All eyes are on the Galway International Rally this week. Stage mode is well and truly engaged as the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship comes back to the limelight after two years of darkness.
Before we embark on an exciting year for Irish rallying it is worth looking back on an event which drew a line between rally lockdowns and the vibrant atmosphere we have started 2022 in.
September’s Cork 20 International Rally was pivotal, not only in getting 2021 closed-road competition underway in Ireland but in providing confidence for championship organisers in 2022.
It was a big responsibility. Get it right, and the sport we love would go from strength to strength. Get it wrong, and rallying would have taken another backward step.
Thankfully, the event was a stand-out success. A highlight of the year.
Ahead of the 2022 season, Rally Insight caught up with the man burdened with Cork 20’s incredible responsibility, Kevin O’Riordan.
“It was a very proud moment in the history of the club,” explained Cork 20’s Clerk of the Course. “The Munster Car Club, in various guises, is one of the oldest clubs in existence and indeed the rally is the second oldest in Europe dating back in some shape or form to over 100 years.
“The event has achieved many milestones in its history. Being in a position to be the first club to bring rallying back to the stages in Ireland after such a lengthy cessation will rank among one of the proudest moments in the club’s history.
“What the club is especially proud of is its timeline to plan and organise the rally.
“It was literally only given the green light from Motorsport Ireland and Sport Ireland a little over five weeks before the rally.
“It seemed an impossible task to achieve and a lot of people said we were mad, and maybe we were, as the club had nothing planned or organised prior to that.
“A number of club members spent two nights the week before doing some preliminary resident calls to gauge the reaction and it was the positivity received from residents that gave us the motivation to make it happen.
“It was a phenomenal achievement but I have to stress, despite the club dedicating countless hours every night and a lot of time off work to achieve it, it was only possible due to the abundance of assistance we got from a lot of stakeholders.”
The number of spectators stage-side enjoying the Cork 20 was something to behold last year. As Ireland’s top rally crews put on a perfect show, everybody from marshal to fan were lapping up Cork’s late summer sun.
That positive atmosphere alone was worth the visit for me.
The passionate energy was something that didn’t go unnoticed by the rally organisers.
“The crowds were incredible,” exclaimed O’Riordan, “and while there were a lot of covid restrictions in place, the mass of spectators worked with the marshals to ensure the rally ran safely and to schedule
“It was extremely heartening to see the ditches lined with spectators for 100 metres or more exiting corners.
“I must note the assistance of other motor clubs up and down the country and ultimately the volunteer marshals.
“Events simply cannot run without these volunteers. Both the clubs and marshals turned out in their abundance to ensure the safe running of the rally and we thank them all for their efforts and inputs.
“In fact, all the various stakeholders such as Motorsport Ireland, the Gardai, the county council, and emergency services went over and above in their assistance to the club in putting all the necessary organisational arrangements in place.”
Listening to Kevin O’Riordan reflect on one of Irish rallying’s most positive days in recent years really was a breath of fresh air.
It is a great reminder of what can be achieved in challenging circumstances when everybody pulls together for the same cause.
With the excitement and anticipation surrounding the start of the 2022 season, here is hoping it proves to be a great year for rallying in Ireland. Boy, have we been waiting for it.