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County Antrim Event To Kick Start Season

April sees the rally season in Northern Ireland step up a gear, starting with the UAC Easter Stages. Hopefully the weather will be kind. This has been a long hard winter for us all.

In March we had the first round of the MSA NI Championship. No surprise here, with Derek McGarrity dominating a soaking wet Bishopscourt Stages in his WRC S14 Subaru. As I have said before I just hope he doesn’t run away with the series this year. Come on challengers, step up to the plate! At the moment Alan Carmichael is in second place in the Championship with his MINI WRC. I think he will do most rounds.

Due to the way we had been treated on previous occasions, I voted with my feet and avoided the Ballynahinch MC organised Bishopscourt Stages. Commiserations to those marshals who chose to help out on such a wet day, particularly our team of timekeepers who managed to keep the event on track despite lots of problems due to the atrocious conditions.

The UAC Easter Stages Rally will run over two days on the 6/7 April. This event will count as round two of the Irish Tarmac Championship but surprisingly it is NOT in the NI series. I have christened this “The Antrim Stages” or the “After Easter Stages” (Easter being the previous weekend)

Anyway the rally is based at the Dunadry Hotel near Templepatrick. The start and service park will be in Ballyclare and the finish in Ballymena. All 12 stages will use closed roads in Co.Antrim. Friday sees two tests run three times, Lady Hill and Lyle Hill which was last used on the Circuit of Ireland years ago. Then on Saturday there are three repeated stages Scawt Hill, Cork Hill and another old Circuit favourite Knockboy. Lyle Hill is the longest test at 8.82 miles.

BMMC/BRMC members will be timekeeping, covering radio points and rescue as well as marshalling on the stages. Good luck to all involved. We will be back in Antrim in August for the Ulster Rally.

Round one of the Irish Tarmac series in West Cork last month saw Monaghan brothers Josh and Sam Moffett finish first and second of the registered competitors. Apparently this season Josh will try to emulate Sam’s unique achievement. In 2017 Sam Moffett became the first driver to win the “triple crown” of Irish Rally Championships, the ITC, the National and the Forest. Now for two brothers to achieve this in successive years would be ABSOLUTELY unbelievable!

On the Easter Stages, the Moffett brothers are seeded first and second in similar Ford Fiesta R5’s with Josh leading the 61 strong field away from the rally start in Ballyclare. Derek McGarrity starts at 3 in the only World Rally Car in the top 10. The other seven R5 cars on the entry list make up the ten. Frank Kelly is the leading 2WD car at 12 in his Escort. Click on website for the complete entry list plus other information regarding this event.

Of course only R5 cars can score tarmac championship points. If, for example, Derek McGarrity were to win this his local Co.Antrim event in his WRC Subaru (which he most certainly could do) the top points would go to the first driver to finish the rally in an R5.

Looking Back

30 Years Ago.........1988

The Rothmans Circuit of Ireland Rally started in Belfast and finished in Dublin. A total of 80 competitors were led away by Jimmy McRae in his Ford Sierra Cosworth. David Llewellin followed in the Audi 200 Quattro then Mark Lovell in another Sierra Cosworth. Waterford was the mid-rally halt. McRae won for the sixth time ahead of the similar car of Phil Collins while Malcolm Wilson was third in his Vauxhall Astra GTE. There were 26 tough stages, described by many drivers as “car breakers”. We marshalled at scrutineering in the Valley Leisure Centre on the eve of the rally and then covered timekeeping on all three days (Saturday-Monday).

20 Years Ago........1998

There was controversy on the Circuit of Ireland Rally: It looked as if Bertie Fisher in his Subaru Impreza had beaten Austin McHale’s Toyota Celica by 19 seconds, but following an appeal over a 20 second penalty occurred on day one for an early arrival at stage 8, McHale was declared the victor by just ONE second. The judgement came 30 hours after the rally had finished in Bangor. I was Chief Timekeeper and our club covered radios, rescue, general marshalling and of course timekeeping.

10 Years Ago........ 2008

Gentleman driver Eamonn Boland driving a Subaru Impreza S12B won the Circuit of Ireland by just 4.9 seconds from Gareth MacHale’s Ford Focus WRC. Only 28 cars started the main event with a further 88 in the National Rally. The three-day event started in Newcastle and finished in Newry.

Former BMMC NI Chairman Colin Rossborough was presented with the MSA’s 2007 HRH Prince Michael Award of Merit. Colin, his wife Mary and family left Northern Ireland in March/April 2008 for a new life in Canada. Can’t believe it’s been 10 years since that happened.

Rally Diary

Friday 6th - Sat. 7th April
UAC Easter Stages Rally

The Ulster Automobile Club are the organisers of this, the replacement for the much missed Circuit of Ireland Rally. I wonder if we will EVER see the famous old event return. Round two of the Irish Tarmac Championship with a separate “Saturday only” rally added on for variety. BMMC/BRMC will be out in force over the two days.

Saturday 21st April
Shackleton Rally

This year the Maiden City Motor Club’s single venue event formally known as The Lark in the Park will take place entirely within the former RAF base at Shackleton near Ballykelly, Co. Derry. We be asked to help with radio cover on the six stage event. Check the organisers web site for further details.

Saturday 28th April
Pirelli International Rally

With the cancellation of the Border Counties Rally in March, this event is now round one of the British Rally Championship. Although the start venue is the Pirelli factory in Carlisle, the 8 special stages and service park are all in Kielder Forest. The rally finishes in the town of Brampton.

Monday 7th May
May Day Stages at St. Angelo

Enniskillen MC are due to run this annual event based at St. Angelo Airport. Again BMMC/BRMC should be asked to help out with marshals. Check the clubs site for further details.

Saturday 12th May
Tour of the Sperrins Rally

Round two of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship. Magherafelt and District Motor Club are the organisers. Due to be held on closed tarmac roads this year we will be assisting with marshalling, covering various rolls such as timekeeping, radios and rescue. No further details are available as I write.


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