Cork motorsport: Irish Tarmac Rally is parked up for 2020

Cork motorsport: Irish Tarmac Rally is parked up for 2020
Reigning Irish Tarmac Rally champions Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Ford Fiesta R5) on their way to victory in last year's Wastewater Solutions Easter Rally in Antrim. Picture: Martin Walsh.

A UNANIMOUS decision taken by the board of the Tarmac Rally Organisers Association (TROA) has resulted in the cancellation of this year’s Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.

The decision was announced last week against the backdrop that just one of its seven rounds had taken place and five others are postponed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

TROA chairperson, Blarney’s Colman Hegarty said all clubs have been contacted.

“All clubs within the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship were contacted and in the light of the present circumstances the decision to cancel this season’s Irish Tarmac Rally Championship was unanimous.

“We also consulted with our associate sponsors and other partners and they were all in agreement with the decision of the board of directors of the ITRC.”

The board of directors of the TROA is comprised of six clubs - Munster, Killarney, Galway, Donegal, Ulster and Northern Ireland Motor Club.

The Cork Motor Club has a seat on the executive but not on the board.

The traditional opening round in Galway was won by Fermanagh’s Alastair Fisher in a VW Polo GTi R5 in what was his inaugural victory in a round of the ITRC and the 66th different winner of the series that began in 1978.

The only other time that the series has been canned was in 2001 and that was due to the Foot and Mouth crisis.

The Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally, the Wastewater Solutions Circuit of Ireland, the Cartell.ie Rally of the Lakes, the Joule Donegal International and the Today’s Ulster Rally have all been postponed.

The organisers of the West Cork Rally have stated that they have no plans to reschedule their event this year as they continue to work closely with the local community in Clonakilty.

The most recent statement from the sport’s governing body Motorsport Ireland indicated that they are continuing to follow government guidelines and all events remain suspended until June 1st.

Organisers of the Donegal International Rally, that was scheduled for June 19/21, took a club decision to postpone their event and only last Monday the Ulster Rally (August 21/22) announced the postponement of their event.

Even in a non-coronavirus environment, it is difficult to see how events can be rearranged.

Members of the Tarmac Rally Organisers Association: Carrigaline's Frank O'Mahony, president, Watergrasshill's Kevin O'Riordan, treasurer, and Blarney's Colman Hegarty, chairperson. Picture: Martin Walsh.
Members of the Tarmac Rally Organisers Association: Carrigaline's Frank O'Mahony, president, Watergrasshill's Kevin O'Riordan, treasurer, and Blarney's Colman Hegarty, chairperson. Picture: Martin Walsh.

Meanwhile, former chairperson and now president of the TROA, Carrigaline’s Frank O’Mahony said the sport has made the correct decision.

“It was the responsible thing to do in view of the Coronavirus pandemic. We certainly didn’t want to put anybody at risk as we depend very much on the goodwill of local communities.

“It is imperative that the clubs within the TROA continue to maintain the strong relationships we have built up with the various communities throughout Ireland over the years.

“In any case and given the current situation, it would not have been a championship fitting of the series.”

Aside from the events already postponed, the only remaining event is the Cork “20” International Rally (September 26/27).

Elsewhere, organisers of the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship have also decided to cancel their series, one of the many regional championships that are organised throughout the country.

This year would have marked the eighth season of support from the County Limerick based PlasticBags.ie company.

“In light of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic and the government advice to people to remain socially distant in an effort to reduce community transmission, it seems impossible now to continue with a championship with very few events still yet to be either postponed or cancelled,a

statement from the organisers said.

”The series was due to start with the Clonakilty Park Hotel West Cork Rally.”

The statement added that all championship registrations would be refunded if desired or transferred to cover entry to the 2021 Championship.

Looking back to finish, one of five regional rally championships, the Southern 4 series began in 1998 and was won Dunmanway born Donal O’Donovan (Ford Sierra Cosworth).

The following season another West Cork driver, Ballylickey’s Denis Cronin (BMW M3) took the title before Killarney’s Johnny O’Sullivan (Ford Escort WRC) brought the S4 crown across the county bounds in 2000.

Yokohama Tyres sponsored the series for the first three years. With no championship in 2001 (due to Foot and Mouth Disease) the series returned in 2002 with 023 Tiles as title sponsors and they continued their reign until 2008.

During that tenure the winners were London based Limerick driver Ollie O’Donovan (Subaru Legacy), Dunmanway’s Liam McCarthy (Toyota Corolla WRC) - 2003, 2004 and 2008, Cronin (Subaru WRC) in 2005, Welsh ace Mel Evans (Subaru WRC) in 2006 and Killarney’s Kevin O’Donoghue (Mitsubishi) in 2007.

Cronin won again in 2009 in a year where Thomond Crystal was the sponsor. Limerick’s Ed O’Callaghan (Ford Escort) took the laurels in 2010.

The Windscreen Company were onboard in 2011 and 2012 with Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan (Subaru WRC) clinching a double championship success.

In 2013, PlasticBags.ie began their support of the series that also continued to incorporate Junior and Historic overall awards along with classes in all sectors.

The respective winners were Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson (Ford Escort), Baltimore’s Stephen Carey (Honda Civic), Bandon’s, Vincent McSweeney (Mitsubishi), Killarney’s Johnny Hickey (Ford Escort), Millstreet’s Sean Moynihan (Ford Escort), Somerset’s Martyn England (Ford Fiesta R5) and Dunmanway’s David Guest (Skoda Fabia S2000).

With one round to spare, Guest and co-driver Jonathan McGrath clinched the title at last year’s CBtoolhire.com Cork “20” International Rally.

However, the championship organisers didn’t afford them the opportunity to celebrate at the finish ramp, hopefully when the next champions are crowned, procedures and indeed the championship will return to its former glory, it is what everyone, including the sponsor, deserves.

One of the best supporters of Irish rallying, Welshman John Price was laid to rest in Wormbridge, Hereford on Friday last.

He was a regular in Irish rallying for decades and competed in 859 rallies throughout a long career.

May he Rest in Peace.

Organisers of the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship have also decided to cancel their series

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