The Northern Ireland Rally Championship continued last month with the MJE Tyrone Stages Rally on Saturday 4 June. Promoted by Cookstown Motor Club the nine-stage compact closed-road event was based in Stewartstown with the stages nearby. The rally was sponsored by MJE Wheel Repair Specialists and was the fourth and penultimate round of the championship.
For my part, I had agreed to offer my services as Chief Timekeeper on the event. My thanks to all the many timekeepers who were ultimately responsible for the smooth running of all nine stages. We also covered other time controls including those in the service park. This was Cookstown MC’s largest ever event and it was very successful.
Victor and I were on the stop control of SS3/6/9 where all three 5-mile tests ran without incident. Other BMMC/BRMC members were on duty covering radio and rescue. The rally ran almost to schedule all day apart from some minor delays and the weather was excellent with plenty of warm sunshine.
Jonny Greer won the Tyrone Stages Rally in his Citroen C3 Rally2. His co-driver today was Dai Roberts. They took the lead on stage two when early leaders Desi Henry/Paddy Robinson retired their Fiesta Rally2 with mechanical problems, and were never headed.
Runners up on the Maiden City Stages, Cathan McCourt/Liam Moynihan finished second again in their Citroen C3 Rally2. Third place fell to the Fiesta WRC of Peadar Hurson and Damien Connolly. Best 2-wheel-drive car was Ryan Loughran’s Escort Mk.2 back in ninth. There were 95 starters and 69 finishers.
Following his retirement on the last round, Jonny Greer’s Tyrone Stages win puts him right back in contention for the 2022 NI Championship. When dropped scored are taken into account the Carryduff driver and current champion just needs a top six finish on the fifth and final round, the Down Rally this month, to claim his third NI title.
Derek McGarrity was sixth in Tyrone and heads the title challengers along with Joe McGonigle and Aaron McLaughlin. If Jonny Greer has problems on the last round, anyone of these three could steal the championship. As they say in rallying, anything can happen, and probably will! The Down Rally is on Saturday 23rd July.
The 2022 Joule Donegal International Rally took place last month. This was the 50th anniversary of the first event, which back in 1972 was known as the Circuit of Donegal International Rally. Cathal Curley and Peter Scott were the winners back then in a lightweight Alpina engined BMW 2002Ti. Starting from the Rosapenna Hotel it really was a circuit of the county, with 33 stages over just two days.135 crews started stage one, the nearby Atlantic Drive.
My first visit to the Donegal Rally was to watch my childhood friend John Lyons on Atlantic Drive as he headed for his second successive win in 1982. Then I started timekeeping on the 1984 event for Reba Graham and I have only missed a few since.
Fast forward to 2022 and 160 crews started the Joule Donegal International Rally in Letterkenny. (Contrast that to the 2022 WRC Safari Rally where just 31 crews started). We were acting as timekeepers once more. Due to COVID-19 the rally hadn’t run since 2019 but now it was back with a maximum entry. There were 20 stages scheduled over the three days. On Friday six stages took place with Callum Divine and Noel O’Sullivan taking an immediate lead in their VW Polo GTI R5.
Saturday saw Devine hold on to the lead over the classic tests of Carnhill (run 3 times) and Knockalla (run twice) where record crowds turned out to watch. The top three places remained the same as on Friday. Welshman Matt Edwards and David Moynihan had hired Darren Gass’s Citroen C3 Rally2 in a last-minute deal and the current British Rally Champion was second on his first visit to Donegal. Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble were third in their Polo GTI R5.
Unfortunately on Saturday the normally classic 9-mile Fanad Head stage, was shortened to around half that distance due to a lack of marshals.
We were not required to work until Sunday but remained on standby in the new service park in Letterkenny during day two. The weather remained pretty good with just light rain at times and some sunshine.
Sunday would see a big change at the top of the leaderboard. The first of the day’s six stages, SS15 Carnhill 1, would see rally leader Callum Devine crash out. Due to a resident bereavement on SS16 High Glen 1 the stage was cancelled so the remaining crews headed to SS17 Atlantic Drive, due to start at 12.59. Victor, myself, Ross and Evan were on duty as finish timekeepers.
Matt Edwards was now leading the rally, but he crashed into a wall not long after the stage start. Both Edwards and Moynihan were injured and removed to hospital with broken bones. This then resulted in the cancellation of Atlantic Drive 1. We would not see any action until the second run due at 16.30. Carnhill 2 and High Glen 2 ran as scheduled.
SS20 Atlantic Drive 2, the final stage of the rally, ran without incident apart from a few minor scrapes. 114 main field, 18 historics and 17 juniors finished.
The winners of the 2022 Donegal International Rally were Josh Moffett and Andy Hayes in their now ageing Hyundai i20 R5. In fact this was the first time an R5 car had won the event.
There was yet another Donegal Rally first. A family 1-2. Josh’s older brother Sam (2019 winner) and Keith Moriarty claimed second in their Fiesta WRC while Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson finished third in a VW Polo GTI R5.
Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble got a puncture on SS19 High Glen 2. They had been just 3.8 seconds behind Josh Moffett in second place but now going into the last stage the gap was 51.1 seconds. Then on SS20 Atlantic Drive, a broken brake pipe caused by the flailing tyre on High Glen, meant Fisher had no stopping power and as a result he dropped back to finish fifth behind Declan Boyle’s Fiesta WRC. Garry Jennings and Rory Kennedy were 6th in their Fiesta R5. The Darrian T90 GTR of Kevin Gallagher/Ryan Moore was 7th overall and won the two-wheel-drive section of the rally.
Young Max McRae, son of Alister and nephew of the late Colin, made his European competitive debut on the Donegal International Rally. The Australian said he learned so much about tarmac events on the tough three-day rally. Guided by co-driver Mac Kierans in a Ford Fiesta Rally4 car, the pair finished 53rd overall and third in class RC4.
After all the competitors finished Atlantic Drive 2 we had a non competitive Legends Demo Run which featured 8 former winners of the Donegal International Rally in period cars. 1972 winner Cathal Curley was in a Ford Escort Mk.1. John Lyons and his son Robin crewed OIJ 323 the same Escort Mk.2 in which John won the rally in 1981 and 1982. Fully restored and in its original Downtown Radio livery, the car was immaculate. Four time Donegal winner Billy Coleman and Rowan Morgan were in a Rothmans Porsche similar to the car in which they won in 1985. Andrew Nesbitt (he won six times) and James O’Brien turned up in a rare Mitsubishi Lancer WRC, they were victorious in 2006 with that car. Ari Vatanen who won in 1978 was driving a BMW M3, Vincent Bonner and Seamus McGettigan shared an Escort Mk.2 similar to the car in which they became the first Donegal crew to win their home event in 1983. Austin MacHale was the 1990 and 1997 winner, he appeared in a Toyota Celica and twice winner (1991-1999) James Cullen was in an Opel Ascona 400. Bringing up the rear was demo organiser Donagh Kelly driving the Subaru S12 that the late Manus Kelly drove to three successive wins in 2016,17 and 18.
Incidentally Peter Scott, the winning co-driver from 1972, was competing this year. His driver was Englishman Ian Holt and their Escort Mk.2 finished in 91st position.
Sadly there will be no television coverage of the 2022 Donegal International Rally. Apparently “On The Limit Sports” were set to record the historic 50th anniversary event for posterity but they couldn’t close a deal with the organisers to carry on with filming. It’s reported that the fee On The Limit boss Mick Bracken had asked for was exorbitant and Donegal Motor Club said they were not prepared to pay him. I say bring back RPM! Plum Tyndall’s TV program was second to none, nothing since has come close! Unfortunately the only thing we can look forward to are some crap amateur clips on YouTube. Netflix should have made a documentary on the event!
John Lyons with his 1981 Donegal Rally winning Ford Escort Mk2. Fully restored for the Rally Legends Demo Run over Atlantic Drive stage this year.
2022 Donegal International Rally winners Josh Moffett (right) and Andy Hayes with their Hyundai i20 R5.
The fifth and final round of the 2022 NI Rally Championship and round four of the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship. A new base which includes Rally HQ and service park has been confirmed at the Lagan Valley Island complex in Lisburn City. Organised and promoted jointly by Rathfriland and Ballynahinch & District Motor Club’s the closed-road event includes four repeated stages. Two stages are near Hillsborough then there is the classic Hamiltons Folly plus another classic stage which hasn’t been used for years. A maximum of 130 cars are expected to start. We are involved in timekeeping, radio and rescue cover plus other marshalling jobs. Sign-on via rallyscore.net
Organised by Maiden City Motor Club and based at the Shackleton Airfield complex in Ballykelly, Co. Derry. This six-stage single venue rally is a clubman event. We are providing rescue and other services. Again sign-on via rallyscore.net
The seventh and final round of the 2022 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. Based once again in Newry, Co.Down with HQ at the Mourne Country Hotel. Reverting to a two-day format this year, the Ulster Rally starts at 5pm on Friday from Modern Tyres in the Carnbane Industrial Estate which is also the venue for the service park. There are 9 classic closed-road stages in Counties Armagh and Down. Organised by the Northern Ireland Motor Club Ltd. We are due to cover timekeeping, rescue, radio and other marshalling duties. Final details to follow next month.
Rallying as a discipline was given the green light earlier this month, and now Motorsport UK has created a guidance video to help everyone understand the changes we have to undertake. Here is a link to the video:- ReturnToTheStages
Latest updates from Motorsport UK, the wider motorsport community and the latest from the UK Government..
The latest information can be found here.