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SAFETY OF MARSHALS IS PARAMOUNT

With all the current concern by our governing body the MSA regarding the safety of rally stages for competitors, spectators and officials, I just feel that the welfare of some of us marshals is being comprised.

For example, we as BMMC/BRMC members were acting as finish timekeepers and radio crew on the recent Bushwacker Rally organised by Omagh Motor Club, a round of the MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship. Known locally as “The Omagh Grand Prix” because of the fast smooth stages, the fabulously named Bushwacker is one of my favourite events and I have assisted on it since 1983!

Having driven the 90 odd miles from home, fellow marshal Victor and I arrived at our location, the finish of SS1/6 Lough Braden South a short 1.53 mile test which I knew well. The Stop control board at which we were supposed to park up was located on a bend around half a mile in from the main road. As we surveyed the situation it was apparent that our car could not be parked safely next to the forest track. In other words there was no room for the approaching rally cars to pass. To compound this I could not get radio contact with control.

Next the Chief Timekeeper for the rally arrived and he agreed that the finish would have to be moved. This was done although the new location was not much better. In fact our car was slightly damaged as we tried to park.

Then the event Safety Officer arrived and quite forcefully insisted that we return to the original location. This was done and we managed to get parked with some difficulty. Radio contact was made and the stage was able to run successfully, some 25 minutes behind schedule.

My point is that with some thought the organisers could have arranged for a better finish location where officials could park safely and do their job efficiently and without fear of any damage to their vehicles. At the end of the day we are all volunteers and these clubs need to realise this. Their events could not run without us. We can vote with our feet and go home, simple as that!

This is not the first time we as marshals/timekeepers have encountered such problems. Omagh MC are certainly not the only club who would need to look at the safety and welfare of their officials.

The Maiden City Motor Club requested help from two of our members for timing duties on the Dogleap Rally in August. According to these officials they were treated very badly and had to work for hours without a break just so the event ran on time. One of these marshals was a diabetic and nearly passed out! Needles to say they won’t be back to assist this particular motor club any time soon! This is totally unacceptable in this day and age. What sort of encouragement does this action send out to young people who are thinking about volunteering as marshals! Let’s face it we need young faces out there; most of us are not getting any younger!

DONNELLY MARK 2 WINS BUSHWACKER

Mark Donnelly from Greencastle near Omagh and co-driver Stephen O’Hanlon in a Ford Fiesta S2000 won the Bushwacker Rally on 24th September. Despite a power disadvantage over five or so World Rally Cars at the top of the 90 car entry Donnelly held on to claim his first NI Championship win and the first victory for a Ford on this particular event since 2011.

Derek McGarrity in his Fiesta WRC finished tenth after mechanical problems but still claimed the MSA NI Championship for a record seventh time. To be honest though he did not have much competition this year as very few WRC’s appeared consistently.

The rally used the usual West Tyrone stages and was based in Omagh at the Silverbirch Hotel. Although 11 tests were planned only 10 ran. The final stage had to be canned due to lost time earlier (see story above). From the 90 starters 69 made the finish ramp. The weather was wet for the first loop but dried up well for the second.

Last year it was ANOTHER Mark Donnelly also from Omagh who won in a Subaru S10 but he chose not to enter this time. This must be a first in our sport that two unrelated people with the same names have won a rally on consecutive years (unless of course somebody out there can tell me different)

Adrian Hetherington/Gary Nolan had led the event from stage one but got a puncture on the penultimate Slievedoo test and dropped 20 seconds. This allowed Donnelly into the lead and the former Group N champion stayed in front on the final stage to win by 12 seconds from Hetherington who was second in his Toyota Corolla WRC. Some compensation for the Lakeland Stages three weeks earlier when they slid out of the rally within site of the finish of my Ballintempo stage!

Niall McCullagh/Ryan McCloskey finished third in a McKinstry run Subaru S14. Kenny himself finished seventh after problems with his S14.

So yet another rally win in 2016 for a Ford Fiesta. Gone are the days when Subaru WRC’s dominated the top of the time sheets on so many Irish events!

MOFFETTS’ OH SO CLOSE ON LAKELAND STAGES

The Monaghan Moffett brothers Sam and Josh finished first and second on the Enniskillen MC Lakeland Stages Rally last month, just as they had done in 2015. But this time round the result was as close as it gets!

A round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship the event attracted an entry of 75 cars. I was on radio duty at the end of SS3/7 Ballintempo. At 9 miles this was the longest of the four repeated stages. Both stages ran without problems and the weather cleared up well. Then it was back to Enniskillen for a meal.

So Sam Moffett and co-driver James Fulton in a WRC Fiesta took the win from Josh who had Jason McKenna alongside him in his R5 Fiesta; but only after a tie break decider. They were level on times after the final stage. Then as they were also level on SS1 it was down to the fastest on the second test and that was Sam so he was declared the winner. Mark Donnelly led the rally by one second from the tying Moffett’s after SS1 in his Subaru S10 but finished 47 seconds down in third place after punctures on the first Ballintempo. 58 cars finished the rally.

LOOKING BACK

Marshalling memories

30 Years Ago......1986

Richard Young won the Mid Antrim MC’s Glenariff Hill Climb in his powerful 3.9 Coogar-Rover. We were marshalling at the twisty hill in the Glens of Antrim. Jackie Harris was second in his 1.6 Ralt RT1 BDA. Robert McGimpsey (Turbo Sam) was declared Hill Climb Champion by one point despite not being able to run his Turbo Crossle due to mechanical woes.

Our club, then known as BMRMC/BRMC, organised a Rally Show in the Carngrove Hotel, Portadown. A top class panel included Mark Lovell, the 1986 RAC Open Rally Champion, Russell Brookes, 1985 Champion, Terry Harryman, Bertie Fisher, Kenny McKinstry, Sydney Meeke and Austin Frazer. Plum Tyndall was the chairman. Over 300 attended the evening which raised funds for our rescue equipment.

20 Years Ago......1996

Stephen Harron and his co-driver Nigel Foster won the Lakeland Stages Rally based in Enniskillen. The local man was fastest on every stage in his McKinstry hired Subaru Legacy. This win would help Harron to become Northern Ireland Champion 1996. A steady run to third place in the same car on the following Bushwacker Rally made sure of the title with one round remaining!

Derek McGarrity/Victor Carrothers won the Bushwacker in a Ford Escort Cosworth from a similar car of Kevin O’Kane/David Donnell. We would have been timing and providing rescue cover and other assistance on both the Enniskillen and Omagh MC’s events.

10 Years Ago......2006

In “Rally Round-up” October 2006 I wrote that Kris Meeke could become Northern Ireland’s first World Champion. All he needed was 2 million pounds to buy his way into the WRC! If by some miracle he raised the cash a drive in a “second-string” Citroen team awaits in 2007. Could we see him in Sligo on Rally Ireland next November in a World Rally Car? His drive on the 2006 Ulster Rally was outstanding in the little Citroen C2 S1600. We were starting SS2 near Aughnacloy when Kris humbled all the World Rally Car drivers by setting fastest time overall on the dry 8.78 mile test, quite UNBELIEVABLE!

Rally Diary

SAT. 8TH OCTOBER
UAC EQUINOX TARGA RALLY

This is the new name for the former UAC Circuit of Ireland Retro Trial. Based at Harrisons of Greyabbey in Co.Down the lanes event will take place at various locations on the Ards Peninsula. No more details available as I write, but you could contact Craig Hunt or Ronnie/Aaron Mitchell if interested in assisting. The one-day event will start at 7am and finish at 5pm.

SAT. 15TH OCTOBER
DOWN RALLY

The final round of the 2016 MSA N.I. Rally Championship. This event is organised by Rathfriland Motor Club and run on closed road tarmac stages. There are two tests in the South Down area, one at 6.37 miles and the other 7.12 miles. They will be repeated three times making a total of 6 stages. The rally will start at 11am from the service area in Castlewellan Forest Park. Finish and prize giving will be at the Kings Inn, Castlewellan. BMMC/BRMC has been asked for assistance in carrying out various marshalling duties.

SAT. 5TH NOVEMBER
GLENS OF ANTRIM RALLY

Mid Antrim Motor Club are due to organise this annual gravel rally. No further details are available as I write. We usually help with timing, marshalling and rescue duties. Based at Ringsend, Co.Derry and held over the forests of Cam and Springwell. The final round of the Valvoline Irish National Forest Rally Championship.