An opening May weekend without the Rally of the Lakes

I had another column written for this weekend but upon the realisation that, right now, I should be standing somewhere in Killarney, I felt I had to make a quick change.

As I write this in my makeshift office in the heart of Spring, it feels more like the end of October. We’ve had our three weeks of summer sunshine and the chances are we won’t experience much more rallying action this season.

This was meant to be the Rally of the Lakes weekend. Organisers made the call not to run the event, and rightly so.

I had planned to attend the rally for the first time. The prospect of Ireland’s finest racing through Molls Gap and Ballaghbeama made the thoughts of a 600-mile return journey feel insignificant.

But what makes the County Kerry event so special?

Donegal has the crowds, West Cork has the atmosphere, Killarney has the roads.

I remember quizzing a certain Craig Breen in Donegal last June for a feature on Ireland’s three-day rally. While he loved the atmosphere and competition in the north-west it was clear his heart lay in Killarney.

Breen’s Rally of the Lakes win was special. The highlight of his year, and it’s hard to argue against it being the highlight of the whole Irish Tarmac Rally Championship last year.

It was a special victory for Paul Nagle too, we’ve got more on that coming very soon! Kerry’s five-time World Rally winner talked me through his maiden Rally of the Lakes victory during the week.

He couldn’t help sharing the memories that jumped into his head when thinking about his local event:

“The famous Russians coming over in the M3, Bertie Fisher breaking the 10-minute barrier, the first summer rally in May, and Austin MacHale breaking his M3’s driveshaft in 1991 to lose the Irish Tarmac title.

“They are all iconic parts of the rally. You can remember all of those things as a local. It all makes the rally very special.”

Elsewhere, the Ulster Rally announced its postponement earlier this week. It’s impossible to know what the state of play will be like in August but it’s the three months of critical preparation beforehand that was the immediate concern. Life in lockdown does not make planning a closed-road rally a sensible, or ethical idea.

Coronavirus has now claimed five of the Tarmac Championship’s seven rounds so it was no surprise when TROA announced that the 2020 championship was cancelled.

Unsurprising but it’s still a strange feeling to be in Spring with the understanding that the next ITRC event is a minimum of nine months away.

So here I am in April writing about the end of this year’s Tarmac Championship and last year’s Rally of the Lakes.

All I can say is stay safe, stay at home when possible, and enjoy the extra time with your nearest and dearest.

Hopefully next year I’ll be writing about my planned expedition to the greatest tarmac roads in the world.

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Photo by Alan Noonan / Rally Through a Lens

Adam Hall

Brought up in the Irish countryside, Adam was never far away from the world of rallying. From following local events like the Circuit of Ireland and the Ulster Rally, Adam now puts the stories from stages all around the world into words through his website Rally Insight.

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