On the weekend of 10th – 12th March 2017, the motorsport community of Mayo and further afield descended on Achill Island for a weekend of rallying and also to soak up the hospitality that Achill is famous for. With the support of Óstán Oileán Acla and Connacht Print & Signs as joint main sponsors, together with Achill Tourism and the extended community, it was a unique event. It was also the opening round of the Sligo Pallets Border Rally Championship which saw crews travel from all over Ireland and across the water to compete.
From the start, this was always going to be a super event. The decision of Mayo & District Motorsport Club to host their main event of the year in Achill came easy and it did not fail to impress. Preparing for the event kicked off before the end of 2016 with numerous meetings when Óstán Oileán Acla came on board as joint main sponsor in addition to hosting Rally HQ. The rally team was headed up by Clerk of the Course Trevor O’Connell, with many of the officials who were local to the area being the driving force behind the event. Part of the preparations involved meeting the residents along the route as a number of road restrictions would be in place and the cooperation and support of the local people was second to none during the lead up to the rally and during the weekend itself. In the weeks before the rally, some club officials visited local schools in the area to highlight and promote the importance of road safety and also to explain that the health & safety of competing crews and spectators are priority in the motorsport community.
The weekend itself was a busy one with competing crews arriving from early Friday evening. Rally office was set up in Óstán Oileán Acla and there was a buzz of excitement throughout the Island. On Saturday morning, all competing crews took to the road for recce and this was followed by scrutiny. Later that evening the now famous Mayo & District Motorsport Club Ceremonial Start took place and locals and visitors turned out in force to see the rally cars up close and meet the drivers. It was a special moment as the rally crews were lead over the Michael Davitt Bridge by the Achill Pipe Band.
The next morning as rally day dawned and the mist lifted over the Achill hills, the first round of the Sligo Pallets Border Championship kicked off in style. The early stages were challenging due to overnight rain but once the sun came out and the stages dried up the drivers got into their own rhythm and their confidence increased as the day went on. Competitors were faced with two challenging stages each run three times; Stage 1, Atlantic Drive, followed the coastline with stunning sea views; Stage 2, Doogort, was slightly more technical but was equally as challenging as Atlantic Drive. In total, the event consisted of approximately 96 stage kilometres and 100 road kilometres and was a test to both driver and navigator. The stages saw the competitors taking to the roads around Dooega, Ashleam, Bunnacurry, Dooniver, The Valley and Doogort areas of Achill Island.
During the day, the competitors returned to the service area in Keel and this was another opportunity for spectators to meet the crews in between stages. At the finish ramp that evening outside Óstán Oileán Acla there was great excitement as Donegal’s Joseph McGonigle & Ciaran Geaney in their Skoda Fabia R5 took the title for 2017. After the prize giving ceremony as the crews packed up and prepared for home, the feedback was consistent. Everyone was impressed with the wonderful scenic stages and the hospitality of the local people and everyone was asking to return again.
Mayo and District Motorsport Club would like to thank our joint title sponsors, Óstán Oileán Acla and Connacht Print & Signs, in addition to the many other local sponsors for their generosity and support in hosting this event. We also wish to thank the numerous marshals and officials who helped out over the weekend, also Midwest Radio and the local residents who were so welcoming and accommodating.
We look forward to returning to Achill again next March, when in addition to being the opening round of the Sligo Pallets Border Rally Championship, the Mayo Stages Rally will also be the opening round of the Triton Showers National Championship for 2018.
A gallery of images of our running of the Stages Rally this year, held on the beautiful backdrop of Achill Island.
Pic Credit – Alan McGuire
Click on the pic for full size image:
Thanks to Flyin Finn Motorsport we have a full 30 minute programme dedicated to the Mayo Stages Rally 2017.
Watch it here:
As the day dawned and the mist lifted over the Achill hills the first round of the Sligo Pallets Border Championship kicked off in style. The early stages were challenging due to overnight rain but once the sun came out and the stages dried up the drivers got into their own rhythm and their confidence increased as the day went on.
First off the mark was Joseph McGonigle with Ciaran Geaney in their Skoda Fabia R5, despite struggling early in the morning, the team recovered in the third stage to maintain their lead for the rest of the day. Late entrant Frank Wray and Joe McNulty in their Subaru Impreza were second overall, narrowly piping Adrian Hethrington and Ronan O’Neill in a Ford Escort to the post with just split seconds between them. Recently returned from Australia, Pauric Duffy with Kevin Glynn in their Ford Fiesta R5 (class5) had a good day out, they challenged McGonigle all day and were in the lead for the first loop of stages. Their luck was short lived and after a driveshaft broke which caused a spin and they dropped to 6th place but gradually climbed back up and gained 2 places by stage 5. They finished the day in 4th place overall and were the first Mayo & District Motorsport Club members home to take the Margaret McGreal Perpetual Cup.
In fourth position overall was Pat Donegan and Alan Kenna in a Ford Escort Mk 2, they also claimed first place in class 14. Mayo navigator Andrew Grennan took teammate Vivian Hamill home to 2nd place in their class and 7th overall. Monaghan’s Mickey Conlon who is no stranger to the Mayo Stages with his navigator Martin Byrne took first in class 13 and were 6th overall in their Ford Escort Mk 2.
James Mc Greal and Chris Mitchell in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6, continued their success of 2016 and claimed 1st place in class 15 and 33rd overall in their first outing of the year. We hope that the success of 2016 continues again in 2017.
John Duffy and John Egan in their Honda Integra had a relatively trouble free day, an early encounter with a stray ditch did not upset their day too much as they crossed the finish ramp with a 2nd in class 3 and 32nd overall.
Local man Brian Lavelle and his navigator Darren Curran were very unlucky when gearbox trouble in their Honda Civic forced them to retire after the first stage on home turf.
Foxford duo Stephen Doherty and Alan Moran in their Subaru Impreza (class 15) were troubled from the start with a misfire and despite their best efforts in first service they were unable to fix the problem and retired on stage 3.
Belmullet’s Ciaran Kennedy and Killala’s Paddy O’ Hora in their maiden voyage with their blue mark 2 Ford Escort, had a good day and after a number of small issues which were sorted by their mechanical team in service, they were back on track and came home 3rd in class 12 and 37th overall.
David Moran and John Sweeney finished 3rd in class 10 and were 46th overall in their Citroen Saxo.
After an electrical fault put them out of Birr last week, Ronan Denning and Karl Egan enjoyed their second trip out in a Peugeot 106 cup car, coming first in class 2 and 35th overall.
Trisha Greevey with navigator brother Brendan in their Honda Civic claimed 4th in their class, 43rd overall and took home 2nd place Mayo & District Club award. Her other brother Terry and his navigator Martin Hastings were not as lucky when they made contact with a stone at the end of stage 1 bringing their Peugeot 106 to a sudden halt ending their day but thankfully escaping with nothing more than minor damage to their car.
Liam Walsh who was on the notes for Florin Niedermueller in a Toyota Corolla and they finished 7th in class 11R and 25th overall.
Father and daughter team Pat and Shauna McEveney had a good day in their Toyota Corolla GTI. They had a bit of a moment on stage 4 where a bump tried to end their day, however they recovered nicely and went on to finish the event and came home 5th in their class, 45th overall and took home 3rd place in the Mayo & District Club awards.
Young jetsetter Lorcan Moore just off the plane from navigating in the Malcolm Wilson Rally the previous day in Cumbria, was back on duty with Shane Buckley in his class 13 Honda Civic. Unfortunately after climbing to 7th place after the first 2 stages, they had a disappointing end to their rally weekend when they clashed with a chicane on stage 3. But they did not go home empty handed as Shane Buckley took home the Eddie O’Hora award for the fastest Mayo & District driver on stage 1.
Another clubman who had a good day out was Ed Muldoon who navigated for Derek Jobb in a Mitsubishi Evo 9, they finished 2nd in class 4 and 36th overall. Colm Connor and James Connor finished 3rd in class 11F and 41st overall in their Toyota Corolla GTI. Well done to Keith Jacob and Michael Carr who took 1st place in the Mayo & District club awards in their Honda Civic, they came 4th in class 16 and 36th overall.
Mayo and District Motorsport Club would like to thank joint title sponsors Óstán Oileán Acla and Connacht Print & Signs, in addition to their many local sponsors, marshals and officials who helped out over the weekend, Midwest Radio and the local residents who were so welcoming and accommodating. We look forward to returning to Achill again in the not too distant future.
The 2017 Sligo Pallets Border Rally Championship was launched on Sunday in the Sligo Park Hotel, the first round of the championship will take place in next Sunday at the Mayo Stages Rally.