Not A Great Year.
2018 was not a classic with regard to events here in Northern Ireland. Derek McGarrity took a virtually unchallenged eighth Motorsport UK NI Rally Championship, yet another record for the experienced Glengormley driver. I managed to officiate on six of the seven rounds. The two gravel events were also rounds of the Irish Forest Championship.
Elsewhere I worked on the Irish Tarmac Championship Donegal Rally, the Easter Stages and the Ulster Rally which double up as a British Championship round as well. Congratulations to Josh Moffett Irish Tarmac and Forest Champion and to Matt Edwards British Champion. The British series is not what it used to be and had few serious competitors this year. The R5 class is very expensive and both the British Championship and Irish Tarmac are suffering as a result with only the mega rich or well sponsored drivers able to compete.
I also worked on one or two clubman events locally in 2018 as well as a couple of the now hugely popular Targa Rallies. My only trip “abroad” this year was when I went to the Silverstone round of the World Rallycross Championship, but as a spectator not in a marshalling role.
BMMC NI marshals were active on many rallies during 2018. We covered stage marshalling, refuelling in service parks, rescue, radio and timekeeping.
Internationally this year Sebastien Ogier won his sixth World title in succession and his second in a row for M-Sport in their Ford Fiesta. This season he was chased all the way to the final round in Australia by Thierry Neuville’s Hyundai i20 and Ott Tanak’s Toyota Yaris. The bottom line is that both challengers faltered at the final hurdle and were beaten by the best crew on the planet. Ogier was co-driven as he has been for every title by Julien Ingrassia.
I didn’t follow the European Rally Championship this year but I understand that the Russian Fiesta R5 diver Alexey Lukyanuk won the series. Yet another championship which seems to have lost its way competitively. Rumours of a return of the Circuit of Ireland Rally to this championship in 2020, or indeed as a round of the WRC, appear to be very wide of the mark. For one thing the event would have to run as a candidate WRC rally next year and that is not scheduled to happen.
Personally I am looking forward to next year when Dungannon’s Kris Meeke is back in the WRC for Toyota. The Yaris is the best car out there at the moment, so no excuse on that front. This will really be the last chance saloon for Kris, so let’s hope he and his new British co-driver Sebastian Marshall can make the best of it! Marshall is vastly experienced and sat with Hayden Paddon this year in his Hyundai i20.
Interestingly all the above mentioned 2018 rally champions drove Ford products. Somewhat ironic then that M-Sport can’t get complete backing from the American giant and are struggling to compete at World Championship level. Perhaps Seb Ogier would have stayed with Malcolm Wilson’s Cumbrian based team if Ford had stepped in and put up the mega bucks required to keep him. Instead the Frenchman is off back to Citroen for 2019.
Thursday 27th Dec.
It’s Not The Boxing Day Rally.
Based in Magheralin at the Edenmore Golf and Country Club this Ulster Automobile Club event is the twelfth Targa Rally to have taken place in Northern Ireland this year. Limited to 80 entries this year as opposed to 140 previously hopefully marshals will have an easier day all round. The weather is usually shite so an earlier finish will be welcome. Sponsored by Jordan Concrete sign on time is 07.00. First car will start at 09.01.
Saturday 29th Dec.
Turkey Run Rally.
Organised by Maiden City Motor Club and sponsored by the MJM Group, this annual single venue stage rally will take place at the Shackleton old airfield complex, Ballykelly Co. Derry. Expect a sizeable entry for this clubman event. We are covering rescue plus providing stage marshals and possibly timekeepers. Sign on 07.00. First car starts 09.45. There will be five sealed surface stages totalling 29 miles.