News 2018-04-07 - Alan Carmichael slides back to 7th!

Alan Carmichael & Ivor Lamont in the McGeehan Motorsport Mini WRCWhen the Galway International Rally was unfortunately cancelled at the start of the year, it left the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship one event short of the planned 6 counting rounds. Luckily, the Ulster Automobile Club was able to offer a substitute event in the guise of the Easter Stages Rally as a National Rally instead of the famous Circuit of Ireland International Rally. A two-day event based around Ballyclare, Co. Antrim and 12 very demanding and entertaining stages.

Alan Carmichael & Ivor Lamont have always done very well at the Circuit of Ireland in the past and also as a good test ahead of the next round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship, they had no hesitation to put an entry into the new UAC event. The McGeehan Motorsport team had two cars taking part that weekend. Not only was Alan Carmichael using the right-hand-drive Mini WRC once again but Liam Egan had also made the trip back home from New York to contest the event in his immaculate Subaru Impreza WRX with a new co-driver this time in Patrick Brides.

On day 1 of the rally, the weather was very unkind, and not dissimilar to the conditions the team faced in the first round of the NI Championship at Bishopscourt a month ago. The rain was absolutely teeming down from the sky and leaving the driving conditions very treacherous. Halfway through the very first stage was all that Alan and Ivor got before the windscreen started to steam up. The Mini WRC found it very hard to clear all the condensation that had conspired against them from all the rainwater that had unfortunately found its way into the car when the crew were dealing with the timekeepers at the start of the stage. The standing water on the road meant the car was sliding and understeering constantly but now with zero visibility. At the end of the stage, the crew gathered as much paper roll as they could to dry the inside of the car and prevent a repeat occurrence on the 2nd stage.

Alan Carmichael & Ivor Lamont in the McGeehan Motorsport Mini WRCAssuming that they had lost a lot of time, possibly minutes never mind seconds, the crew were pleasantly surprised to find that all the competitors had similar and varying issues over the opening stages. They were in fact only 13 seconds behind the leader and a very surprising 10th overall, just behind one of the top championship favourites Robert Barrable. The 2nd stage was also very treacherous but they took it cautiously and even with a slide past a junction on stage 3 they still did enough to maintain their place in the top 10. During the middle loop of stages, there was a close call when a bolt that helps to hold the engine in position, broke off. The team couldn't fully repair this in the short time allowed in service so a temporary repair was put in place with the aim to keep the car going in the rally as much as possible. The crew now had to keep this in mind and not attack the stages at 100%. Even with this handicap, the crew were still able to climb up the leaderboard from 10th to 8th overall before parking up for the night in parc ferme and concluding day 1 of the event.

Day 2 of the rally was a completely different story. The weather had decided to be somewhat kinder to everyone this time and the stages were drying up quite nicely. This made it so much more enjoyable for the crews and the stage times were starting to reflect the improved mood in the Mini WRC. There was only one service halt on Saturday and again there wasn't enough time to make a full repair to the engine bracket that was damaged on Friday. The crew knew that the car was strong enough to make the finish if they nursed it through to the end. And that they did but enjoying the Saturday stages much more than the previous 6 on Friday. Alan commented at the end of the last stage that they had made a lot of mistakes and spins that cost them time but the 2nd day of the event was so much more fun in the dry and they were delighted to find out that they had moved up the leaderboard once again to claim 7th overall and top position in class A7.

Alan Carmichael & Ivor Lamont in the McGeehan Motorsport Mini WRCLiam Egan and Patrick Brides also enjoyed their Saturday stages much better and they came home with the trophies claiming 2nd in class A4 in their Subaru Impreza WRX.
Congratulations to the 2 crews for making it to the finish and doing so well in such tough conditions where so many cars had to retire early. Once the cars came back to the finish venue in the Ballymena Showgrounds complex, they were loaded up on trailers and sent back home to Draperstown where the 2012 Mini WRC was being collected and the team now had to travel another 6 hours down the road to Tralee as Joe McGonigle was taking part in the next round of the Triton Showers Irish National Rally Championship the following day.

Published on  July 13th, 2018