Well, it actually happened! Irish Rallycross has been pretty much on its knees in recent times. Grids have shrunken so much that Mondello Park had no option but to cancel the last round- sending shock waves through the Rallycross community. Luckily, this pretty much coincided with a new impotus to rejuvinate the discipline, led by former Stock Hatch racer Colin Dowling. It looked like a big ask, but in fairness to Colin and crew, they never stopped pushing. Some people were of the opinion that they needed to get numbers back up in Mondello before embarking on a campaign to bring Rallycross to a new circuit. Undeterred, they kept pushing and last Sunday it all came to fruition for them- what a day!
Most people who arrived at Pallas Karting on Saturday evening or Sunday morning, myself included, had not seen the circuit before and had no idea what to expect. What they found was a newly built circuit using some of the Pallas Karting circuit mated to some new gravel sections, resulting in what the drivers described as a fast, but technical track. One of the best quotes of the weekend came from a Stock Hatch driver who will remain unnamed: “Just as well they put that chicane into the joker lap. We tried it yesterday and we were rejoining at 70mph- and that was in the Transit!” Comments like that pretty much sum up the atmosphere around the paddock during the day- everyone was in top form. Even the rain, which arrived at lunchtime and was still hammering down when we left at 7pm, failed to dampen the widespread enthusiasm throughout the paddock. It was an important, and special, day for Irish Rallycross and this was not lost on the competitors.
The racing, all day was superb, with very few incidents, which was great to see. From the initial practise, drivers were unanimous in their praise for the layout of the track. Declan Kelly from Rigs For Gigs (who is also the reigning Irish Rallycross champion) had added to the track PA system and gave me a radio microphone to use for commentary- my initial spot was the roof of Derek Tohill’s truck but I gradually realised I wasn’t limited to one spot so I wandered round the paddock, where you could still see pretty much all the track, and had great fun chatting to organisers and drivers between heats. I was even able to grab a few drivers as they drove back into the paddock too for a quick chat! All in all, great fun!
It soon became apparent that either the track suited the 8v Stockhatch, or the 8v boys were just up for it, because they gave their more powerful 16v brethren plenty of trouble all day. Ciaran Murphy had titanic battles with the 106 of Derek Lenehan all day in his heat, his 205 being quickest 8v all day, putting him on pole for the final. Peter McGarry was going well too as was the spectacular Paddy Bateman, a new name to me, but certainly one we will hear more of- totally committed all day with impressive car control. John Ward was pretty much untouchable all day in 16v Stockhatch, romping to three heat wins and victory in the final with apparent ease, despite the best efforts of Lenehan and the fast starting Declan Nolan. Murphy had a bad start in the 8v final, with McGarry and Bateman battling mightily for the lead from the opening lap. They swapped places on numerous occasions but the respect shown was impressive, with no contact bar a little bit of totally acceptable doorhandling. Damien Farrell was right with the pair towards the end of the final and snatched second on the run to the flag after Bateman’s kamikaze dive at the last corner sent him off onto the grass. Murphy tracked the trio across the line, recovering from a mid race off.
Predictably, Jake Dooley was unbeaten all day in Juniors, his smooth style very much evident in difficult conditions but Bryan Martin, making his Rallycross debut was very impressive in runner up spot, even managing to grab the lead from the series leader on occasion as he flung his Micra around- possibly not the quickest way around the technical section but great to watch!
Tommy Graham looked like a sure bet for modified honours in his Dominic McNeill tended Mk2 Escort. The car looked completely dialled in, soaking up the bumps that upset some of his rivals and showing excellent traction out of the final hairpin, a crucial turn on this circuit. Tommy was on it too. He is relishing the return to 2wd and was quickest in class for most of the day, even defeating Derek Tohill in a straight fight to take his second heat win in the morning, en route to taking pole for the Modified A Final. It was never going to be an easy run though and the Mk2 was perhaps not as suited to conditions provided by the biblical downpower which we were treated to for the duration of most of the final. Willie Coyne thought he might not make the A final at one stage but an impressive win
in a close fought B final gave him the passport to the back of the main one and he made the most of it. The lightweight Nova seemed to be the machine to have in those conditions and Pa Ryan it was who led away with a cracker of a start from mid grid. As the heavens opened even more (as if it were possible!) Tommy locked up the Escort and spun off into turn one. The car, which was having starter problems all day was going nowhere and the red flags came out. After a tow start, Tommy was allowed to take the restart but it was the same again as Ryan rocketed away and held on for an impressive and popular win. Rallycross returnee Don Shannon pushed him all the way, almost snatching the win on the run to the line after a great run out of the final corner, with Willie Coyne charging to third from the back of the grid.
Geoffrey Dolan was ultra impressive in the ex Evans Astra Supercar and was heat of the timesheets all day. Declan Kelly was beset by injector problems all day but on the odd occasion his Fiesta was running correctly he showed he would have been able to challenge Dolan. Similarly Thomas O’Rafferty had the hang of the track by mid afternoon and looked like he was loving he rain, leading Dolan before a diff failure forced him to retire from the event. This is not to take away from Dolan though, who took both the Supercar Final and the Superfinal with ease! Pa Ryan had run second for the duration but an impressive Willie Coyne stalked him in the closing stages before getting alongside on the run to the flag and taking the place by a fraction of a second!
Paul Curley’s well driven Gp N Subaru dominated the Rallycar class and took the final at the end of the day, with Patrick Donohoe next up after a great battle with Jack Deegan, who unfortunately retired within sight of the flag in the final, handing third to the well driven Mk2 Escort of Anthony Masterson. Daniel McNamee’s Civic took the Rallycar B final after a close fight with Peter O’Brien’s 205 and John Walsh in another Civic.
It was a nice touch from the organisers to hold a minute’s silence before the finals in memory of the late, and sorely missed Simon McKinley- and in fairness to the competitors, you could have heard a pin drop in the paddock- not an engine, compressor, or even a kettle could be heard. Well done all. So, a wonderful event, and it would seem Irish Rallycross, thanks to Colin Dowling and team, has a great new venue, and with it, hopefully a new lease of life too!
The next round of the McLoughlin Industrial Flooring Irish Rallycross Championship is back at Mondello for the UK two day event on 27/28th of June and I have been offered a car for it- I might just dust off the suit- it looks like great craic!
CO KILDARE M C RALLYCROSS AT PALLAS KARTING, TYNAGH, CO GALWAY (ROUND 2 OF
MCLOUGHLIN INDUSTRIAL FLOORING NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP):
1 Geoffrey Dolan (Opel Astra) 5m 37.42s,
2 Willie Coyne (Opel Corsa) 5m 53.01s,
3 Patrick Ryan (Vauxhall Nova) 5m 53.04s,
4 Peter McGarry (Peugeot 205) 6m 23.46s,
5 Declan Nolan (Peugeot 106) 6m 26.19s,
6 Noel Greene (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 6m 36.80s.
SUPERCAR A FINAL:
1 Geoffrey Dolan (Opel Astra) 4m 37.29s,
2 Declan Kelly (Ford Fiesta) 4m 47.61s,
3 Noel Greene (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 4m 48.33s.
MODIFIED A FINAL:
1 Patrick Ryan (Vauxhall Nova) 4m 55.05s,
2 Don Shannon (Volvo S40) 4m 55.26s,
3 Willie Coyne (Opel Corsa) 4m 57.17s,
4 Vincent Deery (Vauxhall Nova) 4m 59.37s,
5 Kieran Curran (Vauxhall Corsa) 5m 03.50s,
6 Tommy Graham (Ford Escort) 5m 06.58s.
MODIFIED B FINAL:
1 Willie Coyne (Opel Corsa) 4m 53.38s,
2 Vincent Deery (Vauxhall Nova) 4m 59.33s,
3 Lloyd Spendlove (Lotus Exige) 5m 04.88s,
4 Philip Kelly (Toyota MR2) 5m 06.35s,
5 Gordon Lynch (BMW E46) 5m 07.43s,
6 George Tohill (BMW Compact) 5m 07.80s.
STOCK HATCH 16 VALVE A FINAL:
1 John Ward (Peugeot 106) 5m 02.48s,
2 Derek Lenehan (Peugeot 106) 5m 04.64s,
3 Declan Nolan (Peugeot 106) 5m 12.06s,
4 Paul Nolan (Peugeot 106) 5m 14.85s,
5 Keith Kerrshaawe (Citroen C2) 5m 21.15s,
6 Eugene Ward (Peugeot 106) 5m 22.40s.
STOCK HATCH 8 VALVE A FINAL:
1 Peter McGarry (Peugeot 205) 5m 17.26s,
2 Damian Farrell (Peugeot 205) 5m 17.90s,
3 Paddy Bateman (Peugeot 205) 5m 20.02s,
4 Ciaran Murphy (Peugeot 205) 5m 25.51s,
5 James O’Shea (Peugeot 205) 5m 34.05s,
6 Adrian Farrell (Peugeot 205) 5m 42.21s.
STOCK HATCH 8 VALVE B FINAL:
1 Adrian Farrell (Peugeot 205) 5m 25.61s,
2 Tom Murphy (Citroen Saxo) 5m 26.22s.
JUNIOR A FINAL:
1 Jake Dooley (Toyota Starlet) 5m 32.71s,
2 Brian Martyn (Nissan Micra) 4m 41.44s.
RALLY CAR A FINAL:
1 Paul Curley (Subaru Impreza) 4m 50.86s,
2 Patrick Donoghue (Peugeot 205) 5m 07.26s,
3 Anthony Masterson (Honda Integra) 5m 16.01s,
4 Des Lyons 5m 36.42s.
RALLY CAR B FINAL:
1 Daniel McNamee (Civic) 5m 11.60s,
2 Peter O’Brien (Peugeot 205) 5m 12.80s,
3 John Walsh (Honda Civic) 5m 13.93s.