Festival of Motorsport Launch at Stormont Building

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Early morning sunshine graced the beautiful surroundings at Stormont today as Armagh Lions Club and North Armagh Motorcycle and Car Club Ltd (NAMCC Ltd) launched their inaugural Festival of Motorsport.
Due to take place in Loughgall Country Park, County Armagh, on Saturday 2 June, Stormont reverberated to the sound of rally and autotest cars as MLAs sampled high-octane action outside Parliament Buildings.
This weekend’s Festival is the first of its kind on these shores. Organised to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care, the event will consist of a Historic Rally Car Challenge over a 2.75 mile all-tarmac special stage, Apple Blossom Autotest, as well as static cars displays.
It has attracted world renowned talent from home ground and further afield, including 1979 World Rally Champion, Swede Björn Waldegård. He is joined by a number of former British and Irish rally champions and the Festival will also feature some of Northern Ireland’s leading autotest talent.
Combined with static car displays, family entertainment (including the Red Bull display team), as well as professional catering facilities, Loughgall Country Park will be a hive of activity this weekend!
Speaking at today’s launch, Festival Director Kieran McAnallen said: "I am delighted with the progress that has been made by the Armagh Lions Club and North Armagh Motorcycle & Car Club to bring this spectacular event together. From something which started quite small, I can’t believe it has grown into such a major sporting event. It promises to be day which the public will enjoy immensely, and with sponsors on board in the form of the Donnelly Group, even bigger and better events are promised for the future!"
It was Armagh Lions Club member, Ivor Ferguson, who conceived the idea just one year ago following the running of the Apple Blossom Autotest (again a joint venture between Armagh Lions Club and NAMCC Ltd). He thought it would be a fantastic idea to bring a historic rally to Loughgall Country Park and turn it into a bigger event.
"It’s great to be here today after the Festival of Motorsport was conceived from an initial idea just 12 months ago," Ivor Ferguson said. "The jointly organised original venture included an autotest and static displays in Loughgall Country Park last year. It has grown to include the Historic Rally Car Challenge and much more this year. I’m very pleased to see how it has progressed and we hope to continue this successful event for many years to come."
North Armagh Motorcycle & Car Club Ltd is no stranger to organising high profile events, with its Turkington Lurgan Park Rally attracting thousands of spectators to Lurgan in August. Thousands of spectators are also expected in Loughgall this weekend, as competitors of past and present roar into action.
"On behalf of North Armagh Motorcycle and Car Club Ltd, it’s fantastic to have the use of this magnificent venue," said NAMCC Ltd Clerk of the Course, William Fullerton. "We have a new tarmac special stage this year with a great layout. To run a historic rally is a wonderful new venture for us as a motor club and it’s a unique event in Northern Ireland motorsport. It’s great to see so much interest in the events which is reflected in the high quality entries."
Indeed, massive interest has been received for the Historic Rally Car Challenge and the event has been boosted by a number of overseas entries. Sweden’s Björn Waldegård, the 1979 World Rally Champion, will reacquaint himself with the same Ford Escort RS1800 which he used to win the 1977 Safari Rally.
"It was 30 years ago when I last drove this car," Waldegård said. "I have very fond memories and it’s great to have the opportunity to drive it again. I’m really looking forward to the rally this weekend and to be back again competing in Ireland!"
Waldegård will be joined by former British Rally Champion, Russell Brookes. He is twice winner of the British series, and is a former works driver for many teams. He will be reunited with a Talbot Sunbeam, while Irishman Billy Coleman will join the fray in an RS1800 Escort. He is also a former winner of the British Championship, as well as the Irish Tarmac Championship.
A number of other distinguished names can also be found on the entry list, including Cathal Curley, Adrian Boyd, Tony Fall, Ivor Clark and Dessie McCartney. Meanwhile, entries for the Apple Blossom Autotest are equally spectacular, with a number of Northern Ireland’s leading lights. Drivers such as Eric Patterson, Noel Cochrane, Ken Irwin, Raymond Donaldson and Sam Bowden are just the tip of the iceberg.
Gates in Loughgall Country Park open at 9am on Saturday with festivities getting underway at 10am. Entry to the venue costs £10 per person (accompanied children under 16 are free), with Marie Curie Cancer Care benefiting from the proceeds. A full colour programme will be available and free parking will be provided.
<strong>Historic Rally Car Challenge – top 15 entries</strong>
1 Bjorn Waldegard/Kevin Toner Ford Escort RS1800
2 Billy Coleman/Colm Quinn Ford Escort RS1800
3 Russell Brookes/Desmond Mallon Talbot Sunbeam Lotus
4 Cahal Curley/Elkin Robinson Porsche 911
5 Tony Fall/TBA Mini Cooper S
6 Adrian Boyd/Brian Boyd Renault Alpine A110
7 Ivor Clark/Martin McGrath Hillman Avenger
8 Dessie McCartney/TBA Porsche 911
9 Robin Eyre-Maunsell/Norman Henderson Sunbeam Tiger
10 Roy Cathcart/TBA Ford Escort RS1800
11 John Keatley/Maurice Beckett Ford Escort RS1800
12 John McClean/Patrick McBride Ford Escort RS1800
14 Andrew McLoone/James Sharkey Ford Escort RS1800
15 Mervyn Johnston/Stuart Hyland Austin Mini Cooper S
<strong>Apple Blossom Autotest (top two in each class)</strong>
Noel Cochrane (last year’s winner) – MG Midget
Class 1 Robert Dickson – Mini Special
Class 1 Samuel Baird – Wolseley Hornet
Class 2 David Jenkins – MG Midget
Class 2 Mike Adair – MG Midget
Class 3 Eric Patterson – Vauxhall Nova
Class 3 Wallace McKee – Vauxhall Chevette


About Author

Graham is a professional photographer and motoring writer with over 15 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and rally events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers. See more at grahamcurry.com

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