Rallying is back! – Contactless rally runs in County Down

The scene at Bishpscourt last Saturday – photos by Jonathan McDonald

After a layoff of nearly 15 months, a rally event ran in Ireland for the first time, last weekend.

Ballynahinch and District Motor Club’s Bishopscourt Rally – held entirely within the grounds of the County Down race circuit and without spectators – marked the first step in the right direction.

The rally, the opening round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship, attracted a capacity entry including two Kerry based co-drivers and a total of four members of Killarney and District Motor Club.

Dublin-based Currow co-driver John McCarthy was back on pacenote duty for his regular driver John Devlin in their Ford Escort.

The scene at Bishpscourt last Saturday – photos by Jonathan McDonald

It was their first event since the 2019 Killarney Historic Rally, but they finished 20th overall and fourth in class despite a problematic gear change system all day.

“The day went well in terms of the weather and how the event ran. We had no problems apart from the flat shift not working. But fantastic to get back out,” McCarthy said.

However, it was not just the rally itself that was on show in County Down, but a whole new way of doing things.

The rally was run without any on-event paperwork and all of the time controls were managed in a socially distanced manner.

“The [organising] club managed fine. Everything was done paperless but it’s a track-based event like Mondello Park so no Pacenotes,” McCarthy added. “There was no paperwork exchanged on the day. To be honest, apart from the paperwork it felt like pre-COVID-19 which was great and no hassle.”

Rathmore’s Sean Collins, the winner of the modified section 2019 Killarney Historic Rally alongside Colin O’Donoghue, was on co-driving duties for fellow Killarney and District Motor Club member Colin Moynihan in the Ballydaly man’s newly acquired Escort.

“It was super the way they did, the wrote your control times on a white-board and it was there for everyone to see,” said Collins. “There is no reason why it couldn’t work on a local rally, except you would probably need a lot more equipment. With this rally run on a track, all the controls were in the same place so you would need whiteboards for every stage. But it was good to be back and hats off to the club – we had to start somewhere, and they did a superior job.”

They finished 53rd overall and 13th in the same class as Devlin and McCarthy.

Moynihan’s brother Liam, although from County Cork, is also a member of Killarney and District Motor Club and he guided Stephen Wright to second overall in the six-stage event.

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