Paisley Support for Rally NI
Ian Paisley is actively trying to get government support for a Northern Ireland round of the 2021 World Rally Championship. The DUP MP raised the matter during NI question time in the House of Commons last month. Paisley is hopeful that the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Robin Walker, can co-fund the event with the NI Executive. Around two million pounds would be needed from the two billion pledged by the UK government to the Northern Ireland Executive under the “New Decade, New Approach “agreement. This money is earmarked to help the Executive deliver a new and prosperous bright future for the people of Northern Ireland.
Following the cancellation of the 2020 Wales Rally GB due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organisers were hopeful that the event would run next year. Now a provisional draft WRC calendar which contains only 9 rounds does not include GB. The final ratified calendar which should feature 11 rounds is due in October. The Northern Ireland bid would need to be sorted out by then. Wales is in the middle of a three-year deal to run Rally GB, but that can be paused, leaving the door open for a one-off Belfast-based Rally NI to possibly happen as soon as next year. There has been a British round of the WRC every year since the start way back in 1973. I am not a lover of his politics at all, but fair dues to Ian Paisley for bringing our sport of rallying into the House of Commons!
In other news the Ulster Automobile Club were allocated a date in November to run the Circuit of Ireland postponed from Easter but have elected NOT to run the rally due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic. It would not be appropriate to even think of running a closed-road event at this uncertain time. The historic club will concentrate on planning for the 2021 event next Easter, which marks the 90th Anniversary of the “Circuit “. Hopefully the pandemic will be history by then!
Incidentally the 2020 Northern Ireland Rally Championship is definitely cancelled. Only the first two events of the planned five rounds went ahead back in February and March. The remaining rallies were all canned due to the coronavirus outbreak. The regulations state: “If less than 3 rounds run, there shall not be a Championship”
20 Years Ago
On Saturday 1st July 2000 we provided timekeepers for the Loughgall Country Park Rally. This was the first running of the North Armagh MC’s now popular event for 2-wheel-drive rally cars. There were eight tarmac stages and the entry list was oversubscribed. The rally has been running every year since until now when COVID-19 caused the cancellation of this year’s event.
The next day I went down to Moneyglass near Toomebridge in Co.Antrim for the Lough Neagh Stages Rally. Craig Hunt and myself were marshalling at a mid-point location when news of Joey Dunlop’s death crash in Estonia came through. The single venue event had six stages, all run on concrete roads built by US soldiers during Word War 2. One of the features was the first ever roundabout to have been built in Ireland!
On July 13th two of us were finish timekeepers in Drumkeeragh Forest in Co.Down. Richard and I helped out Ballynahinch and District Motor Club with their Clubman Stage Rally. Then on the 14th and 15th of the month three of us John Hughes, Andrew Gibson and myself were in Donegal and Derry City marshalling on the Lark In The Park Rally. Day one was a seven-mile closed-road stage running from Muff to Bridgend. We covered the final junction on the test which ran three times. Day Two was set in St.Columbs Park in Derry where we covered a busy junction on the very narrow and short spectator stage. Around 500 people turned up to watch but were all well behaved.
10 Years Ago
The 2010 Orchard Motorsport Lurgan Park Rally was held in on Saturday 31st July and won by Darren Gass, co-driven by his cousin Nathan. Kenny McKinstry and daughter Emma were only little more than a second behind after a hotly contested eight-stage event.
Held in front of the largest crowd seen here for several years, the weather was good while most of the action was taking place, although a few sharp showers made conditions slippery in places. 49 cars started the main event while the “slowly sideways” classic rally cars entertained between the stages.
Gass became the thirteenth different winner since the most lucrative single venue event in Ireland started in 1980. McKinstry was happy enough at the finish as young Darren was driving a Subaru Impreza S11 WRC from his stable. Kenny, this year in an older Subaru WRC, had won here no less than 11 times and although sorry not to have made it the round dozen victories he was glad the win had gone to the Markethill youngster in one of his hire cars.
Derek McGarrity and James McKee had led from stage one in their S12B/C, but a stall on the fifth test saw them drop to third. In the end just 3 seconds separated the three Subaru WRC drivers. Wesley Patterson won the Escort Mk.2 Challenge and was top 2-wheel-drive finisher in sixth place.
Cork man Brian O’Mahony was seventh and winner of the Metro 6R4 Challenge, after the only other starter Denis Biggerstaff retired his example with mechanical problems. At the prize giving, O’Mahony collected £250 donated by my son Scott through his website. It was just unfortunate that other promised entries did not materialize. The new category was introduced by rally organisers North Armagh MC to mark the 25th Anniversary of the 6R4.
2010 was the 30th year in succession I had officiated on the Lurgan Park Rally, only missing the first one in 1980. BMMC/BRMC marshals covered all the many fire points throughout the park. Everything ran to schedule with just one or two minor incidents.