Review of Mayo Stages Rally 2017
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.