Written: May 2022
It's 4AM, I'm in Krakow, Poland and my alarm has just woken me from around 3 hours of sleep. In exactly 12hrs time scrutiny at the 2021 Killarney Historic Rally was due to take place and I planned to be there. What sounded pretty doable in my head a week previous was suddenly becoming a fairly large task.
Bleary eyed, I walk the few hundred metres from the AirBNB to the train, in freezing cold conditions and board the line for Krakow airport. A few hours later and the Ryanair flight is airborne, landing in Dublin airport at about 11AM. My father is waiting, bags already packed for a days rallying and we begin the 4 hour drive to Killarney.
At this point I'm running on fumes so an early night is essential as another tiring day of activity begins at dog-hour the following Saturday. Once again, my alarm blares and I only begin to wake as we begin the ascent up Molls Gap in the early morning mist.
I love this period of time in a typical rally-goers day. The roads are suddenly alive with cars full of spectators mixed with groggy tiredness and giddy excitement, heading for earmarked viewing locations along the stages. Somewhere, in the valley below Molls Gap, the unmistakable sound of 4-cylinder rally cars can be heard, weaving about, warming tyres and brakes on their way to the start-line.
Car parked, rucksacks dumped in a ditch and a hot cup of coffee in hand, the wait for the first car begins. I've only fully woken up at this point, after-all it is only around 7:30AM. Dawn breaks and the sun is suddenly beaming across the road and right on cue, the flag drops on the start-line over 10KM away and a vibrant BMW E30 M3 violently begins the ascent to Molls Gap.
Its occupants are non other than current WRC contenders Craig Breen and Paul Nagle. This event was an exhibition of sorts as it was the final rally the crew were allowed compete in before signing the contract to exclusively drive a current Rally1 Ford Puma for two years.
And what a machine to do it in. The Mats Van Den Brand built BMW M3 is probably the most aggressive and loudest E30 M3 I've ever heard. The sound of the S14 screaming north of 10k RPM up the Gap was something else, Craig absolutely wringing its neck hunting for the win.
Craig and Paul pass followed by a 200+ strong entry list featuring a staggering amount of Ford Escort MK2s, the most I have ever seen at an Irish rally and really that is what makes this historic rally so special. The stacked entry is an appeal that draws crews from all over Europe, creating a party atmosphere on the stages.
Once again, this rally cements itself as a highlight in my motorsport calendar, making the early starts and lengthy travel ordeals to get there more than worth it.
Event: Killarney Historic Rally 2021