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.
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.
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.
Please see the promotional video https://youtu.be/elCYxO77I-o
On Saturday morning at Autosport International we will be launching a new online training and accreditation scheme for Rally marshals, as part of the RallyFuture project to further enhance safety on UK stage rallies.
Hopefully you will already have been aware of the project through MSA publications or Regional Association meetings. However we felt it was important to write to you in advance of the launch, to ensure you are aware before we make the wider public announcement.
This new scheme has been several months in the making. Its purpose is to ensure that all Rally marshals have a common understanding of their roles and responsibilities, the management of spectators and how to handle an incident.
The training should take no longer than 45 minutes, including the assessments. It is important to note that the online training is a supplement to, and not a replacement for, the high quality face-to-face training sessions that are currently being delivered across the UK.
This year, the online training and accreditation is only compulsory for newly registering marshals. However please note that those marshals who are currently registered with the MSA will need to complete the online training before being issued with their 2017 Registration card. You will only need to complete this course once in your marshalling career.
There will be a buddy system for unregistered marshals, to help ensure we don’t lose opportunities to recruit new volunteers – further details will be released in due course.
More details will be revealed following the launch on Saturday. In the meantime, may we thank you for everything you do for our sport, which would not exist without you. Best wishes for the coming season.