We attended the launch of the 2016 Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship last week at the Mondello. Over 150 people were in attendance, with speakers including Malcolm Wilson, Managing Director M-Sport, Gerard Quinn, Head of Ford Performance Europe and Paul Nagle, the works WRC Citroen co-driver. There were also 12 rally cars of various types with much of the interest centred on the R5 Ford Fiesta of Joe Connolly and the R5 Citroen DS3 R5 prepared by David Greer of DGM Sport. Proceedings began at 9.30am with the first cars making plenty of use of the track time available. Even championship sponsor Colette Twomey got in on the act, sitting in first with son Ed in his Fiesta R2 and then with Joe Connolly in the R5 variation.
The formalities began at 12pm with Paddy Flanagan, Championship Manager, opening proceedings followed by the chairman of the TROA, David Gray. He remarked that that it was great to see the support for the direction the championship was taking in 2016 by competitors and supporters alike even though it was not an easy decision to make. He went on to say that “the R5 cars are an incredible spectacle in the right hands” and also paid tribute to Colette and Ed Twomey whom he described as partners as well as sponsors. Colette Twomey then spoke on behalf of the championship sponsors Clonakilty Blackpudding and described their partnership with the TROA as a very positive experience, and the interaction with people wherever they go, is one of the rewards they reap.
Malcolm Wilson said that the number of people attending the launch compared very favourably with other launches he recently attended and said that the changes for next year are “the right and brave way to go for the future”. He also announced that if a Ford Fiesta R5 wins the Tarmac Championship in 2016, M-Sport will provide the winning crew with a prize drive on a round of the 2017 British Rally Championship, piloting an M-Sport prepared Fiesta R5. Gerard Quinn supported the new rules by stating that “this will allow drivers to go abroad and compete on other events throughout Europe without having to change anything in their car”. However he added that the quality of the stages here in Ireland are such that bringing in these new rules may also encourage drivers from overseas to come to Ireland. On a final note he stressed the importance of clubs bringing in younger members and having them get involved and said as a long-time member of Cork Motor Club that he would be marshalling as always on the West Cork Rally next year and encouraged members of all clubs to support each other.
Paul Nagle was delighted to see such a turn out and paid tribute to the organisers of each of the rounds in the series as he believes he wouldn’t be where he is today without their support. He said “R5 is the way to go as increased competition has to be good for the series, and it’s a very positive step for the future”. He signed off by wishing everyone well for the championship in 2016 and nailing his Citroen colours very firmly to the mast by recommending competitors talk to David Greer about using a Citroen in 2016!
The event was completed with the drivers having a final half an hour to use the track and it was great to see some of Ireland’s top modified talents Daniel McKenna and Declan Gallagher get some seat time test driving the DGM Citroen DS3 R5. Both thoroughly enjoyed the experience and who knows what may happen next year. The 2016 Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship begins in Galway in February and concludes in Cork in October, taking in visits to Clonakilty, Belfast, Killarney, Letterkenny and Enniskillen along the way. The dates for the 2016 rounds are as follows;
Galway International Rally 6th & 7th February
West Cork Rally 12th & 13th March
Circuit of Ireland Rally 7th – 9th April
International Rally of the Lakes 30th April – 1st May
Donegal International Rally 17th – 19th June
Ulster Rally 19th & 20th August
Cork 20 International Rally 1st & 2nd October
Images from Motorsport.ie, Sean Hassett & Ger Leahy