Irish rally chiefs and clubs should use the current break to improve motorsport

Irish rally chiefs and clubs should use the current break to improve motorsport
Ballinamallard's Alastair Fisher and his co-driver Gordon Noble (VW Polo GTi R5) on their way to victory in the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally, the opening round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. Picture: Martin Walsh.

THESE are difficult times for Irish motorsport and in particular rallying and that is even before the Covid-19 situation.

As events continue to be postponed — the Circuit of Kerry and Circuit of Ireland have both been postponed since last Thursday’s restrictions on gatherings that brought the immediate postponement of the West Cork Rally and the Munster Moonraker Forest Rally.

Late last year a meeting in Tullamore between officials of Motorsport Ireland and competitors got somewhat heated when it was proposed (by the governing body) to end the use of fire extinguishers on the stages and have competitors take the additional extinguishers onboard their cars instead.
However, the move was abandoned at the time but it is still being considered for the future. Another contentious issue centred on the use of a tracking system with competitors not in unison on its use for reconnaissance.

In early February, a meeting called by the Association of Munster Motor Clubs (AMMC) was attended by some 250 people at the Hibernian Hotel in Mallow, indeed, individuals from other clubs were also present. On the night, opinions were voiced in relation to the cost of insurance, the introduction of rule changes, tracking, fuel sampling, and Motorsport Ireland office running costs. 

The meeting endorsed the appointment of well-known Killarney organiser Mike Marshall to meet MI officials and determine the actual cost of the insurance — given that Motorsport Ireland are of the opinion that it is commercially sensitive information — it was agreed that Mr Marshall would sign a confidentiality agreement not to reveal the figure.

The Mallow meeting decided to seek clarification on all the aforementioned topics at a subsequent meeting that took take place the following week. 

That meeting was called by the president of Motorsport Ireland, John Naylor, who extended an invitation to the chairpersons and secretaries of all MI affiliated clubs along with the commission chairpersons to the meeting at MI headquarters. At the time Mr Naylor stated that he wanted to discuss and explore very important options that could be activated in relation to the sport.

At the Dublin meeting it was decided (following a vote) that the tracking system (that brought a hike in entry fees) would not be mandatory. The clubs that voted against the tracking system did so because of the cost factor and also the manner of Motorsport Ireland’s implementation but were not adverse to the system itself.

In relation to fuel sampling, it was agreed it will be discretionary and the consensus of opinion is that it will only be introduced for homologated cars on international rally events in 2020. It appears that within a week of that meeting the clubs that voted against the introduction of the tracking were contacted by MI to see if they would have a change of heart.

Another issue that was discussed was that of the 'one free entry' scheme that was introduced following savings from insurance. That was to be abolished (just less than two months after its introduction) and the monies from the savings were to be transferred to the Motorsport Ireland Benevolent Fund. 

Now, MI has decided to revert to the 'one free entry' scheme for all other disciplines other than rallying. It also emerged from that meeting that competitors will not be required to marshal at events to be eligible to obtain a competition licence, although MI highly recommends such practice.

Monaghan's Sam Moffet (Hyundai i20 R5) has won his appeal against his exclusion from second place in last month's Galway International Rally. Picture: Martin Walsh.
Monaghan's Sam Moffet (Hyundai i20 R5) has won his appeal against his exclusion from second place in last month's Galway International Rally. Picture: Martin Walsh.

Just a few weeks ago delegates from clubs that attended the Cac (Competitions Advisory Committee) meetings were told by MI officials that it was agreed by the Motorsport Council to establish a new, revitalised, and restructured forum for clubs to replace the current Competitions Advisory Committee. 

According to MI, the reconstituted body, renamed the Clubs and Commissions Group, will continue the responsibilities of the Competitions Advisory Committee and will also have increased input into proposed improvements to motorsport in Ireland. 

On the night, the club delegates were thanked for their attendance and told that they will be replaced by two representatives drawn from the club’s chair, vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer with no substitutions outside of these elected officer positions in the immediate future.

This hasn’t been received well by the clubs as they feel they should be able to continue to select their own delegates.

There is a strong body of opinion that the governing body are not in touch with their affiliated clubs, who also think that there is a severe lack of communication from MI.

The postponement of three rallies in recent days (and possibly more this week) and also the cancellation of the Limerick Forest Rally bring severe financial consequences for Motorsport Ireland.

Trying to reschedule the postponed events in a calendar that is far too overcrowded exacerbates the situation further. A suggestion that some of the major events will be facilitated at the expense of lesser rallies later in the year is also likely to be opposed.

Meanwhile, Monaghan’s Sam Moffett has won his appeal against his exclusion from his second place in the Galway Rally (February 2) for failing to attend post event scrutiny. 

The Tribunal of Appeal was held on March 5 but the decision was only announced over the weekend. He was acquitted as the tribunal stated there were serious errors and inconsistencies in the organisation of post event scrutiny. One of the requirements was that Moffett should have received notification before he departed final service, this wasn’t implemented.

Perhaps this enforced break will allow the sport get back on a much-improved footing.

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