133 days. That's how long it's been since I've photographed a rally. Which might not seem like much but man had I missed it. I'm not quite sure why I'm so drawn to this sport, but the adventure of it all is definitely a lot of the appeal.
The Ulster Rally is the perfect spectators rally. Stages are just minutes from each other, easily accessed off the main Dublin - Belfast road and the service park is smartly laid out. Alarms set for 07:30, we were on the road by 08:00 and standing at the first time control of day two of the rally by 09:30. Easy as you like.
Day one (Friday) had seen biblical levels of rain and the aftermath left the stages covered in mud, debris and standing water. Adrien Fourmaux must've had a bit of an eye opener, competing on rough, technical Irish roads for the first time.
Despite this, he had a healthy lead over Callum Devine, which just showed the class of driver he really is. These roads are not easy to win on, especially with so many local specialists hunting for blood, but his noticeable level of commitment was much higher than the everyone else.
At two locations we noticed him keep the works Fiesta Rally2 absolutely pinned with just the faintest touch of left foot brake. His competitors all lifted off in a hesitant manner. To compete at the highest level you have to have the cahonas to drive just shy of the limit almost all of the time and Fourmaux showed that clearly last weekend.
Two stages and mid-day service done, we headed for the final pass of Tyrones Ditches and the penultimate stage of the rally. The beauty of Irish rallying is there is 101 access roads onto the stages so driving right up to the tape isn't an issue. You're in and out in a matter of minutes, which is great for those wanting to see as much as possible.
133 days was too long between rallies and I came away from the Ulster Rally eager to see more. Sadly the Irish Tarmac Championship is over for the year, but the hotel is booked for Killarney in December and I really can not wait.
Event: Ulster Rally 2023
Location: Newry, Northern Ireland