The Circuit of Ireland Rally takes place this weekend, and for the second year running, the event will be part of the FIA European Rally Challenge (ERC). Top drivers from across Europe will join national rally stars – meaning a record 150 cars will compete through the Irish Countryside. I will be there, watching on from the roadside, and following the competitors from stage to stage.
This will be my first time ever following a major motorsport event live. I attended the Stormont Super Special Stage for Rally Ireland 2007, but following a full rally is a whole different ball (or should that be car?) game. Unlike a lot of sports, you can’t just sit in one spot for a whole rally and see everything. There are no big screens, no commentators, and if you want a seat you have to bring one!
Rallies consist of a series of stages run over a couple of days, typically a weekend. Each stage is a route along closed-off public roads. The competitors have a strict schedule to follow, and must drive the rally car along open public roads to get to each stage. Normally, three stages will be completed in the morning, and the afternoon will consist of the same three stages, only in the reverse direction. You still with me? Okay, apologies for the explanation, but I just wanted to illustrate to those unfamiliar to rallying why it is difficult to follow it live.
So how do you follow a rally? Well since I’ve never done this before, I’m probably not the right person to ask. I have a bicycle packed in my car, and a rucksack filled with warm clothes, snacks, and that all important seat – so I’m willing to find out. I’m hoping to post a summary at the end of each day, and hopefully by the time I’m eating Easter eggs, I’ll have no trouble answering that question.
The cars hit the roads tomorrow for practice and qualifying, before the competitive stages on Friday and Saturday. Tomorrow’s runs will be done on a single stage as many times as the drivers want, to find the best setup for the Irish roads. I’ll use it to suss out a few things, such as how close I can park, and how to find a good vantage point.
Check back Thursday night to see how I got on, but until then, have a look at the video below to see what the Circuit of Ireland Rally looks like.