OK, I’ll begin with a confession. I f**king love rallying.
Sure, it is not the most glamorous form of motorsport, everything about it is gruelling. It is tough on cars, tough on teams, tough on drivers and tough on spectators too. This is probably why most people will try tell you there are better motorsports to watch, but trust me, there isn’t.
In Ireland, the purest, most raw form of motorsport is dearly loved and each year, towards the end of November when the Irish wind and rain is beating hardest, the small heritage town of Killarney springs alive to the sound of throaty carburettors and rattling transmissions.
Killarney, situated in County Kerry, is the last stop before the perilous peaks and lakes of the Kingdom of Ireland. While the town plays host to newer machinery at the International ‘Rally of the Lakes’ in mid-summer, it also hosts the historic event in the winter. Taking place over a single day of action, the historic rally is a helter skelter run of period correct vehicles, followed by a faster, modified category of elderly cars that compete for a class win.
At this event, WRC star Craig Breen took to the wheel of a 1980 Ford Escort MK2, competing for overall honours, attempting to add to his ever-growing list of victories. Running first car on the road, Breen endured a baptism of fire as he swapped 400HP, 4WD world rally car for an outdated machine with no power steering and a manual transmission.
So, it’s 7AM, I’ve already been up for two hours and four sausages are burning on my small camping stove at the side of Molls Gap, one of the most famous stages in Irish rallying. I am patiently waiting for Breen to appear through the mist, BDA singing at 9,000 RPM, and hoping my index finger thaws in time to press the shutter.
Right on cue, the dancing MK2 Escort appears, fishtailing wildly out of a fast right hander before accelerating at awesome pace towards my lens. I rattle off a burst of shots and then the MK2 lurches left, front wheel lifting briefly, and Breen is gone, nothing visible but a rooster tail of spray. Thirty seconds later, the next car arrives, and the same flurry of colour, noise and rain occurs.
This is rallying and it doesn’t get much better.