Kerry connections as Belgian rallying gets green light
By Sean Moriarty
Belgium just might provide Kerry fans with the rally fix they are missing this year.
The Monteberg Rally, originally set for May 2 and 3 has been given the go ahead to run on August 29 and 30 and while it may not be such a well-known event in this part of the world, its Kerry links run deep.
The organiser, Club Superstage, is the same team behind the legendary Ypres Rally, an event won on two occasions by Killarney co-driver Paul Nagle. His most recent success on the biggest rally in Belgium and, outside the World Rally Championship, possibly the biggest rally in Europe, came last June when he guided Craig Been to a popular win in their Volkswagen Polo R5.
Nagle’s first win came 10 years earlier alongside Kris Meeke in a Peugeot 207 Super 2000, the same year the Kerry/Tyrone pairing won the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
The Monteberg Rally began life 47 years ago as a single stage event and nearly always featured roads on from the infamous Kemmel stage, a regular feature on the Ypres event, in foothills of Flanders highest peak (156 m or 512 ft!) and the scene of some of the most ferocious battles of World War 1.
In recent years Monteberg has expanded in format and is now run over multiple passes of two stages – not unlike an Irish Mini Stages Rally – and was usually based in the villages of Loker and Dranouter
Following consultation with local municipal and city governments, the organising club have moved the rally’s base – HQ, start and finish – to the nearby town of Poperinge and the August event will be run over the Busseboom and Dikkebus stages.
The latter test will be familiar to Nagle, it runs very close to Kemmel village, and was used twice last year on the Saturday loop of the Ypres Rally.
Busseboom was used on the 2019 Monteberg Rally when Paul Lietaer, the Belgian driver who contested last year’s Rentokil-Initial Killarney Historic Rally, was lying second overall until he broke a wheel on his Ford Escort Cosworth, on this very test.
Mick Smith, the Killarney man who is the long-serving chair of London Irish Motor Club, is another regular visitor to both the Ypres Rally and Monteberg Rally.
His first appearance in Ypres goes back 27 years, when he contested the international element of the rally in a Rover Metro Gti. He competed on the historic section of the same rally in 2012 at the wheel of a Hillman Avenger.
Smith has also been a regular to the Monteberg Rally, most recently in 2016 driving a Talbot Sunbeam Ti.
“Due to the health crisis affecting our country, the Flemish Car Federation decided to cancel all championships, but immediately confirmed that organizers who still want to organize their race would receive all the support,” said an event spokesperson. ““Club Superstage has always had the ambition to organise the 48th edition of the Station Le Seau Monteberg Rally in 2020. After the recent decisions of the Security Council and in consultation with the various municipal and city authorities, the match is now scheduled on 29 and 30 August. The rally centre moves to the centre of Poperinge and the course has two different special stages: Dikkebus and Busseboom. So it will be an alternative Monteberg Rally on multiple levels.”