the 28 year old Finn Esapekka Lappi, a former Circuit of Ireland winner and European Champion. He will be co-driven in the M-Sport Fiesta WRC by Janne Ferm. The pair are already testing the car for the Monte and will join established members Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen as well as Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondsen
Further stories include:-
The British Rally Championship has just announced it is launching yet another category: a new BRC Academy Trophy for under-25 year olds on this year’s six round series.
Michel Orr is co-driving for Peter Van Merksteijn (Toyota Hilux) not Yazeed Al-Rajhi on this Dakar. The event switch to Saudi seems to have resulted in higher speeds across the dunes for the top drivers – they are flying! Unfortunately completing the 300 and 400 km stages in under 3 hours is also bringing a fair share of accidents. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi led initially, rolled his Peugeot 2008 into a gully, got going and battled back to 4th before crashing the Peugeot out again. Fernando Alonso took a wheel off his Toyota Hilux, reportedly going flat out in somebody else’s dust. Latest leaderboard we have when typing this piece was that Carlos Sainz was leading with Nasser Al-Attiyah 2nd having recovered from early punctures. It may be more of a desert race now compared to the old Dakar slog against the elements, but it is still a two week contest. PS: Kris Meeke reportedly stood in to help one of the teams and is now driving a motor home to the various bivouacs: hope the cups and saucers are well nailed down!
William Creighton Tackles Blizzard Conditions In Limerick last year. – Pic By Cian Donnellan
An early missive from the 2020 Valvoline Forestry Championship would indicate that the series expects to be in rude good health for the new season. Both Ray Fitzpatrick and Ita Doonan have been driving forces behind the Forestry in recent years and their mantle is being taken over by the enthusiastic Paul Casey and Deirdre Burke. One of the main changes for 2020 is that the J1000 regulations are being aligned with the MSA requirements and is now for drivers from 14 to 18 years of age. Otherwise much remains the same, with the ‘small’ cars running first on the road in ‘reverse’ order, with the ‘big’ cars running behind in performance seeding configuration. The first of the 7 events (well 6 actually, the Jim Walsh Cork Forestry is a double header) is the Carrick on Suir Club’s William Loughman Memorial Forestry Rally on February 16th.
Motorsport Ireland initiatives for 2020 include an early entry incentive scheme for those who enter at least one week before the date of the event being included in a draw to receive their entry fee back. Also MI is running an event finance training seminar at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel on 9th January. Then on Tuesday 14th January there will be a media accreditation training session at 7.30pm in the Maldron Hotel Portlaoise. This will be followed by a refresher course for senior officials & stewards at Mondello on Sunday January 19th from 10.am.
Finally for now we wish four times former British Rally Champion Keith Cronin and his new wife Linda (Downing) a very happy and fruitful married life together. Keith, the quiet man from Ballylickey, tied the knot with Linda, who is from Glengariff, in Dublin before Christmas.
Rob Duggan/Ger Conway (Ford Escort). Photo: Martin Walsh.
“On the door handles” could fairly describe the front runner’s pace on last weekend’s Rentokil Initial Killarney Historic, with Rob Duggan winning the Historic section and Colin O’Donoghue the Modified category, both drivers in Escorts. Neither crew had it easy, Duggan and his co-driver Ger Conway were flat out in their fight to resist the onslaught of Craig Breen/Paul Nagle. Through the first six stages each driver had three fastest times. However Duggan was much the faster over the two runs at Molls Gap. That really was where he pulled out the advantage which would take him to victory. Breen was able to pull back 0.6 of a second on the first Ballaghbeama run (stage 2) and 0.8 of a second over stage 3 Shanera. But then on stage 4, the 2nd run over Molls Gap, Duggan took another 5 seconds of WRC star Breen after he had a high speed spin on some oil not long after the “Gap” and was lucky not to loose more time. Certainly Killarney man Duggan was very much on his home patch, but still this was driving at the very limit, and ‘on the door handles’ very much sums up the pace.
The Killarney crew of Rob Duggan (left) with family dog Senna and Ger Conway with his daughter Hollie and their family friends at the finish ramp at the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney following their victory in the Rentokil-Initial Killarney Historic Rally. Picture: Martin Walsh.
Breen, himself no stranger to the Kerry roads and with the experienced Paul Nagle doing his best to guide, pulled a few seconds back in stage 5. However Duggan sailed through the last 3 stages to win by 14 seconds. Such was the pace that the total elapsed time for the Historics was only 3 seconds more than the Modified total of Colin O’Donoghue. Last year’s Historic winner Owen Murphy, again with Anthony Nestor co-driving, hired an Escort for this one. Owen described it as a very good car indeed, but unfortunately a small glitch with the distributor cost time early on. Then in the afternoon stages Owen gambled on the wet tyres that had served him well in the morning. However the roads dried up. He spun the car several times, but still salvaged 3rd at the end.
Jonny Greer did seem to be heading for a podium place but his Sierra Cosworth had to be put on the trailer after stage 5, a timing belt failure suspected on the road section to stage 6. Another top retirement was Cathan McCourt. Neil Williams finished 4th, Robert Barrable 5th and Ryan Loughran 6th, to make it an Escort top half dozen. Alan Ring broke the Ford mould by taking 7th in his cracker BMW M3.
Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Ford Escort). Photo: Martin Walsh.
In the Modified section Gary Kiernan/Daren O’Brien in their Escort led initially and then Colin O’Donoghue/Sean Collins, also in an Escort, took over the lead on stage 2 Ballaghbeama. Martin McGee/David McGee slotted into 2nd, with Kiernan 3rd. In stage 3 O’Donoghue was again fastest, Kiernan got into 2nd and McGee 3rd. They finished in that order, with Raymond Conlon finishing 4th in his Corolla TC, Aidan Buckley 5th and Welshman Jason Pritchard, straight from the forest stages of the Roger Albert Clark Rally, battling into 6th.
Also on Saturday was the MG Car Club’s Autosolo at the TTS centre near Nutts Corner. Cold dry conditions prevailed and Will Corry in an MG Midget put on a very sharp performance to take victory after the 9 tests, with Jimmy Dougan (Mini) 2nd and Robert Haslett 3rd in his Yaris. For a change, the highest place MX-5 was 4th, this time in the hands of Liam Shaw with Dickie Curran 5th in a similar Mazda and Redmond McNamee 6th in a Micra. A good day was had by all!
Also last weekend and rather further afield, Bangor, Co Down’s Michael Orr co-drove Yazeed Al-Rajih to victory on the Riyadh Rally, a round of the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship. The pair drove a special Hilux. Stephane Peterhansel/Paulo Fuiza were second in their Mini JCW. There is special interest in the Saudi Toyota Desert Rally Championship at the moment as it is seen as an ideal shakedown for the forthcoming Dakar Rally 5th January–20th January 2020 in Saudi Arabia, a switch from South America. Much interest has been stirred by the entry of former double Formula 1 Champion Fernando Alonso.
This coming weekend a few crews from here will be heading to the Lake District to tackle the very attractive Grizedale Stages Rally. Some of those crews include Alan Carmichael/Claire Williams in a Hyundai R5, Andrew McCormick/Chris McSherry in a Chevette, Trevor McConnell/Dean O’Sullivan in a Lancer and, as mentioned last week Joel Eakin/Sean Doherty in their Civic.
Josh McErlean will use a similar Hyundai i20 R5 this weekend at the Monza Rally Sprint.
Craig Breen and Josh McErlean are both down to compete at this weekends Monza Rally Show. Breen is down to drive a factory Hyundai i20 alongside Dani Sordo and Andreas Mikkelsen in a star packed entry. Billy Coleman award finalist McErlean is also listed to be driving a similar i20 to which he used on the recent Wales Rally GB.
As we move into December, it is vacation time for the Patterson family, so no Irish Notes for a while. There are various events on during the holiday period so we will catch up on some of the happenings in the New Year. If by any chance that festive boredom sets in, both Rally School Ireland and Superdrive have some festive specials on offer now. Co Down based Superdrive have their Junior package (for 12 year old’s and over) from £120 plus their usual packages that can include a Subaru, MK2 Escort and MX5 https://www.superdriveni.com . Rally School Ireland just outside Monaghan have a Christmas limited time only offer to include: – 6 laps in a classic Mark II Ford Escort – 6 laps in the Police Car Nissan 350z – 6 laps in an Ariel Nomad and they will even throw in lunch. All this for €320.00 https://rallyschoolireland.ie.
In the meantime, best wishes to all over the Festive period.
There were two very different rallies on the agenda last weekend – the North Ulster Car Club’s Targa Rally as well as the enormously long and tough Roger Albert Clark.
On home ground, through Co Antrim, the Targa Rally, which was supporting the John Mulholland Motors Friends of the Cancer Centre, was won by Mark Francis/Katie Lemon in a Mazda MX-5. Indeed the top three finishers were in MX-5s, with Liam Shaw/Conor Shaw 2nd and Angus Johnson/Reid Thomas 3rd. Eamonn Byrne/Joanna Lenehan had a very good run in their Yaris to finish 4th o/a and win class 1, while Kevin Daly/Mark Maxwell were 5th o/a in their Hyundai Accent and they won class 3. Conditions were not easy on the Targa and many of the top seeds ran into problems during the day.
I can see clearly now – Marty McCormack makes the most of the clear visibility after fog and heavy rain made the conditions tough for all the competitors.
On the Roger Albert Clark, with 32 stages over five foggy wet days plus some night sections through forests in Wales, Scottish Borders and Kielder, conditions were far from easy either. Marty McCormack/Barney Mitchell were the victorious front runners most of the way and they were harried and pressed throughout by Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke, both in Mk2 Escorts. Roger Chilman/Patrick Walsh made it an Escort top three. Wayne Sisson/Neil Shanks put up some dramatic stage times in their big Mitsubishi Galant to take 4th place, albeit over 15 minutes in arrears of McCormack. Stuart Egglestone/ Brian Hodgson (Escort) were 5th and Barry McKenna/Arthur Kierans were well down the order in the early part of the rally but then improved dramatically in their RS1800 over the final few days to come up into 6th place.
There was early disappointment for two drivers from here who were tipped to do well, both Adrian Hetherington and Paul Barrett sidelined when their Escort engines cried enough. Just some of the other top drivers who were sidelined for various reasons included Matthew Robinson, Simon Webster, Alan Walker, both Ghislain & Gregoire De Mevius and Phil Collins.
The battle at the front of the rally was one of intrigue throughout. McCormack seemed to have the upper hand but had worrying moments as well on the Sunday leg when his Tiger Risk backed Escort developed a misfire and also the steering rack went awry. Their support crew, under the direction of Marty’s brother, Greg, did very well to sort both problems in record time at a 30 minute service halt. Pritchard had his worrying moments as well, particularly when his Escort suffered a puncture. Through it all McCormack pressed on and opened the gap to his Welsh rival (and friend) to well over a minute.
Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell ended up clear winners of the RAC. The pair had a tooth and nail battle with Jason Pritchard until the Welshman punctured on the latter part of the rally.
On the opening stage on the final day, Pritchard was the faster of the two by over 20 seconds, a stark reminder to McCormack that, with four Kielder stages still to go, he could ill afford to relax. Marty responded by notching up a couple of fastest times, to be sure to be sure, of recording his third Roger Albert Clark Rally win. It was a great adventure, as well as a marvellous achievement by the Magherafelt man, who more usually can be seen behind the wheel of a digger or a drilling machine making holes in the roads.
The rally wasn’t all about the drivers at the front of course – far from it. Seamus Burke/Martin Brady were another crew who battled hard as the rally progressed and came up into 15th place. Like Barry McKenna, Seamus crossed the Atlantic to compete on this event. Drexel Gillespie, albeit in Super Rally, made it to the finish in his Volvo 122S. Templepatrick man Drexel, who was co-driven by Gill Cotton, explained: “we were going round the final corner of the first Friday stage when a half-shaft broke. We were able to get a time and get out of the stage, but of course we had no spares. So we phoned Kevin Savage (Volvo historic specialist, international co-driver and Clerk of the Course of the Malcolm Wilson Rally) and he said yes, he had half-shafts, put the Volvo on a trailer and come on up. Problem was, Kevin’s place is up at Kirkby Lonsdale, close to the Lake District, so it was 4.0’clock in the afternoon before they could get there. Then, as the half-shaft had sheared close to the differential, the axle had to be stripped and cleaned before the new shaft could be fitted.
Keith McIvor and David Burns eventually finished 37th.
Kevin and Drexel’s mechanic Gerry Buckley did a great job. So, it was 8.00pm before they started for Carlisle, which then of course wasn’t so far to go. Drexel and Gill resumed the rally on the Saturday morning and finished the event three days later, which was still a lot of stages. Drexel commented afterwards: “I’m delighted to have done it, it was pure enjoyment. The car went very well apart from the shaft. Much of the time we were first on the road, so the stages were very smooth. We didn’t set the world on fire – this is a 1964 Volvo 122S in more or less standard trim, with maybe 101 brake horse power. Some of the stages were repeated so it was a bit rough 2nd time through, and the back axle shook a bit loose, but it was no problem. Some of the hills took a while to get up as well, but the car ran like clockwork. Amazingly we got a 1st in class, thought we were behind 80 year- old or thereabouts Bob Bean in his Lotus Cortina, but the way it turned out we have been awarded it! One of the things we really noticed was that anywhere we stopped, service areas and so on, lots of people came up to us to tell us how nice it was to see the Volvo, a change from all the Escorts!”
David Greer & Brian Crawford had a great run in the new DGM built Manta 400. The Andrews Heat for Hire colours were chosen just before the RAC in respect of the recent passing of Russell Brookes.
David Greer/Brian Crawford made it safely through in their immaculate, newly built, Andrews Heat for Hire liveried Opel Manta 400. Brian explained – “David (Greer) bought the Manta 400 several years ago. It was damaged, and the more we looked at it the more we thought that it would never repair into a nice car. So we obtained another shell, fabricated it and started from there. David decided to livery it in Russell Brookes’ Andrew Heat for Hire colours as a matter of respect. David once upon a time did a Ford promoted rally school where Russell was a tutor and he thought a lot of him. We phoned Mike Broad, as well as Russell’s widow Julie, and his son Rob to see if they would agree, and they were delighted to hear that we thought so well of Russell. They were happy with what we were doing. Jimmy McRae, who drove a sister Manta, looked at the car during the rally and told us he was very jealous! However, that changed somewhat when he saw the fog later!’
Brian continued: ‘Preparations in general for the rally were massive, the tyres, the fuel, the responsibilities, logistics and expense. Work for me went to the wall for what seemed like weeks. The rally took over my life. On the event the car went very well, no major hiccups.’
David did mention that the wipers wouldn’t switch off – something they didn’t discover for four days as it never stopped raining! They had one puncture, on the stage before Ae, and that cost many minutes. David also complimented the notes which worked very well for them but in the fog, especially in the darkness combined with the fog stages, they just weren’t prepared to stick their necks out when you couldn’t see the end of the bonnet, let alone the verges in the forest. The Saturday night was the worst. The real sting in the tail was the final stage, 17 miles or so. For them the intention was always to finish. David couldn’t believe the buzz of the rally, the number of spectators. He reckons it is now the ‘go to’ rally in Britain.” Yes, a great adventure! And a further endorsement of Marty McCormack’s achievement in winning it for the third time!
From one Historic Rally our thoughts turn to another – this coming weekend and the Rentokil Initial backed Killarney Historic. The Kerry based event, which has a proud history and unique ambience as well as roads, also has a huge entry: 160 cars plus reserves. Owen Murphy/Anthony Nestor head the Historic list. They won the event last year in their Lotus Sunbeam, but apparently back axle parts for the car are more or less impossible to source, so Owen is hiring David Percy’s Historic Escort for this outing. This is an almost new car and has the Sherwood BDA engine, which seems more or less be ‘de rigeur’ for these Historic Escorts. Owen has never driven the car, but seems not to be phased by that and hopes to manage a short test drive on Friday afternoon. And then his plan is to repeat last year’s victory!
The driver starting behind Owen, Craig Breen, has other ideas of course! WRC star Craig will drive a newly built, absolutely beautiful Viking Motorsport Escort BDA. (in red naturally!). Viking is the brainchild of 2003 World Rally Champion co-driver Phil Mills. He will be on hand to see that all goes well on the rally. When asked about the car, Phil told us: “it is a new build, first time out, has the Sherwood engine, everything top spec. I’m very impressed with Craig – he is so genuinely enthusiastic, really wants to do this!” Of course, with Killarney man Paul Nagle, (whose late father Maurice was the instigator of the Killarney Historic), on the notes as co-driver this will no doubt double-up on the enthusiasm front! Another Killarney man, Rob Duggan, a very talented driver, is at 3 and he drives an Escort from the Merion Evans stable. Rob has Ger Conway co-driving and doubtless there will no lack of enthusiasm in that car either.
In fact, looking down the top ten and beyond, it really is a scintillating line up. Mark Falvey and Neil Williams are at 4 & 5 in Escorts, and then at 6 it is Belgian ‘pilote’ Paul Lietaer in an Opel Manta 400. Of the next six cars it would be a brave man who would bet against at least one, or indeed several of them, not being in the leaderboard mix on this iconic event. Just consider the driving talent amongst those six: the utterly precise driver Martin Doherty from Donegal, the tigerish Cathan McCourt, former West Cork winner Robert Barrable, local legend Denis Cronin, Tarmac front runner Jonny Greer (in a Sierra Cosworth) and Alan Ring (BMW M3). Is it any wonder that the enthusiasts will be flocking to Killarney this weekend?
The seeding for the Modified part of the rally starts at number 62 with Chris Armstrong, then it is Gary Kiernan, Colin O’Donoghue, Ryan Loughran and Jason Pritchard – all in Escorts. The first ‘non-Escort’ is Richard Conlon at 70 in his Toyota Corolla TC. The first of the 8 stages (Molls Gap) is at 08.00 on Sunday morning (where the cars will turn Right at the gap, not Left) and the finish ramp is at 15.28. Sensibly, a little more respectable time than in recent years. There will be two runs over Molls Gap, the second one is at 10.59. There will also be two runs over the Ballaghbeama and Shanera stages, and then single runs over Rockfield and Coolick.
Also this weekend is the MG Club’s Autosolo at Nutts Corner TTS. Birr MC is having its ‘Turkey Chaser’ autotest at Garahy’s garage in Birr. One week further on (6th-8th December) we have the Monza Rally Show to look forward to, where Josh McErlean will drive a Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing i20 R5. News just released as well from Hyundai is that the 2020 i20 R5 will have a new suspension/dampers upgrade in both asphalt and gravel format, as well as an updated steering ‘set-up’, plus new pistons and liners for the turbo engine which will give more power – up to 290 hp.
Also next weekend the Grizedale Forestry Stages will take place and an entry has been submitted by young Joel Eakin from Claudy. We carried the story recently about his disappointment regarding the last minute cancellation of the Mid-Antrim MC event. Joel had spent so much time and money upgrading his Civic to gravel specification especially for that one rally, the Glens, so now he is having to go across the Irish Sea to get some gravel experience. More news on this lovely little rally next week.
Photo copyright Brian McDaid.
Last weekend the Déjà Vu organisers presented a cheque for €25,000 to the Donegal Hospice, this being the proceeds from the Donegal Déjà vu held a couple of months ago. Coming up at the end of December (29th) in Donegal at McCafferty’s Bar in Letterkenny’s Lower Main Street, is a marshal’s appreciation night, the proceeds going to the Little Angels Special School. (At least we think it is the Little Angels, the advertising pamphlet we received says ‘Little Angles’!).
Rumours persist today (Wednesday 27th) that the Toyota Gazzo Racing Team will announce their 2020 WRC programme with Sebastian Ogier heading the revised team line up after WRC Champion Ott Tanak’s departure to Hyundai. Elfyn Evans is favourite to join Ogier alongside Kalle Rovenpera with a strong suggestion that Latvala will still have a role in the team as a development driver.
Late News: Toyota Confirm: We are pleased to confirm an exciting, all-new driver line-up for the 2020 season:
Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia
Elfyn Evans / Scott Martin
Kalle Rovanperä / Jonne Halttunen
Regards, Brian, Liz & Michael Patterson.
A small selection of photo’s from the Roger Albert Clark – courtesy of the RAC Rally.
Unexpectedly it was announced last Saturday evening that Triton Showers would continue their title sponsorship of the MI National Rally Championship through 2020. The occasion was the annual National Championship Awards ceremony, which was held in the Sheraton Hotel Athlone. It was widely believed that after five years the Triton Showers association with the series would end, but Triton Showers’ main man in Ireland Kevin Barrett took nearly everyone pleasantly by surprise when he announced out of the blue that the company was to continue what has become the country’s blue ribbon National Championship. Kevin’s heart is very much in rallying and he was reluctant to leave the Championship in the wilderness with no sponsor, hence the change of heart. There will be 7 rounds, with 6 to count, in 2020:
Pictured at the Triton Showers National Rally Championship awards ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel, Athlone were (left to right): Kevin Barrett, Triton Showers, Josh Moffett, winning driver, Aaron Vard represnting the Vard Family, Andy Hayes, winning co-driver and Trevor Applegate, Triton Showers. Photo: Seamus Counihan.
1 Mayo Rally (March 8th)
2 Circuit of Kerry (April 5th)
3 Carlow Rally (May 10th)
4 Cavan Rally (May 24th)
5 Tipperary Stonethrowers (August 9th)
6 Clare Rally (September 13th)
7 Donegal Harvest (October 10th)
Some of the main players collecting their awards on Saturday Night included the new champions Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes. Their names go on to the prestigious Vard Trophy. Interestingly Josh is the fifth different winner in the five years of the Triton backing. Former Champion Roy White and his co-driver James O’Brien collected the runner-up Trophies. Third placed driver was Kevin Eves and he was also the tops in ‘2 Wheel Drive’, while Anthony Nestor was the 3rd placed overall co-driver and he also received the best GpN co-driver award. Kevin Eves’ co-driver Chris Melly received the 2WD co-driver Award and was 4th o/a in the standings. Shane Maguire won the GpN Award.
Not unexpectedly it has been announced this morning that Citroen have withdrawn from the WRC. Their statement cites “Following the decision of Sebastian Ogier to leave Citroen Racing after the 2019 WRC season, Citroen decided to withdraw from its WRC programme in 2020 due to the absence of a first class driver for the 2020 season.”
Home rally action last weekend included the Omagh Motor Club’s C-More Flying Targa Rally where Eddie Peterson/Philip O’Reilly in their Toyota MR2 took victory from Eric Patterson/Raymond Donaldson (MX5). Douglas Reid/Jonathan Stewart, also in a Mazda, were 3rd. On the Autotest front Guy Foster (Mini Special) took the win on the round 5 Hewison Trophy series at Arklow. Daniel Byrne (Mini) was 2nd and James Wilson (Mini Special) 3rd.
McGrady Insurance NI Rally Champion – Stephen Wright pictured on this year’s Sezoens Rally.
County Monaghan’s Stephen Wright is now confirmed as the 2019 McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK NI Stage Rally Champion, Stephen saying, “ Taking on any Championship was not on my radar at the start of the year but the competitor friendly format and variety that each event in the Championship offered kept bringing me back.” Stephen finished the foreshortened series (the last round did not run) in a tie position with Derek McGarrity and Stephen took the title on a count back tie decider. He is the first driver from the Republic of Ireland to win the NI series. Champion co-driver title went to Derek McGeehan’s son Mark. Derek led the points for much of the season but it all came to naught when he retired from the Tyrone Stages, his Mini WRC ‘going off’ a cylinder. Derek then ended up 3rd in the series, with 8 times NI Champion Derek McGarrity runner-up. John Devlin just pipped James Kennedy at the last gasp for the coveted 2 wheel drive title. Beragh’s Adam Vance was the GpN winner, Belfast’s Kyle White the best Junior. Drew Wylie once again captured the Historic title.
Next season’s NI Championship is being revamped to consist of just five asphalt rallies. The reasoning behind the all-asphalt format seems to be that some competitors found it too expensive and time consuming converting their cars for different disciplines. In addition to the NI Championship there will be an ANICC Gravel Cup consisting of four rallies – Fivemiletown, Fermanagh Lakelands, Bushwhacker and Mid Antrim.
The five NI Championship rallies will be:-
1 Kirkistown: 15th February.
2 Bishopscourt: 7th March
3 Maiden City: 25th March
4 Sperrins: 6th June
5 Tyrone: 18th July.
In addition to these changes, the management structure of the ANICC is also changing. Nicky Moffitt has been the hard working secretary for 39 years and been on the Council for 42. He has done the most marvellous and comprehensive work for NI Motorsport all those years. He will still be involved, and will give the incoming secretary Grace King all his assistance. Nicky is working more than ever with Motorsport UK and will be taking over the chair of the Rallies Committee in the New Year from Andrew Kellett. Nicky will also be on the board of Motorsport UK next year. Other changes include Robert Harkness stepping down as President of the ANICC and Donald Grieve moving up from vice President to President.
This weekend rallying at home will mainly be concentrated on the North Ulster Car Club’s Targa Rally this Saturday 23rd November, officially titled the John Mulholland Friends of the Cancer Centre Targa Rally. Over 100 entries have been received, with the top six seeds being Chris Evans (Toyota), Paul Mooney (Nova), Robert Woodside (MX5), Eric Patterson (MX5), David Crothers (MX5) and Douglas Reid (MX5). Such is the quality of the entry that there are top names scattered throughout the field – Mark Francis for example is at 8, Eamonn Byrne at 11, Dermot Carnegie at 15 and Frank Lenehan at 17.
Hoping for a 3rd win on the Roger Albert Clark Rally, Marty McCormack. Photo: Paul Lawrence
Also this weekend is the Roger Albert Clark Rally through the forests of Wales, Kielder and South West Scotland. The rally actually starts this Thursday evening from Leominster on the Welsh border and there will be two stages through the fast but tricky Radnor forest in darkness. On Friday the crews will tackle some classic Welsh stages. They then have a long transit section up to Carlisle for a Friday night rest halt. Saturday sees tough stages through Kielder, then it is into the Scottish forests on the Sunday and back to Kielder on the Monday: 32 forest stages in total. It will be a long haul for the drivers. No.1 seed Marty McCormack freely admits it is the most demanding and draining of rallies. Draperstown man Marty will have Barney Mitchell co-driving in his Escort and is aiming for his third Roger Albert win. With almost 160 crews on the entry list, and with some very talented drivers in fabulous cars, this very special rally, a throwback to rallying’s glory days, will not be an easy one to win.
Generally at this time of the year, on the run-up to Christmas, there is no shortage of Motorsport books on offer. One that particularly caught our eye is “Ever the Bridesmaid”, the Autobiography of Tony Ambrose. The late Tony Ambrose raced and rallied an MG TC in his early days and then was asked to partner Lyndon Sims in an Aston Martin DB2/4 to contest the RAC Rally – which they won. Fairly soon Tony Ambrose was adopted into the BMC Competition team and co-drove for many top drivers in Minis and Austin Healey’s, eventually winning the European Championship in 1965 with Flying Finn Rauno Aaltonen, who was also known as ‘The Rally Professor’. Ambrose was one of the first BMC team members to request a ‘recce’ car to go and make notes of the stages, a pioneer really of Pacenotes to make the stages faster and safer. His red MG TC, GGC865, has sadly disappeared in the mists of times. The book is reportedly a delight, giving much insight into those halcyon days when BMC cars ruled the rallying world. ‘Ever the Bridesmaid” was published by Veloce Publishing, but seems quite hard to obtain. We located one under the ‘Mini Sport’ banner – just the job as a Christmas present!
Last minute snippets – The first closed road stage rally in the New Year looks as if it could be a new Donegal mini stage event, located at Termon Kilmacrennan on January 25th…… Peugeot Sport has launched a new rally car – the 208Rally4……Next weekend’s Killarney Historic Rally is all on course but one crew Rob Dennis/Andy Boswell are short of a spanner man to help with running their FIA MK2 Escort. The mechanic that usually helps them has been diagnosed with illness. Andy Boswell’s mobile number is 0044 7946674244…….The MG Car Club (Ulster Centre) are running the first test (at TTS Nutt’s Corner) of this Saturdays’ North Ulster Car Club’s Targa Rally……The 500 Motor Racing Club are organising a rally car test day for December 7th at Kirkistown……the Irish Racing Car Show takes place this weekend in Dublin’s RDS……….The Manus Kelly tribute night this Saturday in Letterkenny is reportedly a sell-out with 600 tickets sold and the hotel is having two sittings to cope – a measure of the magnitude of the tragedy of Manus Kelly’s fatal accident plus the high esteem in which he was held.
The finalists for Motorsport Ireland’s Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year Award have been announced. David Kelly (24), from Donegal Town, has been named alongside Derek Mackarel (23), from Clones, Co Monaghan, and Josh McErlean (20), from Kilrea, Co Derry.
All three drivers are in the running for the prestigious Motorsport Ireland Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver Award, which has a prize fund of €100,000.