Tag Archives: Circuit of Ireland

Circuit of Ireland: Day Three

Craig Breen took a 6.2 second victory over Kajetan Kajetanowicz at Circuit of Ireland after a tense battle which came down to the final stage. I decided to go to the end of the final stage to see the drivers, which allowed me to see Craig celebrate with his family.

With two stages left to go Breen held what looked to be a comfortable 20 second lead over Kajto, but an off on the second to last stage damaged his car and put the Polish rival back in contention. There were many anxious faces at the finish line as Craig Breen’s family paced back and forth listening to the radio for the final result. When the news came through that Breen won the rally the family were in tears, they know more than anyone how much this means to Craig.

Having learnt from yesterday, I planned my route carefully to see as much of the stages as possible and used Google Street view to make sure I would have a good vantage point at my chosen spot. My favourite spot was on stage 15. I was perched on top of a wall above the road. From there I could see the cars come over the hill, brake hard on the run down to the bottom of the valley, and power up the hill, passing beneath me as they slowed and did a handbrake turn through a sharp right.

So how do you follow a rally? The key is to plan. If you show up at the first corner you find, you could find a decent spot, but if you want to get the best view, a quick study of the route can tell you a lot. If you’re at the bottom of a hill, you won’t see as much as at the top, and if you really plan well, you can get really close to the cars as they pass!

I plan to write at least one more post about the rally. But for now, I’m off for a well deserved beer!

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Circuit of Ireland: Day Two

Motorsport is dangerous. It’s something that is said time and time again, and for good reason. Rally crews compete because of a love for the sport and each person knows the dangers.

On the first stage of the day I picked a spot near the end of the stage. The cars and tyres will be at their operating temperatures having completed most of the stages, and the drivers will have more confidence to push so I thought it’d be interesting. I stood on a gate to see them come over the crest and power through a hard right hander.

In between cars I got talking to other spectators including Chris Ingram’s father. It was interesting to hear his thoughts on his son competing. He’s clearly proud and supportive, but there’s still anxiety. I noticed that he left quietly just before Chris’ car passed.

I quickly found out that following every stage would be impossible, unless I just wanted to see the top drivers. I wanted to watch the junior drivers, and the Tuthill Porsche 911.

The Porsche is part of the RGT series and is the same car that won the Monte Carlo Rally a few months ago. I was chatting to Robert Woodside yesterday and he said everything is the same from Monte, even the suspension (“unfortunately”, he joked). The Irish roads are a fair bit bumpier and the stiff suspension means Robert’s going to have an uncomfortable ride.

Overall I missed three stages today, which isn’t bad. I got to see at least some of each route, including the longest of the day, Hamilton’s Folly. There weren’t very many vantage points at the corner I chose, but I found a spot to see the run down the mountain, through a fast left-right chicane, and out again.

The drivers had already tried the stage earlier in the day so I didn’t think anyone would be caught out. I was wrong. Scottish driver Euan Torburn carried too much speed in his Fiesta, hitting a grass verge on the exit. I caught the impact on camera, right before the car speared into a hedge. The Fiesta recovered from the incident almost as quick as it started, but it was still a close call for the crew.

After a 8 stages Craig Breen leads Robbie Barrable by 1 second with others close behind. It was always going to be close and with 10 stages tomorrow, it’s far from over!

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Circuit of Ireland: Day One

Qualifying for the Circuit of Ireland took place today on a short 9km sprint up Whinney Hill. The rain held off which made my first experience as a rally spectator a lot easier!

With my car loaded and a hot cup of coffee, I set off early to give myself a chance to choose a vantage point. As well as warm clothes and a chair, perhaps the most essential part of a spectators luggage is a map. Knowing what roads are emergency access or poor viewing is important and the rally organisers did a great job displaying that.

The day started with a practice session, where drivers could test different setups to have a balanced car. I chose the exit of a sharp left turn at the top of the hill. I thought it would give me a chance to see cars slide through the corner -but what I got exceeded expectations!

There are a number of different cars competing this weekend, from the four wheel drive, winged ERC cars; to the smaller, front wheel drive ERC Junior cars, and many more in between. I hope to write a full post about this when the rally’s over, but you can clearly see the difference in car characteristics through the corner.

There was a break between practice and qualifying so I found myself a new spot to have a change of pace (pun intended). I made my way to the run up to the same left corner to see the cars at full speed before they hit the brakes. It was the fastest part of the stage and meant I got to see and hear the cars as they slammed on the brakes for the sharp left.

So it turns out you can park pretty close to the stage if you plan it right (I didn’t even need the bike) and since each stage is different, it’s difficult to find the right vantage point. But whether it’s at a sharp corner, or a long, fast section, you are sure to see the cars on the limit!

The first competitive stages get underway tomorrow, with Ireland’s Robbie Barrable on the road. My money’s on car #1 Craig Breen for the outright win, but it looks to be a close battle. I got to hang out with some of the drivers this evening and there’s a clear excitement from the Irish guys, particularly Breen -this is the win he’s itching for.

Check back tomorrow night to see how I got on chasing the drivers from stage to stage. So far, this has been a great experience! See below for some pictures from today!

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European Rally Stars Hit Irish Shores

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.

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