Gated rally events – US of A style

The recent news that Motorsport Ireland will permit ‘gated events’ from June 7 is a welcome development and is the first light at the end of a very long pandemic tunnel.

Venues like Mondello Park and even the several karting tracks across the country are the obvious places to get the sport back on track.

Less so, but not to be ruled out, are the internal roads around horse racing courses, locally Tralee Racecourse has been used for autocross and rallysprint events and Killarney Racecourse hosted a spectator stage as part of the Rally of Lakes on at least one occasion.

Neither club in the county has indicated their plans, if any, for the remainder of the year, and it is not for Kerry Motor Sport News to speculate on their plans either.

When the time is right both Kerry Motor Club and Killarney and District Motor Club will reveal what they want to do and how they are going to do it.

But events don’t have to be conventional and they say travel broadens the mind.

One local man who has been doing a lot of travelling in recent months in Kenneth Quirke.

The Camp-native, currently based in New York, has been clocking up the rally miles in America over the last year.

His most recent event – The North East Pennsylvania Rally – was run entirely on the grounds of Camp Freedom, a 1,800-acre wooded campground privately owned and leased to volunteers to help ex-Army veterans with disabilities.

Hunting and fishing are the most common pass-times at Camp Freedom but a new CEO has designs on attracting other adventure sports.

Rallying fits the bill. And that is, more or less, how the inaugural North East Pennsylvania Rally came into being on April 23 and 24.

The 12-stage rally used only one road in the complex.

“Based on a campground, everything was compact and zero transit [road] miles,” explained Quirke,

“It was run over only one road, like a figure of six in one direction and then turned around and ran in reverse, on the way back out, like a figure nine. It was run in segments all day totalling 12 stages.

So, as we await what June 7 might bring, and what will be on offer in terms of gated events for competitors, it is worth starting a debate on what alternative lands are available in Kerry or any other county.

A dead-end forest road? A windmill complex, a large farm, the list is endless.

For the record, Quirke and his driver Johnny O’Sullivan were the early leaders in their Subaru Impreza until they hit trouble in the shape of a big rock.

“It was a fun day out. Cars, pick-up trucks and even dirt bikes were competing,” he added. “Unfortunately, we hit a rock on the outside of a bend towards the end of the third stage. Damaging the rear arm and with no spare, we had to pull out. We were leading after the first two stages, so it was tough luck, but that’s rallying.

“The organisers are hopeful of getting another stage included next year and improving road conditions to attract more cars and bikes. Will be back again as it’s a stress-free event and everyone’s just out for a day’s fun.”

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