On Sunday next January 13th, the first tarmac event of 2002 will be held in Mayo– The Castlecourt Hotel Westport Single Stage Rally. Organised and promoted by Mayo & District Motorsport Club, the restricted two-wheel drive (2WD) event will provide an opportunity for many up and coming competitors to progress in the sport and also facilitate many Club crews who find it difficult to start a rally due to the over-subscribed entries.
In addition, the restricted number of events last year due to Foot and Mouth scare, both competitors and spectators alike were starved of the thrills and spills of rallying, one of Ireland’s most popular sports.
Many hours of hard work and dedication have been spent by the organising committee headed up by Sean McHugh, from Bekan, Claremorris. This is his first major event as Clerk of the Course having‘ served his time’ running numerous Autocrosses over the years. Sean is assisted by Michael Jordan, Bekan (Deputy Clerk of the Course), David Docherty, Ballinlough (Assistant Clerk of the Course), Francis Kenny, Ballyhaunis (Stage Commander), Paul Cleary, Kiltimagh (Assistant Stage Commander), Tom Tuffy, Enniscrone (Chief Marshall) and many other officials who give up their time voluntarily to ensure that the rally passes off safely and successfully.
"Without the co-operation of the Gardai, Mayo County Council, Western Health Board and the goodwill of the residents in the area, it would be impossible for us to stage this event," said Sean McHugh. "We are grateful to all concerned and we hope in return that the region as a whole will benefit from the off-season tourism boost. Thanks also to Joe and Anne Corcoran at the Castlecourt Hotel for their support and assistance at all times," added Sean.
Although the rally route takes in part of the Party Mountain Special Stage used in many Circuit of Irelands in the past, this particularly narrow, twisty, rugged terrain will be new to the 130 or so starters. The 10.4-mile Single Stage will be run three times,together with a familiarisation run at 10:56 a.m. Local Councillor Sean Staunton will officially wave the competitors off at the Start/Finish ramp (from 10:30 a.m. onwards) situated at the Mill Street/High Street Car Park.
Many spectators will avail of the close up view of the rally cars at Service Area located on the new West Road out of Westport. Motorists are asked to please note the additional amount of traffic in that immediate area throughout the day. After tackling the Special Stage the competitors are expected to return to Westport at approximately 4:50 p.m. and afterwards attend the Rally Headquarters in the Castlecourt Hotel where the Gala Prizegiving Dinner will be held later that evening. A full length video of the event will also be shown.
Prior to the event, a thorough examination of the cars will take place by Motorsport Ireland’s scrutiny team at Beirne Express Freight Headquarters at Lodge Road on Saturday 12th from 3 p.m.– 9 p.m.
Out of the 130 cars competing almost 50 of these are Ford Escorts. For sheer entertainment value look no further than the blue ovals finest. In fact, Escorts make up most of the Top 20 with no less than 15 examples. Donegal’s Eugene Ferry and John Gallagher are the top seeds with Patrick and Liam Higgins from Longford seeded second. Mervyn Wedlock and Philip Smith (Cavan) are also competing in Class 13 and round off the Top 3. Regular Border Series contenders Paul Gallagher and Karl Reid (Letterkenny) are also ones to watch in their high revving Toyota Corolla (No. 5). Look out for two of Ireland’s most promising stars wearing No. 19 and 20 on the doors of their respective Peugeot 106’s. Shaun Gallagher from Letterkenny aged 21 is fast becoming a star of the future while his fellow townsman Stuart Darcy has just won the Billy Coleman Award. Named after Rally Legend Billy Coleman, the Motorsport Ireland run award was initiated by Mayo & District Motorsport Club to nurture up and coming young Irish drivers.
One of the highest seeded Club members is Killian Duffy who has already navigated many of Ireland’s biggest names in rallying. The young Crossmolina student sits-in on this occasion with Derrick Jobb from Tyrone in a Nissan Sunny.
The name Austin McHale is well known to Irish rally fans for many years now and the Louisburgh native and five time Tarmac champion has two sons competing in this Mayo event. Both Aaron (No. 24) and Gareth (No. 36) are driving Honda Civics.
Top local entry is Tom Muldoon and Eoin Cunningham from Westport who hope to improve on their good finish in the Ostan Oileann Acla Single Stage Rally held last October. The Toyota Corolla crew picked up the Mayo & District Motorsport Club Award for their efforts. Sligo driver John McGetterick, winner of the Mayo Autocross last year is wearing No. 38 while Club Secretary, John Duffy, Crossmolina at 75 (the car number that is!) debuts his newly acquired ex-Works Vauxhall Astra in Mayo.
Other Club regulars involved are Declan and Ronan Moore (Crossmolina), Toyota Corolla; Trevor and Paul Morrow (Ballina), Suzuki Swift; Kevin Neary/Derek McCarthy (Ballina), Opel Corsa; Barry Cuffe/Linda McManamon (Belcarra), Toyota Corolla and Gerry McCafferty (Ballina) Volkswagen Golf. Making their rally debut in a Toyota Corolla are Pete Kelly and John Higgins from Kiltimagh while Brendan Tuffy (Enniscrone) has another run in his ex-John Duffy Corolla.
Also donning the Club colours are Paul and Kathleen Kennedy (Tubbercurry), Suzuki Swift; Vinnie and Vincent Kelly (Ballina), Vauxhall Nova and Belcarra duo Fiachra Moran and Thomas Jordan (who also happen to be brothers-in-law) in an Escort. Rally enthusiasts from Castlebar will fondly remember Noel McGreal’s exploits up and down the country. Well, his son Eoin is now taking up the mantle and with Claremorris man Tony McGing is campaigning in a Toyota Corolla. Simon Cafferty/Roger Sloyan (Kilkelly), Peugeot 205; Tony and Eddie O’Hora (Killala), Opel Kadett and Ballinrobe’s Mervyn Fahy and David Walsh represent the southern part of the county in an Escort.
As safety is paramount in events like these, Chief Marshall, Tom Tuffy, who is also Chairman of the Western Marshalls Club has a large number of trained marshalls on duty throughout the weekend. A series of training sessions were held in the region prior to Christmas. Marshalls rendezvous point for duty is at Staunton’s Maxol Service Station on the Leenane Road, Westport at 8.00 a.m. sharp.
Full details of the stage locations and competitor entry list will be available in the official souvenir programme, which will be on sale in Newsagents, Service Stations and the Castlecourt Hotel during the weekend.
Also in the Programme is an opportunity to race around Mondello Park, where an introductory course in their Race Performance Centre is up for grabs in a free-to-enter competition.
On the day, rally reports will be relayed to various media sources around the country from the Press Office at the Castlecourt Hotel. Local Community Radio Station CRC FM has confirmed they will broadcast LIVE from the event during their Sports Show from 1– 3 p.m.
* As a mark of respect to the late Bertie, Mark and Emma Fisher there is no No. 1 car starting. Top seed starts at No. 2.
The Castlecourt Hotel Mayo Single Stage is the second of three events hosted by the Mayo Club over a six month period, the first being the successful Ostan Oileann Acla Single Stage held in Achill in October. On March 10th next, the Mayo Stages Rally raises the start flag of the 2002 Dunlop National Rally Championship.