HAPPY NEW YEAR
Another year beckons in rallyland and let’s hope it’s a good one. Here in Northern Ireland the first scheduled event doesn’t take place until February. Due to excessive costs incurred by the organising Ulster Automobile Club in hiring and setting up the race circuit based rally, the usual non-championship UAC New Year Stages at Kirkistown will not take place this month.
The 2019 Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship will feature eight rounds some on sealed surfaces and some on gravel. Following on from the February Kirkistown Stages we have the Bishopscourt Stages in March then a new event run by Maiden City MC in April. May sees the Tour of the Sperrins while the Down Rally returns in July. The Lakeland Stages is in September and the Tyrone Stages takes place in October. Finally we have the Glens of Antrim Rally in early November.
10 Years Ago......January 2009
Hard to believe that the last visit of the World Rally Championship to the Emerald Isle was ten years ago this month. Rally Ireland 2 was round one of the 2009 WRC, replacing Monte Carlo for one year only. Although there have been rumours of a return to the Irish tarmac roads so far nothing has transpired and unless Rally GB moves around different areas in the future I can’t see that happening.
We as a marshals club were heavily involved in Rally Ireland 2, covering everything from timekeeping, rescue and of course stage marshalling. For my sins I was Chief Timekeeper.
The rally was based once again in Sligo with a ceremonial start at Enniskillen Castle. There were to be a total of 19 closed road stages in the North West of Ireland but the weather on day one was shite with very heavy rain causing the cancellation of two tests. Day two saw more heavy rain with 6 long stages in Tyrone and Fermanagh taking place in tricky conditions.
Everything ran on time throughout and conditions improved on day three with the final spectator stage in Donegal Town attracting some 10,000 fans. It was quite amazing to see the likes of Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo and Sebastien Ogier competing in works Citroen C4’s over stages I knew very well like Sloughan Glen, Tempo and Ballinamallard.
On the entry list of only 43 cars there were three manufacture teams; Apart from Citroen there was Abu Dhabi Ford with Focus drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala. Stobart M-Sport Ford had Urmo Ava (whatever happened to him) and Henning Solberg in their Focus WRC’s. Chris Atkinson and Seb Ogier were competing in a Citroen Junior Team but in C4 WRC’s.
Needless to say future nine times World Champion Sebastien Loeb won his second Rally Ireland. Dani Sordo was second and Mikko Hirvonen third. Henning Solberg finished fourth while Chris Atkinson was fifth. In his first full WRC season, the current 2018 and six time World Champion, Sebastien Ogier finished Rally Ireland 2 in sixth position.
Rally Ireland 2 was overshadowed by the sudden death of my friend Richard Donaldson. He had been due to be a key part of my timing team on the WRC event. Sadly he suffered a fatal heart attack while covering a radio point on a pre-rally test session for the Stobart Ford team. He had been a BMMC/BRMC member for more than twelve years.
Sat. 2nd February (TBC)
Derek Walker Classic Trial
Sat. 2nd / Sun. 3rd February
BMMC/BRMC Rescue Training
Held at Kirkistown Race Circuit this is essential for all rescue, recovery and medical crew members to attend in order to keep training and licences up to date. Motorsport UK instructors from GB and NI will be officiating. Other interested club members are welcome to attend. Contact Rory O’Neill for further details.
Sat. 9th February
Rosspark Hotel Targa Rally
Organised by Mid Antrim Motor Club this new event of theirs is based at the Rosspark Hotel in Kells near Ballymena in Co.Antrim. As I write there are no further details available. If you wish to assist check the MAMC website nearer the date.
Samsonas Rally Fivemiletown
Back on the calendar after a year’s absence. Used to be called the Spring Rally, but as there is usually snow on the ground for this Omagh MC gravel rally in Co.Tyrone, the new name (with reference to the sponsor) sounds better! We are covering rescue, radio and timing. More info next month. Not a Championship event but usually gets a decent entry.
Sat. 23rd February
Round one of the 2019 Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship. Organised by North Armagh Motor Club the six stage mixed surface event usually starts at 09.30. Sign on from 07.30. We are due to provide stage marshals. Again more information next month.