Edwards and Moffett Bag Ulster Points
This years Ulster Rally was held last month, based in Antrim town, Northern Ireland. The event a round of both the Prestone British Rally Championship and the Irish Tarmac Championship and organised by the Northern Ireland Motor Club. BMMC/BRMC marshals were heavily involved throughout covering everything from refuelling to timekeeping, rescue and stage marshalling. From my point of view I was on a mid point radio on day two Saturday.
Five of the eleven stages ran on Friday in atrocious conditions. In fact the rain was so bad on SS3 Cairncastle that two of the fancied runners crashed out within sight of each other. Desi Henry went first taking out a telephone pole with his Fabia in the process. He was followed almost immediately by Jonny Greer whose Fiesta careered off into a bank as marshals tried to slow the Down Rally winner.
The Ulster started from Antrim Castle Gardens with only 66 cars. Number one on the entry list Keith Cronin and the third seed Sam Moffett withdrew their entries days before the start sighting a lack of funding. They weren’t the only withdrawals as 83 competitors appeared on the original entry. Some claiming excessive fuel costs due to the high road mileage as their reason for not taking part. Something perhaps the rally will need to address in the future.
Although a counting round of both championships, there were very few registered competitors. In the top R5 class only 9 started, of these 6 were British registered and just 3 Irish. The event turned out to be a battle between the Fiesta R5’s of Matt Edwards and Josh Moffett. British Championship contender Edwards won the Ulster Rally when Irish Tarmac leader Moffett decided to settle for second place and full points. Early leader Rhys Yates driving a Skoda Fabia R5 lost ground and finished fourth behind the similar car of David Bogie. In the National section Kevin Eves beat Camillus Bradley. Both were in Escorts.
On Saturday my stage was SS6/9 Langford Lodge on the shores of Lough Neagh. I signed on at 6am and the weather had dried out overnight although the stages today would still be wet and slippery. Apart from swarms of midges, which are a local hazard, I had a good dry day at post three of the 7.48 mile test. The location was on a long straight section and the cars were extremely fast. It was nearly impossible to check off the car numbers but I didn’t miss one. Fastest first time round was Rhys Yates whose Fabia R5 clocked a time of 6 minutes 16.3 seconds. Second time over the stage Yates got a puncture as he slid wide just after my section so it was eventual winner Matt Edwards who was fastest in an incredible time of 6 mins 4.1 secs. Edwards has now won all three rounds so far in the BRC. There are two still events to run, on the Isle of Man this month and Wales Rally GB in October.
There were some issues regarding the feeding of marshals on day one which was regrettable. Saturday was totally different. All officials on Langford Lodge were treated to a barbecue organised by stage commander John Comiskey. This was held in the down time between our two stages at McKenna’s Pub which happened to be at my location. John is brilliant, never gets flustered, and looks after ALL his marshals. We had 62 competitors passed our location on stage 6 and then 56 on stage 9. A total of 51 finished the rally. It was great to see the all girl crew of Amy Cox and Caron McCormack back out on the stages. They were seeded 29th and finished 20th overall in their Fabia S2000. Full results of the Ulster Rally can be found at rallyscore.net.
By the way the TV coverage of the Ulster was mixed. On The Limit Sports gave a full, correct, professional and comprehensive report which was aired on Irish channel TG4 and Motorsport TV. In contrast the British Rally Championship programme on Channel 4 was crap. Aired at the silly time of 6.30am this show only gave air time to the BRC competitors and TOTALLY IGNORED the Irish Tarmac contestants including the National section. According to them Edwards won the rally, David Bogie was second and Rhys Yates third. The actual second placed Josh Moffett was not mentioned at all. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised as this has happened before!
Finally this month. Is it just me or has anyone else lost interest in the WRC since the departure of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle? Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a big battle for the Championship, but it is between three “robots” Tanak, Neuville and Ogier! The only driver who tries his best with a dodgy car, smiles at stage finishes and expresses his feelings emotionally is Ireland’s Craig Breen. No offence to Craig, but he will never be as edgy a driver as Meeke. Kris either had an accident or a rally win! The only problem he had was that the current Citroen C3 is such a dog to drive! Hope he and Paul find something for next year.
Sat. 15th Sept.
Cookstown MC A29 Targa Rally
Cookstown MC’s second Targa of the year. Sponsored by the A29 Service Station, Dungannon Road, Cookstown, Co.Tyrone. The event starts from there and will use nearby lanes and farmyards. A full entry list of 90 cars are expected to start. We have been asked to provide timekeepers and other marshals. One thing is certain, Cookstown Motor Club will look after everyone who helps out.
Sat. 22nd Sept.
The Bushwacker Rally
Omagh Motor Club’s flagship event. The McKelvey Asbestos Bushwacker Rally uses the usual West Tyrone forest stages of Killeter, Carrickaholten and Lough Bradan. The service park is at the Aghyaran Community Centre, Castlederg. We are due to provide timekeepers, rescue, radio and stage marshals. Based at the Silverbirch Hotel in Omagh breakfast and dinner will be provided. The Bushwacker is the penultimate round of the MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship and the final round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship.