Paul Simon to thank for this month’s title line. A busy time ahead as the rally season reaches the dizzy heights of spring. Hopefully the weather will play ball.
March saw Derek McGarrity win again at Bishopscourt. The Glengormley man has been victorious at this race circuit venue in Co.Down more times than anyone else. This event was round two of the Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship. Although I wasn’t there, lots of BMMC marshals helped out on what was a wet and windy day. There were only 7 retirements, 52 of the 59 starters finished the six stages. Steven Wright was fifth but still leads the championship. Check out full rally reports and the current points table at nirallychampionship.com.
The main event for us last month was our annual BMMC/BRMC Northern Ireland Training Day at Kirkistown. Many thanks to lead Motorsport UK licensed trainer Jim Whitaker (observed by Motorsport UK’s Bob) who made the long day extremely entertaining. Around 30 people including club members and others attended. Rory and Duncan from our own club also took charge of some of the sessions. I think we all learned something new and hopefully are ready for the coming year’s events be they on circuits or stages.
Jimmy McRae won the BIF Circuit of Ireland for the seventh time driving a Ford Sierra Cosworth. He had a rally long battle with Russell Brooke’s in a similar car but finished 21 seconds ahead in the end. The rally started from the Dunadry Inn in Co. Antrim on the Saturday and finished in Dun Laoghaire Co. Dublin on Easter Monday. There were 29 stages.
We marshalled at scrutineering in the. Valley Leisure Centre and then we were timing as usual. On day one we were at the finish of the Slieve Gallion stage when a Vauxhall Nova driver had a massive accident taking out a telephone pole and rolling several times, thankfully without injury to either of the crew or indeed anyone else! Bill Swan was COC on the event.
We were marshalling at the Ulster Rallycross GP at Nutts Corner in Co.Antrim when Helmut Holfeld took the win in the ex-Will Gollop Peugeot 306.
Austin McHale had a big accident on the AA Circuit of Ireland that year. Roy Bartlem, a BRMC Marshal and member of my timing team, saved Bertie Fisher from a similar fate. We were spectating at the junction on our way to another stage. Roy warned Fisher, the next car on the road, by slowing him down and managing to clear the road of spectators just in time. Bertie won the rally three days later in Bangor. The then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Mo Mowlam had helped us to start the first stage in Bangor’s Castle Park. She was great on the flag and seemed to enjoy the experience as she stayed longer than expected!
The Larsen Circuit of Ireland Rally was actually three events rolled into one. An International section of just 30 cars which counted as round two of the Irish Tarmac Championship, followed by 18 competitors in National A taking part in the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship and finally 70 odd runners classified as Nat. B which were in fact participants in the third round of the Hankook Northern Ireland Championship. The organising Ulster Automobile Club had wanted to run the whole thing as one big event but MSA rules dictated otherwise.
I was Chief Timekeeper once again for the two-day Easter event which started and finished in Dundalk. Nigel Hughes was COC and there were just 14 stages. Eugene Donnelly won the main rally in his Skoda Fabia WRC, Kenny McKinstry dominated the NI Championship in a Subaru S8 WRC while Melvyn Evans was victorious in the National A category, winning by 3 minutes in his Subaru S11 WRC.
Rallycross returned to Nutts Corner in Northern Ireland for the first time since 2004. Two rounds of the Fuchs Open Championship, an independent rival to the MSA British Championship, were held. We provided marshalling cover. Kris Meeke and Kenny McKinstry we’re competing in the RX buggy races with mixed success, Kenny finished up on his roof while Kris won most of his races but crashed out in the last one. Ollie O’Donovan won the Ulster Masters title in the same ex-Gollop Peugeot 306 that Helmut Holfeld had won the Ulster Rallycross Grand Prix TEN YEARS BEFORE at the same venue.
The European Rally Championship came to Belfast as the 2014 Circuit of Ireland was a counting round of the series for the first time. Finnish driver and now WRC star Esapekka Lappi and co-driver Jane Ferm won and their Skoda Fabia S2000 team mates Sepp Wiegand / Frank Christian were second. Robert Barrable finished third in a Ford Fiesta R5. We were covering radio points on both days.
For a change I only had to drive 8 miles from home to my first mid-point location in Loughries Village near Newtownards on Good Friday. This was stage one and 114 competitors started the 18 stage rally (31 Internationals and 83 Nationals). Day two on the Saturday saw us in Lisburn for the two City centre Power Stages. 66 cars finished the rally (19 Internationals and 47 Nationals) Eurosport TV described the Hamiltons Folly stage as “The best tarmac stage on the planet”.
The ERC returned to Belfast for the next two years but the Circuit of Ireland Rally hasn’t run since then. Rumours of a return and the resurrected event heading for the World Rally Championship have so far proved to be extremely wide of the mark.
Round 3 of the Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championship organised by Maiden City Motor Club. We are covering radio points plus providing stage marshals on this closed-road rally. Two stages near Dunamanagh in Co.Tyrone will be run 3 times. The rally is based in Strabane with a service park at Canal Basin. Over 90 competitors are due to start.
Yet another Targa Rally. This one, run on mostly sealed surfaces, is sponsored by the Donnelly Group. A full list of 70 entries due to compete. Marshals will be made welcome. Based at the Conhannon Inn 212 Ballynakilly Road, Dungannon. Sign on from 07.30. First car stars at 10.01.
Starting from Clotworthy House in Antrim town on Good Friday this closed-road event is round 3 of the Irish Tarmac Championship. Expect a huge entry of R5 cars, almost 30 started West Cork last month. Craig Breen leads that series having won both Galway and West Cork, although why he is bothering with the Tarmac Championship I don’t really understand. I suppose he has nothing else on this year having failed to get a WRC drive. Great to see Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble doing so well. The Tyrone pairing are second in the championship after having taking a year out from rallying. Wastewater Solutions are the Easter Stages sponsors. The Friday stages are in the Antrim area while Saturdays are around Lisburn and Moira. Apart from timekeeping we are covering rescue radio points and stage marshalling.
Based at the Shepherds Rest Bar and Restaurant near Draperstown Co,Tyrone. Sponsored by McConville Recovery Services. We will be helping to time some of the various tests, usually held in the area around Davagh Forest. Sign on from 8am. First car starts at 10.30. No less than 90 cars have entered. Sat. 27th April MGCC Ulster Centre 28th Derek Walker Memorial Classic Based this year in at the Echlinville Distillery, 62 Gransha Road, Kircubbin, Co.Down. Described as a multi-venue clubman production car autotest. Marshals are welcome to help run the various tests. Sign-on 08.00. First car starts at 10.00. Gordon Buckley is COC. Contact Carol Willis for further information on 07831 345560.
Please see the promotional video https://youtu.be/elCYxO77I-o
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.