Two completely different versions of the iconic Mini will be strutting their stuff at August’s Todds Leap Ulster Rally as entries for the event flood in and while they are both Mini by name, they are anything but by nature!
The first entry received was the iconic 1963 model owned by Northampton driver, Phillip Harris. Neither Harris, nor his beloved Mini, has competed in 24 years and Fermanagh has been chosen to make a rally comeback with his lovingly restored 1293cc Historic machine.
“My dad bought me this Mini in 1976 and we competed together throughout the late 70s and mid 80s but my Dad pass away in 1988 and I stopped rallying in 1990. Now my two nieces are desperate to get involved in motorsport so for the Mini’s 50th birthday I had it restored back to how a works car would have been in the 1960s and I’m hoping they will co-drive for me next year,” said Phillip.
He continued; “I’m really excited about the Mini making its debut at the Ulster Rally this year, I specifically picked the Rally as it’s a fantastic, high profile, fun event. I have great memories of Northern Ireland from the last time I competed, winning my class back in 1985.”
In contrast, the second entry was another Mini, this time from Ballymena’s Alan Carmichael, boasting a 300+ horse power turbo engine, four wheel drive and a proven pedigree having won the Ulster National Rally in the hands of Derek McGeehan in 2013. Carmichael will be hoping for another strong performance in Fermanagh to keep his NI Championship title hopes alive.
Hot on the tail of the Minis was an entry from three times Ulster Rally winner Jimmy McRae. The Scottish Rally legend is campaigning a Vauxhall Firenza in the British Historic Rally Championship and his many Irish Rally fans will be cheering him on during the event.
This year’s Ulster Rally also sets the scene for the ongoing battle between Osian Pryce and Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna for the British Rally Championship. Pryce took a convincing Rally NI win last August which was then followed by a train of wins only broken when McKenna won the Jim Clark Rally in June. Another win on the Scottish Rally in June now sees the Monaghan man arriving in Fermanagh with the advantage in the British series.
In the Clonikilty Blackpudding Irish Championship, Donegal’s Donagh Kelly has already secured his place on the start list and is expected to be joined by a large contingent of rapid WRC pilots including Irish Championship leader Declan Boyle, Monaghan’s Sam Moffitt in his Fiesta WRC and last year’s winner Garry Jennings.
Lewis Boyd, Clerk of the Course added “This year’s line-up is looking very strong in all classes. In addition to the WRCs and Minis there are a number of MKI and MKII Escorts, both modern and Historic, as well as a variety of other machinery chasing British, Irish and NI Rally Championship glory. Kicking off with a ceremonial start in Enniskillen Town Centre on Friday 15th August, the 2014 Ulster Rally promises a thrilling weekend of action.”
The Todds Leap Ulster Rally encompasses 130 competitive miles over 15 stages in the Fermanagh and Tyrone regions. Set to kick off at lunchtime on Friday 15th August with a ceremonial start in Enniskillen town, the rally finishes back in the town on Saturday from 4pm.
This year will also see the return of the family friendly Spectator Special stage and other attractions at the St. Angelo Airport complex along with the event’s Central Service Park – all within easy reach of Enniskillen town centre. Rally HQ will be based at the Belmore Court & Motel and the organisers expect 300 drivers and co-drivers, supported by over 600 service crew, to be competing in up to 150 rally cars over the two day period.
The early closing date for entries is fast approaching, so if you are a competitor, avoid a late entry charge and register before Wednesday 23rd July by logging onto: www.ulsterrally.com. The final closing date for entries is Wednesday 30th July.
Keep up-to-date with the build-up to the event through Facebook (Ulster Rally), Twitter @ulsterrally and website www.ulsterrally.com