Due to the ongoing effects of the coronavirous pandemic, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that proper stage rallies, that we all know and love, will not return to the British Isles until late next year or indeed 2022. I hope I can be proved wrong. Until a tried and tested vaccine is readily available, the deadly various will not go away! This will continue to be problematic with regards to the return of meaningful events.
No clubs are willing to organise a full blown stage rally, with all the extreme measures required to combat the spread of Covid-19 in place, at the present time.
The rejigged World Rally Championship calendar has already hit problems. Rallies Germany and Japan have now been lost to the pandemic. Rally Belgium has moved onto the date vacated by Japan. Rally Estonia based in Tartu (4th-6th September) kicks of the WRC restart. Three remaining events are scheduled to follow; Turkey (18th-20th Sept.) Italy (29th Oct.-1st Nov.) and then Belgium (19th-22nd Nov.)
Also affected by the ever changing effects of the coronavirous is the European Rally Championship. The latest news shows that the Azores Rallye, due to run this month, has now been cancelled, leaving just three events still to run. Next up here is the Cyprus Rally in mid October. The ERC organisers are frantically searching for replacement events to possibly add to their 2020 calendar.
Well done to VW Polo R5 driver Oliver Solberg and his Co.Tyrone co-driver Aaron Johnston who won Rally Liepaja in Latvia last month for the second year in a row. This was round 2 of the ERC. Alexey Lukyanuk who was third in Latvia behind non-registered Mads Ostberg (both in Citroen C3 R5’s) leads the championship on 70 points. Solberg, still only 18 years old, is second on 66.
The delayed 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship got of to a spectacular start with a double header in Sweden last month. A week later saw the series move on to Finland for rounds 3 and 4. Former champions; Swedes Johan Kristoffersson (VW Polo) and Mattias Ekstrom (Audi S1) dominated the first two events and look set to be the pacesetters this year. Search for World Rallycross on YouTube to catch all the action from the semifinals and finals. Believe me it is well worth seeing! There are 10 World RX rounds in total, finishing with Germany in December.
Here in Northern Ireland, Omagh Motor Club ran the successful Cam Trophy Rally Time Trial last month. A fairly large entry of 70 competitors started. Each were allowed five runs (the best two to count) over a 2.65 mile stage in Cam Quarry near Coleraine. A dusty dry day for all. We had marshals in place as well as providing rescue cover. I think this was the first rally-type event to take place in the UK since lockdown back at the end of March. The Time Trial took place under new Motorsport UK “Covid-19 friendly” regulations. Of course no spectators were admitted as the event ran behind closed doors. Apart from a slightly delayed start to insure all was correctly set up, everything ran smoothly. The overall winner was Jason Mitchell in his Fiesta R5. Gareth Sayers was second in a similar car followed by David Condell’s New Fiesta R5 Mk.2. Top 2-wheel-drive finisher was Jordan Hone in his Opel Adam.
Many media tributes have been paid to Brian Patterson who sadly passed away last month after a short illness. Brian and his wife Liz were responsible for changing the face of how results of stage rallies were communicated during the events to the public and indeed competitors.
The couple from Glengormley Co.Antrim started their RallyNews bulletin service way back in the 1980’s. Originally they covered news from the Donegal Rally, but so successful was the venture that most major events in the British Isles, including the WRC Lombard RAC Rally then utilised their services. All this was way before the advent of the internet and mobile phones.
When officiating on events, such as Donegal or Rally GB, if possible, I made sure to visit Brian and Liz in the service park to collect a set of bulletins in order to keep up with the latest news and results. Liz would type as Brian dictated the information collected from the rally crews at stage ends. Then they ran off the bulletins on a copier from the back of their Mercedes van. There could be as many as 15 different bulletins per event. All were full of quotes and entertaining snippets as well as the ongoing results.
RallyNews bulletins dating from 2000 to 2018 are still available on the internet at rallynews.net. Check them out if you get a chance. Well worth a read. Happy memories indeed!
I remember sharing drinks and conversation with Brian as we sailed back to Belfast after a Rally GB in the 90’s. Brian was a gentleman and always ready to talk rallying. All the inside information and gossip of the day was thrashed out on that boat trip!
The Patterson’s four sons are also involved in rallying. Chris is of course a well known and experienced co-driver whom I know well. We helped him and Kris Meeke out after a big accident on Rally GB one year. Eldest son Michael also helped out with RallyNews, but he and his Dad ran “Patterson Pacenotes” helping to keep competitors from all over Ireland, the UK and beyond, safe on the rally stages. Davy as well as an accomplished marathon motorcycle rider, was employed by Prodrive during the Subaru “hay days”. He used to chauffeur David Richard around at events.
On one particular occasion a few years ago, Victor and I were coming home on an easyJet from Rally Spain. The 2hour journey from Barcelona to Belfast was made a lot more enjoyable and entertaining as Davy Patterson sat with us telling tall tales of his experiences in rallying or otherwise! Brian’s other son Jody also competed in certain events.
Along with Sammy Hamill of the Belfast Telegraph and Alan “Plum” Tyndall of RPM fame, the Patterson family have done so much to promote rallying here in Northern Ireland and beyond. Brian was press officer for the much-missed Lurgan Park Rally. He was responsible for bringing some of the World’s best drivers to the popular single venue event. The pre-rally press conferences were legendary, and handled so professionally by the one and only Brian Patterson.
To Liz, Michael, Chris, David, Jody and the rest of the Patterson family circle, our deepest condolences from all of us involved with BMMC Northern Ireland.
They may not be running in 2020, but over the years both the Lakeland Stages and the Bushwacker Rally were the best and most popular gravel rounds in the NI Rally Championship. Here are some of my memories of these classic September events.
Mervyn Hill and Kevin Shaw won the Lakeland Stages Rally in the forests near Enniskillen. This was Hill’s first victory in the Northern Ireland Rally Championship. The pair were in a Ford Escort Mk.2 as were the second placed crew of Philip Young and Richard Hogg. Third went to the Toyota Corolla of David Greer/Mark Crowe. BMMC/BRMC club members were timekeeping, covering rescue and providing radio crews on this Enniskillen Motor Club event.
Denis Biggerstaff insured that the battle for the 2000 Northern Ireland Rally Championship would go down to the wire with second place behind Robbie McGurk’s state-of-the-art Subaru Impreza on the Bushwacker Rally. Having rolled out of the Lakeland Stages earlier in the month, MG Metro 6R4 driver Biggerstaff would now move on to the final round in November, the Toshiba Rally in the Antrim forests, ready to go head-to-head for the championship with Robin Phillips. Just as they did in 1999! We were timekeeping and covering rescue on the Bushwacker in the Co.Tyrone forests. The rally always ran in late September and was organised by Omagh MC.
A rally long battle on the Lakeland Stages between Alastair Fisher and Jonny Greer was resolved on the final gravel stage when Fisher claimed his first NI Championship victory by just one second. Both drivers took turns to lead the rally and were level on times going into that last 4.6 mile stage. The two 22-year-old chargers were in Mitsubishi Evo.9 Gp.N cars. Kenny McKinstry was third but almost a minute back in his Subaru Impreza S8 WRC. We were timekeeping two of the eight stages. The club was well represented as usual, providing rescue and radio crews. Enniskillen MC provided a meal for us at the rally finish in the Killyhevlin Hotel.
Two weeks later we were all back in action on the Bushwacker Rally. Based in Omagh the gravel stages were in West Tyrone near Castlederg. Omagh MC always look after us well, feeding us during the event and at the finish venue. Martin Cairns/Andrew Purcell won the rally in a Subaru Impreza S9 WRC while just 8 seconds behind, James Gillen was second for the umpteenth time. For this event Gillen and Jason Haron were in a Subaru Impreza S6 (one of the first World Rally Cars) Donagh Kelly/Kevin Flanagan finished third in their Mitsubishi Evo.9. This was Cairns first NI Championship win. There were 84 starters and 62 finishers.
Rallying as a discipline was given the green light earlier this month, and now Motorsport UK has created a guidance video to help everyone understand the changes we have to undertake. Here is a link to the video:- ReturnToTheStages
The Jimmy McRae Award is presented each January and recognises a current member who has best represented the club throughout the preceding year. It is not intended simply to reward attendance, but to mark someone who has made a real difference.
2020 is proving to be an exceptionally difficult year with very little motorsport of any sort, particularly rallying. Therefore BRMC has decided to extend the qualification criteria for the 2021 Award, to also include the activities that many of our members are undertaking outside Rallying in support of their wider communities, often using the kind of skills developed in marshalling.
So, if you know a club member that you think deserves the award, click the button below.
The award was first introduced in 2019 and presented to the inaugural winner Ian Evans at the Autosport International Show in January 2020.
Latest updates from Motorsport UK, the wider motorsport community and the latest from the UK Government..
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