Motorsport is slowly returning to Ireland but not as we know it.
There have been a few Rallysport Association events in Ballykelly, Tynagh, and Nutts Corner. Kirkistown has had a race meeting and a sprint but we’ve had to wait to see rallying on anything close to its natural environment.
Mayo Motor Club held a quarry sprint on 9 August and it was a huge success. This allowed crews to compete on a loose surface event, albeit without a co-driver keeping them right.
Last weekend, all eyes were on Omagh Motor Club’s Cam Trophy Rally Time Trial which was based in the Cam Quarry just outside Limavady.
New guidelines meant crews scrutinised their own cars via a video recording and submitted all there details online.
No spectators were allowed into the venue, crews were limited to a two-person service crew whose names had to be submitted beforehand and media were also restricted.
Speaking with event organisers, it seemed they had an extremely large workload to bring it all together.
To ensure they met all the latest Covid guidelines and protocols a lot of time was needed to complete the paperwork, on top of all the normal safety regulations.
The club was blessed with the weather in the lead up to the event as a dedicated team had made the hour and a half journey to the quarry on three separate days to assist in getting the track set up.
On the day as the drivers rolled through the gates, stopping to give their details, a thick mist engulfed the track. But right on queue, after 10 o’clock, the sun burnt through the mist and we were ready to rumble!
What lay ahead for the drivers was a challenging 2.5-mile stage with hairpins, long sweeping corners, flat-out straights, and jumps.
There was a familiarisation run followed by four timed runs. A fifth run was available for those who felt the need.
The blue skies ensured there was dust aplenty but the breeze meant it wasn’t proving too much of a hindrance to the drivers.
By the end of proceedings, it was Jason Mitchell, in the ex-Breen Irish Tarmac Championship winning Ford Fiesta R5, who took overall honours.
Mitchell has been competing for less than a year and this was only his second event on the loose.
He finished less than 0.4 seconds ahead of Gareth Sayers in a similar Fiesta R5 with David Condell a further 2.8s back in third in M-Sport’s latest Fiesta R5.
Peter Bennett took fourth in a Mitsubishi Evo 9 and was very impressive to watch.
Jordan Hone topped the two-wheel-drive battle in his Opel Adam R2. He is, without doubt, a star. As he grappled with the wee Adam around the track, his commitment was clear for all to see.
Just 0.2s behind was Shane McGirr in his Escort G3 while rally debutant Ryan Caldwell finished third, less than 2s back in a hired BMW M3. Caldwell was very impressive and made the transition from drift car to rally car look easy, his car control was a joy to watch.
The rumour mill suggests there may well be more of these events before the end of the year as several other clubs were watching how Omagh dealt with Saturday.
Are they the type of events that we’d want to see in normal circumstances?
But things are far from normal and any chance we get to hear a rally car’s engine being put through its paces has to be applauded.
The smiles on the faces of drivers, marshals, officials, and indeed media at the end of the day told the story that everyone was delighted to see this step completed as we slowly get back to whatever the new normal is going to have in store.
Subscribe to Rally Insight to receive the latest Irish, UK and International rallying news and features.
Photos and words by Kevin Glendinning