Once you have to explain it, or even rationalise it, you’re onto a loser straight away. If you’re not into the scene, chances are you’ve probably never even heard of it. Worthersee is an enigma of an event. To VW guys it’s up there as their Mecca, the ultimate dream show to attend someday, and they spend countless hours online soaking in every last bit of coverage. To an outsider though, it’s pure madness. But that’s what makes it soo damn appealing. For such a well-known event, a lot of mystery still revolves around this most unique of gatherings. As part of my college degree, the option was available to spend a year abroad. Little did my parents know the true reason I jumped at 10 months in a very sleepy corner of Southern Austria.
The Worthersee, which lends its name to the festival, is a stunning alpine lake, roughly an hour from the Italian Border, surrounded by the foothills of the Southern Austrian Alps. The city of Klagenfurt lies at one end, and 10 mins driving later you have Velden at the other. The term picture postcard comes to mind a lot in this part of the world. Tourists flock for countless outdoor activities, and the clear calm waters are enjoyed year round. But then, for three weeks in April and May, the quiet serenity is utterly shattered, and all hell breaks loose. Living less than 10 mins from the lake, I was ideally right at the centre of what must surely be one of the world’s craziest car events. At this time of year, countless new builds are partially complete, and plenty out there are making plans for 2017, so this is my own personal look at what exactly Worthersee is all about. Who knows, I might even tempt you into booking your holidays for a trip to Austria!!
Ahh January. A time to clear the mind and body, look forward to the year ahead, plan summer holidays and survive on pennies after blowing all the wages at Christmas. A tranquil time with not much going on. But then there’s the Monte!! The traditional curtain raiser for the World Rally Championship, Rallye Monte Carlo is a legendary prospect. All the off season talk and gossip is done with, anti-lag is primed and tonight the 2017 season roars into life.
This particular off season has been unlike any other in recent times. The main point early on was the new technical regulations designed to make rally even more appealing. Last year, Dungannon’s Kris Meeke, with Killarney Co-Driver Paul Nagle, set the record fastest average speed when winning in Finland, eclipsing the much loved Group B monsters.
For 2017, Meeke will have an extra 25% more power at his disposal with the all new Citroen C3, as well as a raft of aerodynamic add-on’s and a return of electronic differentials. The opposition have upped their game as well, with Hyundai debuting the gorgeous I20 Coupe, Ford (M-Sport) have brought along a wild looking Fiesta, and for the first time since ’99 Toyota are back with the Yaris WRC. Thought your track Honda had a big wing??
While car development dominated the early part of the off-season, the shock departure of VW really blew everything out of the water. Here you had the most dominant team of the past 3 years, racking up consecutive Driver and Manufacture titles, with an all-new 2017-spec Polo ready to go, simply pulling the plug. Brand image was at the heart of the decision, thanks to Dieselgate. Suddenly, what was an already crowded driver market had 3 of the best drivers dropped into the mix including current champion Sebastian Ogier. All previous thoughts of deals across the board were off. M-Sport got Ogier, so the new Fiesta carries both Number 1 (1st time a Ford has done so since 1998) and a vibrant Red Bull Livery. Jari-Matti Latvala takes the reigns of the Yaris in what is a very Finnish dominated squad, while last year’s WRC runner up Andreas Mikkelson lost out, and so he takes on the Monte in a WRC2 Skoda Fabia.
Irish fans should be taking a massive interest in how 2017 develops, as not only have we Kris and Paul as current favourites, Waterford’s Craig Breen is a teammate at Citroen. Breen will drive a 2016-spec DS3 in Monte Carlo, as the team rush to get further cars built, but expect a full assault once that comes online in a few months. Breen showed serious pace last year in his debut WRC works drive, so big things are expected for him and co-driver Scott Martin. There’s other Irish interest as well among the 116 car field, with former Irish Tarmac champion Eamonn Boland taking on the Monte yet again in his Ford Fiesta R5, with MJ Morrissey alongside him.
As the rally fires into life Thursday evening, I’ll be glued to live timing and rally radio. I’m flying out Friday afternoon, so the sat-nav is primed, I have the sleeping bag packed and raring for road. The plan, hopefully not ambitious but rubbish, is to camp out on the stages Friday and Saturday nights. The Saturday is handy as the locations I’ve picked out aren’t far from the service area in Gap, but Sunday is the exciting one where the plan is to get to the world famous Col De Turini. Now, all I have to worry about is getting the camera bag through as hand luggage, and dealing with the small matter of driving on the wrong side. So January eh. Oh for the quiet life!
Have you ever looked at the world of drifting and wondered what on earth are they doing? Destroying tires often in a couple of laps-wait I mean corners!Spending thousands on cars with engines producing four figure brake horsepower. I have followed drifting since we started FreshFix back in 2010, I can honestly say now that I have never really understood the rules 100%. Recently Rob and I were down at the Irish amateur drift championship and wanted to answer all the questions we had. Thankfully head judge Kieran Hynes gave us some of his time to explain exactly how the IDC drifting is judged.
When drivers arrive the must sign on and head to drivers briefing. At every event, the drivers would be introduced to a course layout which is printed out and stuck on the wall for everyone to see. The system which they run in the IDC is called Line based which they have developed over the year and is very much so about precision. When you look at this “map” so to speak you can see the course, clipping points, speed gun and the line which the judges want you to follow. The judges could spend up to twenty minutes explaining to the driver’s what they are looking for and what’s in the judges head of the perfect qualifying line.
To make it easier for the drivers and also for the people watching the drifting from the banks of the track or online they paint the clipping points on the track. Unfortunately, at winter the track does not stay dry long enough for the team to do this so cones can often be the replacement for the painted boxes.
So what do these painted boxes mean? Well, the front or the rear of the car must run through these boxes depending on where the box is positioned. This all sounds very easy but when you have to drift a car to these exact points at high speed it can be difficult. They also can place these boxes at points which have the concrete walls close buy. Some can skim the rear bumper or spoiler along the wall while others come in too hot and can often write the car off like we saw with the 240sx belonging to Darren mc Namara which was driven by Robbie Nishida.
The briefing is over and the drivers and judges all understand what they need to do. Drivers must go through qualifying first. In qualifying a speed gun is used- for what I hear you ask. Well during the practice session the speed gun is used to set the target speed for the qualifying run. For example, if the speed is set at 70mph the automated system will add and deduct points based on how much above or below the driver is from the target speed. The point of the speed gun is to encourage the drivers to push as hard as they can. The driver starts off with 100 points as they leave the start line and points are deducted as they go along. Points can be deducted for corrections, missing clipping points, entry speed and not sticking to the line. Kieran commented that “it needs to be nice and flowing to score well”. The driver only has two runs to qualify for the battles. There are only 32 spots available with over 70 drivers on the grid your day could end very quickly.
With qualifying finished the driver who qualified first will battle against the driver who qualified last and so on. This seems tough for the person sitting in 32nd trying to take out the person in 1st. It can easily happen with one simple mistake ending the day. Kieran went on to explain how the battles work, “Again you have two runs, one time you are the leading car and the second time you are the chase car”. The leading car must do the qualifying run while the chasing car must mirror the run while being as close as possible to the chase car-they have a 3-meter rule. The three judges will do the scores based on their opinion and the driver’s return to the start line reversing positions. The new lead car must then do the same and at the end, the judges will decide who wins the battle with the scores tallied up.
Going back to the 3 meters, now obviously they don’t get the measuring tape out to see are they exactly 3 meters apart but if the chase car is close and is twinning well with the lead car they will have the advantage for that run. If a big gap is pulled between the two cars the run is judged on two qualifying runs with points deducted for the chase car for having such a large gap. If the lead car runs the perfect qualifying line they make it easier for the chase car to twin with him, to encourage this they can also award points to that driver.
As we are aware you get points deducted from your run, if you mess up the start of your run and a judge decides that you lose 10 points by clip two you are unable to get them points back. If you spin on your run be it in qualifying or a battle you are scored an automatic fat 0-Pressure is on for the second run! If the car understeers you again get points taken away depending on how bad and long it was, this is up to the judge to decide.
Contact is allowed in this sport but only recently, years ago if you made contact with the car it was a 0 straight away. If you hit the car enough which causes it to spin or having to correct you will be deducted points, BUT if you are on the door of the other driver and have slight rubbing and nudging you cannot be penalized for it. Not also does it put on a great show for the fans alike it really shows off the drivers skill.
If you watch come dine with me, Judge Judy or drifting you are always going to have some sort of conflict with a decision over what a judge said or did. Kieran pointed out that every judge is different in every series around the world. He went on to use Kevin O Connell as the example with ” Kevin is a very technical judge, the line is very very important to him” ” Other judges are about angle and style”. I can agree on the angle part but style? how can you show style, if you are reading this and can clearly explain style please do? Maybe judging needs Gok Wan to get into the judging tower and he can be the judge of style. ” At the end of the day as long as a judge is consistent that is the main thing”
Kieran when on to finish off with ” At the end of the day with sit in the judging tower and it doesn’t matter what actually happened out on the track it’s what appears to have happened from where they are sitting, its the only way drifting can work.
Photo Credit: Paddy Mc Grath
If you are in anyway a car nut you’ll probably already know about Mighty Car Mods, RoadKill and the likes of Car Throttle etc. But if you keeping digging through Youtube you can find plenty of hidden gems. Here are our top 5 car channels to subscribe to on Youtube,
I came across his channel after he made a video of his crash at the Nurburgring when the fuel tank fell out of his Dc2 at high speed! If you are a track day nut who enjoys double clutching and some heel toe action then you will enjoy his videos. He cuts out all the rubbish you get in other car channel videos. He’s pretty good at explaining what he’s doing in his videos and can sometimes give you that kick up the arse to go work on your own car. He owns a k20 DC2 along with his 328 BMW that he uses to learn how to drift. You can find his car channel here
Ever fancied living in Japan? Well, you must follow this guy if you want to see what really goes on. He really shows off the culture in Japan and makes you extremely jealous of what goes on in his videos. He is consistently at the Ebisu circuit in his missile R32 skyline and Ae86. I’ve personally never been to Japan but he really gives you a taste of the culture. You can find his car channel here.
This is a weird one because I came across Monky London when googling Ek3 race cars at the time I was building my own EK3 race car. He had just bought one which he plans on putting a b18 engine into it. It turns out he’s a proper Hoonigan and is not afraid to let rip on the roads, he also does fantastic drift diaries in his “trusty soarer”. Along with his own cars, he does some car reviews. Just expect lots NOM NOMS and Duggits.
You can find his car channel here
Ever wanted to know what it’s really like to own a Supercar? Well, he shows you all the in’s and out’s of doing so. The first ever video I saw of him is when he owned a Skyline R32 GTR and showed the reactions of the Americans asking what it was because it was RHD. He also went to the main Nissan Dealer to get a service and well eh, I will let you watch it above. You can find his car channel here
Yep, you might be looking at the URL wondering what website you’re actually on. The page is still young in terms of fresh content but you can find plenty of my on boards from racing in the fiesta series to some car builds and motorsport diaries. So don’t miss out and subscribe to our youtube car channel here.
Things happen in Ireland happen every day of the week that we never hear of. Events slip by without a single sliver of coverage, yet enjoyed immensely by those involved. It’s an Irish thing, and any bit of driving around the country you’ll find plenty of signs and posters for a plethora of oddball gatherings. But how is it that there are events going on nearly every weekend, all over the Island, attracting thousands of enthusiastic followers and competitors willing to rack up huge costs in expensive cars solely in search of excitement, yet most have never heard of it?? Welcome to Irish Rallying!
The year, for me at least, kicked off in Galway in mid-February. The traditional season opener for the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship (ITRC), the country’s premier series, Galway is renowned for being the first sighting moment for all manner of new cars and crews. This year was different!! Not only did we see the start of a new season, but also the start of a new Era in Irish Rallying. Over the winter, Motorsport Ireland had decreed that 2016 would see the rise of the R5, the chosen top line category for the championship moving forward.
Until now, WRC’s had ruled the roost in Irish rallying for the past 15 years. Looking back over previous title winners, the roll call of Subaru Impreza’s and Ford Focus WRC’s victories was stunning, but it was becoming too much. Expensive to run, both the older 2L cars and more modern 1.6L equivalents, and scarcer at big events, the powers that be decreed that the latest R5 spec cars were to become the shining beacons.
An R5 car is, in all regards, a very serious piece of kit. Based on road cars, rules stipulate a 1.6 Turbo Charged engine pushing upwards of 280BHP, Four Wheel Drive, massively uprated suspension and much more. The difference, when parked next to a WRC car, is not inherently noticeable, but it’s the part sourcing, and cost saving where the true difference lies. Rather than having a car packed full of very expensive, very bespoke parts, R5’s use a lot more off the shelf components and as such running costs are lowered. But would the gamble work?? Absolutely. For the first time in years, we saw a true battle for the title across nearly a dozen top drivers, which ultimately went down to the final round. Added to that, it was brand new cars out there pushing hard on the stages such as Ford Fiesta’s, Citroen DS3’s and a few Skoda Fabia R5’s.
But back to Galway. I still feel wet thinking back to that weekend. Saturday was like a battle scene. Car after car wheeled off on the back of trailers each in a worse state of destruction. We had leaders in ditches, hard chargers ending up on their roof and all manner of slipping and sliding in between.
And then Sunday brought the deluge. I don’t remember ever being out in such conditions. Access roads began to flood, yet the rally went on regardless. And who better to send out in such awful conditions then the Juniors. A separate section on nearly every rally, and something I’ll be looking into more deeply soon, the Juniors is a shortened rally designed to get younger competitors involved in the sport. Cars are capped at 1.6L, driver’s age at 26, and basically, everything else goes. It has slowly become a parade of fast charging Honda Civics of late, although we’ve seen some noticeable exceptions.
Next up was the traditional Paddy’s Weekend trip to Clonakilty for the West Cork Rally. Ever a crowd favorite, and a recent addition to the Tarmac championship, the West Cork is just a string of some of the most iconic stages and locations in Irish rallying. Ring Village, Ballinglanna, Ardfield etc. While the World Cars may have been excluded from scoring points in the championship, it didn’t stop their owners from competing. For a record breaking third time in-a-row, it would be Donagh Kelly tasting champagne aboard the Double Decker bus in Clonakilty come Sunday evening.
Over in the National Championship, though, the WRC car still reigned supreme. A series of one day, smaller events, the National championship has blossomed of late with massive entry lists and fantastic stages. One of those mounting a serious early charge on the National was the ever flamboyant Gary Jennings in his distinctive Subaru Impreza S12 WRC.
By the time May came about, Killarney was awash with the sunshine, and my clothes and camera were peppered with dust and stones. Rally of The Lakes is a name that resonates across car scenes, and although perhaps we don’t all trudge South solely for the rally, it’s hard to match the buzz around the town for the weekend.
For those standing out though, there’s always a certain vehicle that both creates smiles and scratches heads almost everywhere you go. The Ford Escort MK2. Once a venerable grocery getter designed by Ford as an everyday car in the 1970’s, the Escort has become a staple of the rally scene, none more so than here in Ireland. One of more extravagant exponents of the sideways style adored by fans is Liam Howlett. You don’t get a Hitler Subtitle video or a song dedicated to you by being quiet behind the wheel. This year would see Liam never mind finish the Lakes (there were commemorative t-shirts to mark this fact) but steer Big Red to third overall in the Modified section. He promptly returned to form and crashed soon after, and again, and again!!
But Killarney had been a lot damper only a few weeks previously when we old school rally geeks got an Easter treat. I’ve grown up fascinated by tales of the Circuit of Ireland. A distantly related event bearing the same name ran as part of the ’16 ITRC, but it was the true ‘Circuit’ from the 70’s and 80’s that has me up at all hours watching grainy videos on YouTube. Back then, the circuit was not merely a title but a description. The event ran for 5 days, often with little rest, and saw crews tackle stages right around the country. And it was massive!! International superstars became legends as they tackled Irish lanes. As a chance to look back at the glory days, Circuit déjà vu brought together a plethora of rallying’s legendary names and cars for one hell of a special day.
It’s not every day you stroll into a coffee shop in rural Kerry with a priceless Porsche Carrera sitting at the door. As you make your way in, you have to excuse yourself as you brush past Paul Nagle, Citroen Works Co-Driver for Kris Meeke, discussing the Monte Carlo Rally with none other than 1964 winner Paddy Hopkirk.
As you queue for a coffee, it’s becoming almost surreal as standing right in front is none other than 5-times British Rally champion, and father of the late Colin, Jimmy McRae.
And then to cap it off the only spare seat in the house is at a table with Billy Coleman who’s just given a display in sideways driving in his ’74 British Championship winning Escort up Molls Gap less than an hour beforehand. A man that could have taken on the world yet chose to farm instead.
Returning from Dreamland, and the events continued to roll by thick and fast. As the ITRC completed its northern loop of events, Donegal, The Circuit of Ireland & The Ulster, I was out closer to home. The Imokilly club in East Cork has grown enormously over the last while. Evolving from hosting a RallySprint in the Cork Mart a few years ago, they now play host to one of the more competitive Mini-Stages events in the country. A non-championship event, these rallies are a chance for the clubmen to really go out and enjoy their local stages without the pressure of the big guns at the head of the field. Its club man level events like this that provide the lifeblood to Irish rallying, and are a real proving ground for anyone with aspirations of moving up the ranks.
An added bonus for this event was their ability to attract two of possibly the country’s crowd favorites, Frank Kelly & Declan Gallagher, to give their co-driver seats up for charity to raise funds for a very worthy local charity. This certainly wasn’t just a fun run though as the Milkman (Gallagher) came home 2nd overall with rookie co-driver Shane O’Mahony.
The main championship came down to a final battle royal around the stages of Cork as 4 drivers came to the ’20 with hopes of walking away with the Tarmac crown. First to wilt was Alistair Fisher. Coming in as point’s leader, Fisher lost control on the last loop on Saturday seeing both his Fiesta and title ambitions turned upside down.
Another pair of contenders would be the Moffett brothers Sam & Josh. Each pushed right to the very last, aided by both sibling rivalry and determination to grab the title. Josh ended up taking the rally victory, but results elsewhere just didn’t fall right for his title charge. As a reward for his hard charging all year, Josh Moffett took home the Billy Coleman award for Young Rally Driver of the year.
But alas, it was the quiet man from Ballylickey that ended the year as Irish Tarmac Champion. Keith Cronin had a mixed year with some stunning championship victories peppered with crushing lows as the title lay in the balance. Seeing his main rival Fisher drop out on Saturday, the 3-Times BRC champion had the required cool head to get his DS3 R5 home safely and secure the tarmac crown.
With the two main titles secured, Roy White taking the National crown in his Fiesta WRC, the Donegal Harvest rally was a chance for the local RWD crews to have some fun. Although every rally sees its fair share of spectacular Modified action, its seems to be Monaghan and Donegal that really ramp this up to the last. The Modified’s are home to the wild side of Irish Rallying. Race engines push once humble every day cars to unbelievable speeds. Engine sizes are capped at a maximum of 25% larger than original, so the 2.5L Class 14 is the zenith. Builds regularly top €80,000, while every last inch of performance is squeezed out with all manner of upgrades allowed.
Twin Cam Corolla’s, normally associated with marking cross roads at events like Killarney or Donegal International, really have a warm place in Northern Rallying. I’m sure I lost count at about 9 or 10 of the Toyota coupe’s out talking the Harvest Stages, although it was the McGettigan brothers who were really on a charge all day, both on road and occasionally when taking flight.
The Harvest also gave me, in particular, the first glimpse of John Mullholland’s incredible 1.3L BDA engine Escort. When people call things a screamer, it can generally be debated. But an Escort coming down a country lane at nearly 10,000 rpm is something that still gives me a fizz.
The last event for me anyway in 2016 was actually the first event of 2017’s championship bizarrely. Aimed solely as Ireland’s only Historic rally, Killarney plays host in early December to a dazzling array of older rally cars. Split into two distinct parts, the first cars you get to enjoy are the true Historic spec cars, built to the same spec as in their heydays of the late 70’s, complete with screaming BDA’s.
The other side of the event is a chance for some of the country’s fastest Modified rally cars to really come out and play. The Modifieds is where you’ll find Escorts that in the right conditions could outrun World cars, Millington engines, cutting-edge technology all wrapped up in 30-year-old bodies. It’s truly glorious.
Add in the beauty of having Irelands only night stage and Killarney Historic is a special way to end the year. It’s an absolute nightmare to photograph, but by god its one hell of a cool sight to witness.
So that’s my little look back at the 2016 rallying year. The next 12 months has plenty instore and I’m looking forward to another year hanging off ditches and hopefully, I’ll give ye an insight into the mad world of Irish Rallying.