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Nothing Happening Anytime Soon!

Nothing has changed since last month. We are all still in lockdown, with no change to the strict rules and of course no return to any form of motorsport on the horizon. In fact I suspect all UK and Irish rally championships will be cancelled for 2020. Perhaps we could have some special one-off  rallies later in the year? A sort of championship shoot-out?

As things stand, the remaining two closed-road rounds of our local 2020 McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship will not happen.

The Tour of the Sperrins due on Sat. 6th June has been postponed but the chances of Magherafelt and District MC finding a new date later this year are extremely remote.

The Tyrone Stages Rally scheduled for Sat.18th July has been cancelled. The organising Cookstown MC say they will now concentrate on plans for next years event.

The new four-round McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Forest Rally Challenge was due to start in September but even that is doubtful as I write. At the present time the North Armagh MC clubman Loughgall Country Park Rally is still down to run on Sat. 4th July but that could change. I will know more next month.

Looking slightly further afield. The Donegal International Rally which was due to take place in mid June has been postponed but may end up cancelled altogether. The Donegal Motor Club had hoped to reschedule their extremely popular three-day event for an August date, but now all mass gatherings of people in Southern Ireland have been banned until 1st September at the earliest. The host town of Letterkenny stands to miss out big time as the Irish Tarmac Championship rally was a huge money spinner for local businesses. Last year thousands of spectators spent the summer weekend in or around the Co.Donegal town.

Sorry but I for one am not at all into the latest fad for so called E Sports. I would much rather watch old rally films on YouTube, but then I am old school and must be showing my age! All I can do here is to look back at some memories on the marshalling front over the years in which I have been involved.  I hope you are all well and not TOO bored. Just stay safe and obey the rules. At least the weather has been very good, it hasn’t rained here since lockdown began!

Looking Back

30 Years Ago........1990

David Llewellin and Phil Short won the BIF Circuit of Ireland Rally in a Toyota Celica GT4. This was the first victory for a Japanese car on the Circuit. I was timekeeping on Sally Gap for the first time as well as on other stages. Other club members were also officiating on the three-day event which started on Saturday 14th April from Dunadry in Co. Antrim and finished in Dun Laoghaire on Easter Monday.

The rally was a round of the Shell Open Rally Championship and the Dunlop Tarmac Championship. Only 70 odd cars started the 31-stage event. Malcolm Wilson/Nicky Grist were second in their works Q8 Team Ford Sierra Sapphire Cosworth while a young Colin McRae and co-driver Derek Ringer finished third in a similar R.E.D. run car. Bill Swan was Clerk of the Course.

20 Years Ago........2000

To celebrate the Millennium, “The Fisher Engineering Summit 2000 Rally” was held on Saturday 20th May. A one-off addition to the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the one-day eight-stage event was held over Slieve Rushen Mountain on the Fermanagh/Cavan border. 54 competitors were on the entry list. The organisers were Enniskillen Motor Club. We had around 20 club members in attendance, ranging from service area officials, rescue crew, timekeepers and sector marshals.

Derek McGarrity and co-driver Chris Patterson topped the final time sheets, but their Subaru Impreza S4 WRC was later excluded as it was found to be 12.5 kilos underweight. Andrew Nesbitt/James O’Brian’s newer Impreza S5 was then promoted to first place. Austin McHale and Brian Murphy were second in a Toyota Corolla WRC and Daniel & Michael Doherty third in their Subaru Impreza 555.

Two former World Rally Champions took part. Stig Blomqvist and his co-driver for the day, Ulsterman Mark Crowe, drove a Subaru Impreza 555 to fourth place, while Hannu Mikkola and his son Juha finished tenth in their Impreza S4 WRC. Mark Fisher won Group N in a Mitsubishi and finished fifth overall. A large crowd of spectators attended the Summit Rally, but nowhere near the predicted 13,000!

The Tour of the Sperrins in May 2000 was a mixed-surface event. Magherafelt and District Motor Club organised the latest round of the NI Championship. Two morning tarmac stages in Davagh Forest saw the Mk.2 Escorts of local drivers Glenn Allen and Camillus Bradley dominate. They were equal on times. In the afternoon the rally moved to the gravel tests and Trevor Moore set the pace in his Escort Cosworth, he won by 20 seconds. Keith White was second and Denis Biggerstaff third. Twelve of us covered timing and radio on four stages.

10 Years Ago........2010

A massive entry of 110 cars lined up for the Tour of the Sperrins on Saturday 8th May. Held over 3 repeated 8-mile closed-road stages in the Sperrin Mountains, this Magherafelt MC event turned out to be the best round so far of the 2010 Northern Ireland Rally Championship.

For our part, seven club members were marshalling and timing the third stage in the loop, “Stone Circles”. Unsurprisingly, pre event favourites Derek McGarrity and James McKee won the rally in a newly acquired Subaru Impreza S12C, but it was far from plain sailing for the current champ.

Sean Devine and Robert McDaid led from the start in their older S11 Impreza, McGarrity had set-up problems with his Ex.Eamonn Boland machine. Going into the final stage (Stone Circles 2) Derek was 13 seconds behind Sean but he stormed through the 8 miles to record a time on our clock 16 seconds faster than the Donemana builder. Victory went to the Glengormley man by 2.9 seconds!

Derek McGeehan with Eugene Donnelly co-driving was third in a Toyota Corolla WRC, while top 2-wheel drive competitor was Camillus Bradley who finished fourth in his Escort Mk.2. Altogether 84 cars finished the final stage, with Stuart Biggerstaff in the S9 finishing just outside the top ten to remain 6 points behind McGarrity at the head of the NI Championship.

Wesley Patterson dominated the Loughgall Country Park Rally in his Escort Mk.2. On the hottest day of the year so far, the Lisburn man finished the 6 tarmac stages well ahead of the similar cars of Mervyn Wedlock and John Waring.

The non-championship Loughgall event (organised by North Armagh MC) had been running for some years and was only open to 2-wheel-Drive cars. A total of 89 started and 76 finished. Most of the top twenty were in Mk.2 Escorts. Two of us were covering radio points on the day.


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