Ireland’s National Rally Championship continues on the first weekend of April as Birr Stages Rally hosts the second round of the season.
Three loops of two stages creates a compact route of 99 stage kilometres for an oversubscribed Birr Stages Rally.
Birr’s organisers have received over 180 entries for the event which runs on 3rd April. A maximum of 150 crews can start the rally.
Birr Stages Rally will be based in Birr, County Offaly, for the first time since receiving national rally status over 10 years ago.
A stellar line-up includes leading contenders Josh Moffett, Desi Henry, Keith Cronin, and Garry Jennings as well as top two-wheel-drive pilots Gary Kiernan, Kevin Eves, Jason Black, and the returning Dessie Keenan.
Club stalwart Eoin Longworth steps in as Clerk of the Course this year. With a string of single stage and forest rallies to his repertoire, he’s looking forward to giving the rally a homely and welcoming atmosphere as it returns to where the motor club was founded 54 years ago.
As well as its location change, Birr Stages Rally also runs on a different date in 2022. It joins the Cork 20 International Rally and Moonraker Forest Rally as events with slightly different dates on the 2022 Motorsport Ireland calendar.
While Birr’s date change came rather unexpectedly, it was one Longworth was happy to accomodate. Birr effectively slotted into the Circuit of Kerry’s usual rally weekend after Kerry Motor Club was unable to take two slots in the calendar.
Kerry Motor Club will mark its 50th anniversary with November’s Mini Stages Rally.
“We got the date by default,” explained Longworth. “2022 was meant to be our year out. I had the event planned but we were told before Christmas that we weren’t in for 2022.
“There was an issue that came up with the Circuit of Kerry and Banna Beach. They were told they could have either but not both.
“I was then asked if Birr would be interested in the 3rd of April and I asked the question three times to confirm what I was hearing.
“3rd of April – what a fabulous date. Longer days, clock has changed, weather is better, and I knew that coming into the event we wouldn’t be worried about ice or snow or inclement weather.
“There was no need to question, it was a case of ‘thank you very much!’”
The Cork 20 International Rally was perhaps the most notable event with a different date pencilled in for 2022. It is set to take place on the last weekend of July rather than its usual September slot.
Speaking to Rally Insight, Cork 20’s Clerk of the Course Kevin O’Riordan explained the logic behind the shake-up.
“It’s no secret that Munster Car Club had applied for an earlier date in recent years.
“With it being one of the last rallies of the year and also the last round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, we felt an earlier date would benefit the club.
“We simply indicated that we would be open to a date change if one were to become available.
“The Cork 20 date change was part of an overall revamp of the Motorsport Ireland calendar.
“The Motorsport Ireland Rallies Commission decided it had to happen to protect the sport into the future.
“It reduced the number of national rallies by around eight events per year, placed iconic events like the Cork 20 earlier in the year, and aimed to have a minimum of one free weekend between all stage rallies.
“I think this is a beneficial move for everyone, marshals included as you see the same people out manning the stages week after week.”
As the year continues, it still looks so far so good for Motorsport Ireland’s calendar alterations. Entries are maxed out and the stages are lined with anticipant spectators.
Let’s hope the positive momentum stretches far beyond next weekend’s Birr Stages Rally.
2022 Birr Stages Rally itinerary
SS1 Knockhill 1, 15.7 km – 10:00
SS2 Glenafelly 1, 17.4 km – 10:42
SS3 Knockhill 2, 15.7 km – 12:33
SS4 Glenafelly 2, 17.4 km – 13:15
SS5 Knockhill 3, 15.7 km – 15:01
SS6 Glenafelly 3, 17.4 km – 15:43
Photos by Adam Hall and Ross Delaney