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A welcome return for motorsport


MAKING A BIG SPLASH Crossmolina's Lorcan Moore in action in the American Rally Championship.

Easing of Covid-19 restrictions saw a release of the brakes

Andy Walsh

AFTER the pace notes were called on March 8 2020 and the Mayo Stages Rally was wrapped up, a chain of events was set in motion which would leave the Motorsport world in a coma barely 72 hours later.
While Covid-19 touched all aspects of the sports industry, the events of the second week in March almost two years ago — and the ensuing 18 months — were the most dramatic motorsport has ever faced in this country.
It wasn’t until four months ago in September 2021 that racesuits and helmets were donned and safety harnesses were fastened as Stage Rallying returned to the roads of Ireland.
Not much could have happened in four months you may think?
Well, time to buckle up and hold on for a review of local motorsport enthusiasts in the area.
Without doubt the most successful local crew since the resumption has been the South Mayo husband and wife team of John Warren and Ruthann O’Connor in their McHale Engineering-backed Toyota Corolla.
A class win on the first stage rallying event to resume in the Republic — the Cork 20 International Rally in September — was followed up with another podium a few weeks later at the Donegal Harvest Rally.
 John, a design engineer with McHale Engineering, really set tongues wagging after his performance at the Wexford Stages Rally in October where, on his and Ruthann’s first time tackling the south east stages, came away with another podium class finish.  But the best was yet to come as the pair made for the Kerry Motorclub, Banna Stages Rally in November where a calculated drive saw them finish ninth overall out of 140 starters and secure yet another class podium finish.
Notable local drivers who got behind the wheel following the resumption to blow off the cobwebs included Westport’s Ed Muldoon at the Laois Rallysprint; fellow ‘covey’ David Healy who made trips to Donegal and Wexford; Castlebar’s Gerry Casey who had a good run out at the Killarney Historic Rally; Piotr Kundriarz who got to grips with gravel at the Clare Autocross; and Jason Murphy who contested the Cavan Autocross.
Local navigators were also well in the mix the last few months with Andrew Grennan, John McCarthy and Jason Murphy featuring in the Donegal Harvest Rally; Sara McFadden made the trip to Wexford; Stephen Mc Ging and David Carney both sat on in Laois; and David Doherty at the Killarney Historics.  
But on the topic of local navigators, young Lorcan Moore from Crossmolina has had somewhat of a dream year in rallying and despite the pandemic he managed to compete in 10 rallies in 2021, three of which were in America and the rest in Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Just last month news broke of him being retained in a graduate role in the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy Elite Co-driver programme, which sees him given opportunities like last week testing the new Hyundai i20N Rally 2 car in Spain with Hyundai Junior driver, Josh McErlean.
We can’t mention the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy without acknowledging local Bekan man, Sean McHugh, who has been instrumental with the formation of the Academy.
The recently-retired teacher from Ballyhaunis Community School has been to the forefront of the success of Irish drivers with their involvement on the world scene of rallying with programs in the FIA European Rally Championship and the FIA World Rally Championships.
Along with the role of Academy co-ordinator, Sean is also the co-ordinator of the internationally-recognised, ‘Billy Coleman Award’.  
Looking at local future young talent in the area over the last four months, Niall Murphy, David Kundziarz and Vanessa McFadden racked up mileage at the Clare Autocross where young Shane Geraghty stole the show with his performance on his first day out.
Vanessa also steered her Hyundai i10 on a number of RSA events which also saw Castlebar teenager Zoe Nimmo in action. Zoe plans to contest the Irish Tarmac Championship in 2022, alongside her dad Gordon in the West Motorsport tangoed Fiesta.
From a Motorsport Club point of view, usual Autocross events were curtailed due to Covid restrictions but in October, Maggie Bonner headed up a team to revive the ‘Margaret McGreal Eco Drive’ which this year raised funds in aid of Multiple Sclerosis Ireland.
What does 2022 hold in store for Motorsport in Mayo?
Well, plans are already in place for the return of the Mayo Stages Rally, full details of which will be released in line with government Covid guidelines.
But for now, draw big ‘Green and Red’ circles around March 6, 2022 on your calendar!

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