As Ravens Rock Rally edges closer to becoming a reality, the question of whether Ireland is ready for rallying to return is continuing to grow. The entry list for Ravens Rock was filled immediately so the demand for rallying is clearly there. But with coronavirus threatening many aspects of social life some people are unsure if a return is justified.
Irish rallying is at the brink of returning from a six-month spell on the sidelines. Finally, there is something in place to get rally cars back on roads filled with rallying heritage.
However, not everyone is convinced and it seems some people think it’s just the creation of another problem. Surprisingly, these people are not the locals, not the city slickers, it’s rally folk themselves.
Perhaps it’s important to decide what rallying really means to Ireland.
Is it a sport, a hobby, an expensive past-time?
Or does rallying have something to provide the country?
Onthepacenote’s Killian Duffy believes it’s time to rethink rallying and recognise the value it brings to Ireland.
“A lot of people in rallying think that we are an inconvenience,” explained Duffy. “They think we are a sport that should operate under some sort of radar.
“But this is the problem, peoples’ mentality is that way.
“Rallying is a sport that brings money to counties right across the country.
“We are not talking thousands of euros, we are talking hundreds of thousands of euros.
“The fact is, we are not an inconvenience to anybody, bar the local residents.
“Local residents live on rural roads and are affected a maximum of one day every year. How many days a year are the residents around Croke Park affected?
“Rallying brings a lot to the table and rallying people need to start believing in that too.”
Both Ravens Rock and Wexford Stages Rally organisers were encouraged by the positivity and lack of resistance to their rallies from locals. So for these two events planned for October, local communities have given their full support.
Still, though, the Irish rallying community isn’t completely unified on the issue. The fear of some is that a rally could cause a subsequent spike in Covid-19 cases.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say that we should leave rallying to 2021,” said Duffy. “But coronavirus is not going away next year.
“Just because it’s the turn of the year doesn’t mean that coronavirus will disappear in January.
“I wish it did but it’s not. So, we need to get on with it or else face a whole lot longer without rallying in Ireland.
“Fair play to Carrick-on-Suir, Wexford, and Killarney motor clubs. You can’t just sit on your hands and let the sport fade away.
“People will soon realise they have extra money now to build a garage, do work to their house, buy new cars rather than go rallying.
“Ravens Rock Rally has put good procedures in place to comply with Covid-19 regulations. Clerk of the Course, James Coleman, is the right man to push it forward. He’s bullish and prepared to take the risk on behalf of Carrick-on-Suir Motor Club.”
Risk? Surely we can’t run a rally if there is a risk.
The risk mentioned isn’t regarding the spread of coronavirus. That is being managed and controlled by the protocols in place. Without these protocols, there would be no chance the rally could run under the government’s restrictions.
However, the club has taken a risk on behalf of every stakeholder in the sport. The chance to get rallying back. Was the event’s running always guaranteed? Certainly not. Is the event’s running guaranteed now? Under these current circumstances, probably not.
The whole Carrick-on-Suir team has buried themselves in paperwork. Without the option of attracting sponsors, they’ve taken a risk and invested in the rally.
Sure, the entry fee is more expensive than usual. But remember the revenue streams that have been replaced with additional overheads.
“I don’t think the entry fee for Ravens Rock will be a sign of times,” explained Duffy. “Once things settle down, clubs will know their costs better.
“Clubs can find new ways of finding income streams if sponsorship changes now. I think this offers an opportunity for an evolution of rallying. I think some good can come out of this.
“New measures around briefings, paper for scrutiny, queuing for recce, it would be great if we could get rid of all that now. It would take a lot of the headaches out of it.
“Even scrutineering, put it back on the people. Then it just becomes a visual check and if something is a problem you go and investigate it further.
“You can really ease the pressure of the whole thing. You can make rallying a whole lot easier and more attractive to do.”
Long-term, rallying can learn from the present situation, that is clear. How it does so remains to be seen.
For now, it’s time to support and respect the decisions made by those to get rallying back in Ireland. The only other option is to wait and risk our sport disappearing altogether.
As mentioned at the beginning of this story, maybe it is worth considering what rallying means to Ireland.
It is a sport of course and a hobby for many. For others, though, it is a business, a way of life, and to some, it is the realisation of the ultimate dream.
Rallying generates income for regions across Ireland. It is also a marketing platform for many companies.
Carrick-on-Suir has taken a dive into the unknown and it’s within rallying’s interests to listen to their advice. Stay at home, follow the action, and savor the stage-end atmosphere.
Rallying will be back on Ravens Rock. Hopefully, it springboards some positivity back into our sport.
Subscribe to Rally Insight to receive the latest Irish, UK and International rallying news and features.
Photos courtesy of Rally Through a Lens