By Martin Walsh
It’s been a topsy-turvy few days for the Prestone British Rally Championship organisers.
On Sunday the upcoming Rally Isle of Man (Round 5) was cancelled with the club citing insurmountable delays in securing the road closing order from the Isle of Man’s department of infrastructure. Earlier in the season, the BRC lost the Border Counties Rally and now with the cancellation of the Rally Isle of Man, the series will be decided on Rally GB that will count as a double round.
It’s no secret that the series needs rejuvenation and the announcement that the West Cork Rally will be part of the 2019 series provides a fresh injection of interest. Contrary to a report that claimed several Irish clubs had applied to join the BRC, the West Cork Rally were actually invited to join the series.
Meanwhile, there will be five fewer rally events in next year’s Motorsport Ireland calendar that was rubber-stamped at its Dawson St headquarters. The Mayo, ALMC and Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally are to take a year out while the Kerry Motor Club, who will run the Circuit of Kerry, have dropped the Banna Winter Rally for 2019. Meanwhile, the Baltinglass Mini Stage Rally (run by the Garda Motor Club) will also not go ahead as the organising club failed to comply with the Motorsport Ireland stipulation that requires all clubs to lodge a post-dated cheque to the value of half of the event premiums for the coming season.
While the Midland Motor Club were late in submitting their application, the meeting agreed to have them included in the 2019 calendar. The Midland main event is set to be part of the National Championship and will be based in Longford or Roscommon.
Meanwhile, the Garda Motor Club stated that while they were willing to run their event, they disagreed with the process. Following much discussion, it was agreed that they should not be allowed to join the 2019 calendar.
On the competitive front, Wexford Volkswagen Rally is the main event of the weekend. Welsh ace and top seed Steve Wood (Subaru) is the only World Rally Car entry in the top ten. He is favourite to repeat last year’s success and will have both his closest rivals from that event - Maynooth’s Ian Barrett (Darrian T90) and Cavan’s Gary Kiernan (Escort) as opposition. Weather condition will be the key with Wood having the obvious advantage should it rain tomorrow or Sunday. Welshman John Dalton (Darrian T90) is, like the rest of the two wheel drive exponents, hoping for dry conditions. The top ten also features the Escorts of Tyrone’s Frank Kelly and Carlow’s David Condell, British drivers Mark Straker (Darrian T90) and Merion Evans (Hyundai i20 R5), Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson (Ford Escort) and Welshman Tomas Davies (Ford Escort). The first of tomorrow’s nine stages starts at 10.19am and there are six stages on Sunday.
Elsewhere on Sunday, there is a multi-event Autotest at the Hutt Cross Quarry in Latton, the Westmeath & District Motor Club are hosting an autocross at Greenhills near Killucan and the Munster Kart races at Watergrasshill start at 11am.