Damien Toner and Joe Comerford were fastest on five of the six stages of the Loughgall Country Park Rally last month to seal a dominant victory. This was the Armagh driver’s fourth win in a row at Loughgall and the Escort Mk.2 pilot says he will be back.
2014 winner Keith White was second and 27 seconds back in his Mk.1 Escort, after he and Paul Mulholland set fastest time on the final test dropping John Bradley/Ryan Crozier to third in their Mk.2. Although the rally was open to four-wheel-drive cars, none entered. Most of the 59 starters were in Mk.2’s. Notable non-starters were Camillus Bradley and David Armstrong. There were 51 finishers.
For our contribution we covered a mid-stage radio point and provided marshals. Somewhat unusal for Loughgall there were no major stage stopping incidents and the North Armagh Motor Club’s rally ran to schedule. The great summer weather continued with warm temperatures and not a hint of rain.
Jonny Greer and Kirsty Riddick won the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally on Sat. 21st July. The current Northern Ireland Rally Champions finished the 11 stage tarmac event with their newly built Citroen DS3 R5 just 20.1 seconds ahead of Desi Henry and Liam Moynihan’s Skoda Fabia R5. Derek McGarrity/ Paddy Robinson were third in a Paul Bird hired Ford Focus WRC, good enough to extend their lead in the NI Championship. Looks like Derek is on course to run away with the 2018 series as no one else seems prepared to mount a serious challenge this time!
Apart from being the fourth round of the McGrady Insurance MSA Northern Ireland Championship, the Down Rally was also round four of the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship. The 130 competitors on the entry list were from all over the British Isles, France and Jersey.
Actually only 116 cars started with 84 of them finishing the 11 stage event. For the first time Rathfriland Motor Club joined forces with near neighbours Ballynahinch & District Motor Club to run a jointly organised and promoted rally.
The rally started with a very short spectator stage adjacent to the service park at the Eikon Exhibition Centre in Balmoral Park near Lisburn. This test was repeated twice more during the day. Stage two Lough Erne was near Hillsborough. The 5.60 mile test would also run as SS 6 and 10. The third stage was the famous Hamilton’s Folly. Repeated as stages seven and eleven and run today at 10.79 miles, this Co. Down classic stared on the Circuit of Ireland Rally when it ran as part of the European Championship a few years ago. The best viewing point was the “big jump” at Backaderry crossroads where some of the competitors, including the rally leader after SS2 Desi Henry, damaged their cars as a result of heavy landings. Last stage in the first and second loop was the shorter 5.08 miles of Drumaknocken near Dromore.
Victor and myself were asked to cover the stop control of Hamilton’s Folly. On the Monday prior to the event the organisers, having had at least one year to plan the high profile rally, suddenly discovered that they hadn’t got any stage timekeepers sorted out! Unbelievable! Following a pleading phone call from Chief Marshal Raymond Linton, we both rather reluctantly agreed to assist. We had volunteered to cover a radio point months previously . Other BMMC/BRMC club members were timing and providing rescue cover as well as stage marshalling.
On the day of the rally Chief Timekeeper Richard Blackshaw found he had no flying finish timekeeper for us to partner with. None other than Declan McAleer was recruited at the very last minute! With regard to the times, we didn’t have much of a problem, although the equipment was very temperamental and caused a few headaches. Thank goodness we were running at minute intervals and Declan was on the finish control!
The biggest incident to involve us was when, on the second run, competitor number two Jason Pritchard had a punctured tyre come off the wheel rim of his Focus WRC as he approached the stop control. Although slowing as he then stopped to get his time, the fast moving large tyre flew into the front of Victor’s car causing considerable damage. I was standing beside the car and Victor was sitting in it receiving times from Declan. Just how the tyre missed me I don’t know but thankfully it did and continued on down the road for quite a distance before coming to a halt.
Although it was quite cold at our remote location in the Dromara hills under the shadows of Slieve Croob mountain, we had dry weather most of the day with some slight rain early on. The stage was in great condition and all of the Asphalt Championship competitors were raving about it. Not often do they get to compete flat out on long challenging closed-road tests.
The biggest stage stopping incident on Hamilton’s Folly involved the Peugeot 205 of well known Ballynahinch married couple Ian and Amanda Green. According to Amanda when she spoke to us at the end of the previous run, the little well rallied “pug” had not been liking the bumpy roads and the many jumps of the Folly. Then on the final stage they crashed out. The car was completely wrecked. Driver Ian and co driver Amanda were shaken and bruised. They were taken to hospital as a precaution but thankfully later released.
Behind the top three finishers Daniel Harper (not the Porsche Carrera Cup racing driver from Northern Ireland with the same name) was fourth in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC. Harper from Barley in Lancashire and co-driver Chris Campbell were the top finishers in the Asphalt Championship. Best two-wheel drive crew were Loughgall winner Damian Toner and Barry McParland in their Mk.2 Escort. They finished seventh overall.
Emma McKinstry and Kenny Hull, back rallying following the birth of their son, finished the event in 14th, one place ahead of Emma’s Dad Kenny and Noel Orr. Both were driving Subaru Impreza S14 WRC’s. Kenny and Noel had many problems including the car overheating and Noel feeling unwell. Retirements included David Bogie/John Rowan who’s Skoda Fabia R5 suffered terminal power steering failure after the second loop of stages. Bogie had been involved in a huge battle with Desi Henry for second place.
This clubman six stage tarmac event takes place at Shackleton, Ballykelly, Co.Derry and will be organised by Maiden City Motor Club. Although it is very short notice now (and possibly too late depending on when you are reading this) the club is appealing for additional marshals to help run the rally. We are supplying rescue and other services. Contact the organisers if you are available to assist. Danny Gormley is Clerk of the Course. The rally is sponsored by the MJM Group.
Sat.11th August North Armagh MC Rally Time Trial
This new Clubman Status event will be sponsored by Crozier Motorsport Engineering and takes place at Bluestone Motorsport Centre in Craigavon Co. Armagh. Marshals welcome. Check with organisers North Armagh Motor Club for sign on details. First timed run is scheduled to start at 10.30am.
Sponsored by McClimond Engineering Ltd. this is the latest Targa event in Northern Ireland. Expect a full entry list. Starting and finishing at Poyntzpass Primary School and based at Rice’s Hotel in Poyntzpass Co.Down. Tests are to be held in Scarva House Estate and other lanes in the area. Contact Rathfriland Motor Club if interested. rathfrilandmotorclub.co.uk
Sponsored once again by John Mulholland Motors the 2018 Ulster Rally returns to Co.Antrim following three years in counties Derry and Tyrone. Starting and finishing in Antrim town, the two day tarmac event will use three classic County Antrim stages including Torr Head on Friday. On Saturday there will be one stage near Antrim town plus two in the Sperrins. It is the only time that the Irish Tarmac and British Championships come together this year. BMMC/BRMC will be timekeeping, covering rescue and radio points as well as providing stage marshals.
Organised as usual by Enniskillen Motor Club the Trailer Parts and Spares Lakeland Stages Rally will be round five of the McGrady Insurance MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship and round six of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship. BMMC/BRMC are supplying marshals, rescue and radio crews and possibly timekeepers. Six gravel stages in the Derrygonnelly and Belcoo areas of Co.Fermanagh are on the menu with a service park back in Enniskillen at the old Grosvenor Barricks site on the Coleshill Road.
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.