Irish Rallying

Positive signs for rallying return in Northern Ireland

There is a sense of optimism in Northern Irish rally circles that the sport’s coronavirus enforced break will be brought to an end shortly after the summer months.

Omagh Motor Club has revealed it is progressing its plans to run the Bushwhacker Rally on its usual September date. There are also promising signs that neighbouring forest rally, the Lakeland Stages, will run in September as well.

The Ulster Rally was the first to disclose its intentions to run an event this year. The British Rally Championship finale is pencilled in for 20 November. Newry will host the closed road rally which is likely to maintain its 2019 format.

The Magherafelt and District Motor Club is another planning an autumn event in Northern Ireland. The Tour of the Sperrins could fit in between the Bushwhacker and Ulster Rallies.

Meanwhile, Cookstown Motor Club revealed in March that it had received a provisional date of 6 November to run the Tyrone Stages Rally.

All-in-all, five autumn rallies in Northern Ireland would be a nice way to get rallying underway again.

“It would be good to see all the rallies running again,” said Omagh Motor Club’s Niall McGonigle. “We’ve got a few different things planned [for the Bushwhacker] and there is definitely going to be more mileage.

“It’s going to be good and I’m sure people will enjoy it. If we’re one of the first back then well and good but if we’re not we are more than happy to help the other clubs.”

McGonigle admitted the experience of organising last year’s Cam Trophy Rally Time Trial under several coronavirus restrictions puts them in good stead this time around. The Omagh Motor Club team and Bushwhacker Clerk of the Course, Ronnie McAleer, continue preparations for the gravel rally due to run on 18 September. 

The situation across the Irish border is somewhat bleaker. Motorsport Ireland has given the go ahead for gated events to restart from 7 June. Closed road rallies in the Republic of Ireland will have to wait until the status of non-gated events is clarified.

Packed entry lists for Scotland’s Argyll Rally and BRC’s opening Neil Howard Stages round hint at competitive events when they do appear in Northern Ireland. The Argyll Rally entry list was filled within minutes of opening with a raft of drivers missing the cut.

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Photos courtesy of Kevin Glendinning

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