Happy New Decade
Right, a new year begins with rallying in crisis. The pinnacle of our chosen sport, the World Rally Championship has just TWO proper manufacturer teams (Toyota and Hyundai) signed up for 2020. Ok M-Sport is officially classed as a manufacturer team but we all know the Cumbrian based squad is really a private effort without Fords big money support.
The Monte Carlo Rally, running from Thursday 23rd until Sunday 26th January, will see Sebastien Ogier start as favourite in his Toyota Yaris WRC. The former champ will have Elfyn Evans as his submissive “wing man” this year. A third Yaris will be driven by young gun Kalle Rovanpera. Jari-Matti Latvala will drive on selected events (including Sweden). Takamoto Katsura “the wee Japanese fella” will contest eight rounds of the WRC in yet another Toyota Yaris.
Ott Tanak will be in the leading Hyundai i20 WRC. Question is will Thierry Neuville be happy to support the new World Champion in a team he has headed for so many years? Second question is will Tanak smile this year? Dani Sordo and Sebastien Loeb will share the third i20. There may be yet another Hyundai for Craig Breen and or Andreas Mikkelsen, although nothing was confirmed as I write this on the 3rd of January.
M-Sport have Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi driving their full-time Ford Fiestas in 2020, with Gus Greensmith doing nine rallies.
A worrying time then for the WRC in 2020, but new more flexible regulations in 2022 could see more manufacturers become interested. Hear’s another question for you. How many people outside rallying know the WRC even exists? TV coverage is banished to an obscure terrestrial channel. Only those subscribing to WRC+ or other pay channels can get total coverage of all rounds of the championship.
Back hear in Northern Ireland nothing of note happing in January but then February sees the start of the new-look McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship. Confined to five tarmac rounds, three single venue circuit type events plus two closed-road rallies. Also next month the first round of the NI Gravel Rally Challenge takes place in Co.Tyrone.
Saturday 25th January
MGCC Derek Walker Memorial Classic
The annual Derek Walker Clubman Production Car multi-venue autotest is organised by the MG Car Club (Ulster Centre) Based for the second time at the Echlinville Distillery, Gransha Road, Kircubbin, Co. Down. We as a club are always asked to help run the various tests. Sign-on 8am.
Saturday 15th February
Kirkistown Stages Rally
Round one of the 2020 Motorsport UK McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship. Organised by North Armagh Motor Club the single venue rally takes pace within the confines of the Kirkistown Race Circuit in Co.Down. Sign-on 8am. The big question is how many competitors will sign up to the five-round series? The word on the street is people aren’t happy with the costs involved. Time will tell. Let’s hope Derek McGarrity doesn’t get it all his own way yet again! Mind you Stephen Wright is the current champion so I would hope to see him back to defend his title this year.
Saturday 22nd February
Samsonas Rally Fivemiletown
This is the first of four rounds of the new 2020 ANICC Gravel Rally Challenge. Omagh Motor Club are the organisers of this gravel rally based in County Tyrone at Fivemiletown College and Community Youth Annexe. We are covering radio, rescue and timing plus stage marshals. Rally starts 9am.