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ANNIVERSARY CIRCUIT WAS BUZZING

The Circuit of Ireland Rally celebrated its 85th anniversary this year in some style. Waterford’s Craig Breen won for the second year in succession and reigning European Champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz finished second as he did in 2015. Alastair Fisher drove a steady rally keeping out of trouble to complete the podium places in third and claim top points in the Irish Tarmac Championship. Josh Moffett was fourth in his Fiesta R5 and he was top British Championship finisher.

I think this was Citroen’s first ever Circuit win? Craig and Englishman Scott Martin were in a David Greer Motorsport prepared DS3 R5. “Kato”/Jaroslaw Baran from Poland and Co. Tyrone crew; Fisher/Gordon Noble had Ford Fiesta R5’s at their disposal.

If you get the chance, watch the YouTube footage of Fisher/Noble on SS3 The Glens 20 mile stage. It’s unbelievably fast and he picked up a puncture near the finish but kept pushing! Who says the new R5 cars are boring!

Around 70 cars started the International rally with 44 finishing and then there were 76 in the National section of which 50 got to the end. The rally was held over two days, Friday 8th and Saturday 9th April and for the first time NOT at the Easter weekend. In all there were 14 special stages.

Derek McGarrity and co-driver Barry McNulty drove the only WRC in the whole event. They won the National by over a minute in their Ford Fiesta. Second was a great result for Ollie Mellors/Ian Windress in the Proton Satria S2000 while Wesley Patterson/Johnny Baird were third and best 2-wheel drive in a Ford Escort Mk.2.

My part in the rally was small compared to some previous years. Victor and I were on a mid-stage radio point on the 9.28 mile Banbridge stage run on the second day. First time round we had 48 Internationals pass and 58 Nationals. On the second run, which was also the final stage, we had 44 and 50. There were some minor incidents but no stage-stopping moments. Thanks to North Armagh MC we had a brilliant breakfast in the Banville House Hotel on the morning of the event. It was minus two when we arrived at 07.30 but the day remained dry and we were stood down at 19.30 that evening.

On day one I had been to watch the Newtownards town stage which started at 8pm. It rained heavily for the first hour but dried up by the time I was leaving and the National Rally arrived. A major casualty here was Swedish driver and star of the BRC, Fredrik Ahlin who hit a kerb with his Fiesta R5 and damaged his rear suspension. When I got home I was able to watch the rest of the national runners complete the Newtownards stage on circuitofireland.net. The live streaming experiment was excellent and Ian Beasant and Trevor Agnew did a great job commentating along with Jon Desborough. The live stream TV crews were also at the end of some of the key stages over the two days interviewing drivers as they completed the tests.

Rally Diary

SAT. 7TH MAY TOUR OF THE SPERRINS

Held in the forests of Tyrone/Derry this year. The McGeehan Motorsport Tour of the Sperrins Rally is Round 3 of the Northern Ireland Championship; which after the Circuit is led by Derek McGarrity. The Magherafelt and District MC event is also Round 3 of the Valvoline Irish National Forest Championship. There will be 8 gravel stages covering app.30 miles. Based at Walsh’s Hotel in Maghera the rally starts at 10.30 and finishes at 16.30. We will be asked to help with marshals, timekeepers, radio cover etc.

SAT. 21ST MAY LOUGHALL COUNTRY PARK RALLY

North Armagh MC are running this annual clubman tarmac event for 2-wheel drive rally cars. We will be covering radio points as well as marshalling this popular event. Sign-on is usually 8am.