Motorsport: Governing body watchful of illegal reconnaissance

Although not endemic within rallying, illegal reconnaissance is still a concern.

On all Irish tarmac rallies competitors are allowed to make pacenotes at a pre-defined time. In terms of one-day events, it is the day before the rally and, in two-day events, it is the previous weekend, or the two days prior to the rally. The exceptions are when crews cannot — for a valid reason — make those dates and, in such cases, they apply to rally organisers to carry out reconnaissance at another time. Such requests are subsequently displayed on the official noticeboard.

Illegal reconnaissance — where the competitors look at the route outside the permitted times — isn’t a recent phenomenon. In 2007, two competitors were prevented from competing in the Carlow Rally for an alleged breach of such regulations. That was at a time when rally organisers, in conjunction with the governing body, placed surveillance cameras at locations along the stages in an effort to clean up the sport. Such a scheme certainly reduced the practice, but it was also deemed expensive.

Motorsport Ireland chief executive Alex Sinclair admitted: “We have, by and large, a body of competitors that play by the rules. Unfortunately, there are some people who, and let’s be blunt about it, cheat, and there is no other word for it. They might console themselves with their own thoughts of it being clever, or whatever, or being “professional”, but we call it cheating. If they are happy to stand amongst their peers and fellow competitors and have that on their conscience, then so be it.”

Mr Sinclair said there is no competitor under suspension for carrying out illegal reconnaissance, but he added: “There was one recently who, I understand, was refused participation in an event when they were found on a stage to be cheating.”

The Irish Examiner understands that one competitor was caught twice at the same event. Unless reported in a secondary capacity, no further action is taken apart from a fine, with the monies (€380 per competitor, according to regulations) going to the organising club. The practice is also causing problems for clubs, insofar as it brings inconvenience to the residents along the rally route and damages the goodwill factor.

Sinclair acknowledged the difficulties in policing rally stages, but, as for the re-introduction of the surveillance cameras, he said, “To reveal that, one way or another, would be defeating the purpose. Might I be so bold as to compare our sport with golf, who call foul on themselves. They are not policed and, when they have done something wrong, call a penalty on themselves. Wouldn’t it be lovely if people competing in rallying in his country would do likewise.”

Meanwhile, Cashel’s Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi) is the top seed for Sunday’s Relihan Dismantlers Kerry Rallysprint. He is aiming for his fourth straight win. Last year, he was pushed all the way by fellow Tipperary driver Liam Ryan (Toyota Corolla WRC), who was only six tenths of a second behind. Event regular Mike O’Connor (Jr) in a Subaru is among the opposition. The Buggy class includes Neil Pierce, Ed O’Callaghan, and Paul O’Driscoll. The first run over the three-kilometre track, a mixture of gravel and tarmac surfaces, is at 11am.

The top five positions in the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship remain unaltered following last week’s third round of the series, the Imokilly Rally. Donegal’s Donagh Kelly leads the way with 158 points, followed by Aaron MacHale (145pts), David Guest and Callum Devine (both 138pts) and Charlie Hickey (134pts).


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