Championship begins at Downhill Hotel Mayo Stages Rally

The National Rally Championship comes out of its winter hibernation on Sunday 12th March for the Downhill Hotel Mayo Stages Rally. Organised and promoted by Mayo & District Motorsport Club (formerly Ballina Motor Club) the event, which also ...

The National Rally Championship comes out of its winter hibernation on Sunday 12th March for the Downhill Hotel Mayo Stages Rally. Organised and promoted by Mayo & District Motorsport Club (formerly Ballina Motor Club) the event, which also incorporates the first Round of the Four Seasons Border Series, has become one of the highlights of the sporting calendar in the West. As it's the first multi-stage Rally of the new millennium, it promises to be the best ever with a bumper entry of top class contenders from all over Ireland together with a number of big names from overseas.

Many hours of hard work and dedication have been spent by members of Mayo & District Motorsport Club over the past number of months to ensure that the rally passes off safely and smoothly. Heading up the whole operation is Eddie Quinn from Attymass. In his first year as Clerk of the Course, Eddie is very grateful of the assistance of his background team. "My deputy John Murray (Castlebar), Chief Marshal Barry Campbell (Castlebar) and Stage Commanders Tom Tuffy (Enniscrone), Jack McLoughlin (Lacken), Chris Culkeen (Castlebar) and John James Comiskey (Sligo) have put in a lot of time with the preparations. With their help we notified every resident along the rally route to explain what is happening over the weekend. Indeed we depend solely on the goodwill of the people, as without their co-operation we could not run the rally. As we obviously have to close certain roads for a few hours on the Sunday, we extend our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused," added Eddie.

Eight Special Stages

Due to the increasing popularity of rallying, the sports governing body, Motorsport Ireland, have increased the starting numbers to 151 cars (21 more than previous years). Despite this higher allocation there are many disappointed crews not competing as over 300 entries were received by Event Secretary, Margaret McGreal - enough for two rallies! 84 Special Stage miles in the North Mayo area are on offer providing competitor with a challenging start to their championship campaign. "We have picked stages which offer something for everyone, from the narrow and twisty to the wide smooth tarmac," said Eddie Quinn.

The rally format consists of four Special Stages run twice (starting from Ballina's Ardnaree Road at 10:45 a.m.) with three service intervals sandwiched in between. Stages 1 & 7 at Attymass sponsored by Main Peugeot Dealers, McCarrick's Garage, Tubbercurry, while Stages 2 & 8 at Bonniconlon are backed by Vinny Kelly's Statoil Service Station, Ballina. Supporting Stages 4 & 6 is Andrew Mullen at Sligo Pallet Supplies with Business Supplies, Ballina covering Stages 3 & 5. The centralised Service area for the rally car is located in the former Asahi plant in Killala. Traffic delays are expected along this route and motorists are advised to plan their journey well in advance. After tackling the North Mayo highways and by-ways the cavalcade returns to rally headquarters at the Downhill Hotel where the Gala Prizegiving Dinner will be held later that evening.


The 2000 Downhill Hotel Mayo Stages Rally will see the cream of rallying talent coverage on Ballina, all eager to start the season on a winning note. Top seeds are likely to be Andrew Nesbitt in a Subaru Impreza World Rally Car (WRC). The Armagh driver finished runner-up in the Tarmac Championship last year. Eager to make an impression will be Pete Doughty and James Harrison who lead the UK brigade in an Escort WRC and Cosworth respectively. Donegal's Paul Harris is looking for maximum points in a Subaru Impreza to start his Dunlop Irish National Championship campaign on a high note. Making a return to the scene after a short sabbatical is Charlie Donnelly (Derry) who once again campaigns in his Toyota Celica.

After recording some fine results last year Denis Cronin and Donal O'Donovan represent the best of the Cork challenge, the former winning the '99 Southern Four Championship while the latter recorded a well deserved victory in the European Police Rally in Belgium.

In the Four Seasons Hotel (Monaghan) Border Championship run concurrently with the main event, many of the top clubmen entered will be eager to prevent reigning champion David Armstrong (Armagh) from retaining his crown. The Escort Cosworth pilot will have stern competition from Glenn Allen (Tyrone) having lost out on a tie-break to Armstrong for last year's title. Two local club crews will be bidding to retain their class championship honours won last season. James McGreal (Foxford) runs in Class 14B in a Nissan Sunny GTi-R while Kiltimagh based Nissan dealer Paul Cleary ventures out once again in Class 5 in a Nissan Micra GT. Having finished 3rd in Class 14B in the '99 championship, Bekan's Sean McHugh will be aiming to go one better in this years series in his Peugeot 205 GTi. At least 25 crews representing Mayo & District Motorsport Club will be participating in the event.

Off-season tourism boost

Over the past number of years the Mayo Stages Rally has gone from strength to strength and its continuing success brings with it a significant increase in revenue to business and hostelries in the region during the off-peak season. Club Vice Chairman, Sean McHugh, emphasised the importance the event is to the county's economy. "We conservatively estimate that over =A3750,000 will be spent at this years rally by visiting competitors, service crews, supports and spectators. Accommodation is at a premium as the hotels and B&Bs within a 20 mile radius have been inundated with booking requests for the past six weeks or so."

Safety is paramount

To ensure a successful and safe running of the event, Mayo & District Motorsport Club will have over 170 marshals on duty each day during the rally weekend. "As we are having an extra stage this year, we require a larger number of marshals than in previous years," said Eddie Quinn, Clerk of the Course. From Saturday to Monday 11-13th March, the duties to be carried out will include stage set-up, spectator control and stages clean up. Spectators attending the event must obey marshals at all times. I cannot stress the importance of this point enough, as non-compliance to their requests will mean instant cancellation of the stages, which will, no doubt, put a damper on the whole, event.

Marshals already trained and signed-up for duty are asked to meet at the following rendezvous points on Sunday morning 12th March.

Special Stage 1 - Bus Eireann, Ballina 8:30 a.m.

Special Stage 2 - Judge's Car Park, Bonniconlon 9:00 a.m.

Special Stage 3 - Community Centre, Ballina Road, Killala 10:00 a.m.

Special Stage 4 - Mickey O'Boyle's Pub, Crossmolina Road, Ballina 10:45 a.m.

Each marshal will be given a packed lunch and complimentary ticket to the Gala Prizegiving Dinner at the Downhill Hotel.

Extensive Media Campaign

Once again the Downhill Hotel Mayo Stages Rally has generated extensive media coverage. Apart from the nation-wide coverage on the national and provincial press, the event public relations campaign has reached new levels with full details displayed on the club's newly established web-site - is well worth a visit for up-to-date minute event information as well as features on the club and its activities.

On the day of the rally a number of Independent Radio Stations have confirmed that they will broadcast LIVE from the stages and there will also be TV cameras on site to take in the best of the action. Journalists and photographers representing specialist motoring magazines will also be present. Rally reports will be relayed to various media sources around the country from the Press Office throughout the day.

Downhill Hotel Mayo Stages Rally Spectator Information

Full details on stage locations and full competitor entry list will be included in the official souvenir colour programme which will be available in newsagents, service stations and the Downhill Hotel throughout the region from Saturday afternoon, 11th March.

Provisional Timetable (times given for first car)

Start 10:40 am

Special Stage 1 Attymass 10:53

Special Stage 2 Bonniconlon 11:24

Service 1 Asahi, Killala 12:06

Special Stage 3 Lacken 12:49

Special Stage 4 Kincon 13:13

Service 2 Asahi, Killala 14:11

Special Stage 5 Lacken 15:09

Special Stage 6 Kincon 15:54

Service 3 Asahi, Killala 16:31

Special Stage 7 Attymass 17:18

Special Stage 8 Bonniconlon 17:49

Finish Downhill Hotel 18:20

These times are subject to change on the day.

Tune into Mid-West Radio on 96.1 FM for up to the minute information.

a.. The Downhill Hotel Mayo Stages Rally rolls into action with scrutiny at Pat Kelly's Toyota/Daihatsu Autopoint, Dublin Road, Ballina on Saturday 11th March. Enthusiasts will have an opportunity to get a close up look at the cars as they line up for inspection.

Be part of something big

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Charlie Donnelly , James Harrison , John Murray , John James