Many of you will know what the Circuit of Ireland Rally is from my pictorial and editorial coverage in here over the years, and indeed it is one of the world’s oldest and once toughest rallies around. Ran for years by the Ulster Automobile Club (UAC) it went from strength to strength and died off over the years, returning to full bloom in the last few years again.
So you know the club, and you know the flagship event they host each year, but what is the Targa Rallying title about? Well the UAC also host several other motorsport events each year and these events will cover various initiatives within the sport. These initiatives all come with varying machinery, skill levels and above all else; cost.
We all know that stage rallying can be an expensive sport. On top of buying a car, you have the added expenses of maintenance, entry fees, fuel, keeping numerous items of important safety equipment ‘in date’…the list goes on.
However, there is something to suit everyone’s budget within the sport and while stage rallying can be more expensive, you can start competing in other forms of motorsport from as little as £20 and experience the same thrills in nothing more than your road car.
This now brings us to Clandeboye Estate in Bangor and in particular; Clandeboye Sawmill close to the entrance to the estate and the annual “UAC Equinox Targa Rally” event which for the last decade or so, has held a test around the sawmill, with stunningly beautiful autumn colours and freshly chopped trees as a picturesque backdrop.
This Targa Rally held on Saturday 8th October with a base at Harrison’s of Greyabbey, is a step away from full-on stage rallying but they maintain the same ethos – drive as fast as you can from point A to point B. Others within the sport depending on age group would perhaps call this type of event a “Multi-Venue Auto Test” or perhaps even a “Lanes Rally”, either way the events are more or less all the same format.
So what is a Targa Rally? There are some similarities between a Targa Rally and a Stage Rally. Both disciplines require a driver and navigator in a car but in a Targa Rally, competitors can use standard road cars (popular cars include Mazda MX5s, Nissan Micra’s, MG Midgets etc) without the need for race suits, helmets or roll cages.
Entry fees usually start from around £50 and events consist of a variety of ‘tests’ located on farmer’s lanes and yards where competitors must take the correct route around cones without touching them. Think of a cross between production car auto testing and stage rallying but without the high speeds.
Get the idea?
Standard road cars are permitted – you can drive to the event (if you have a full driving licence, tax, insurance and MOT!), compete and then drive home again. It’s very cost effective and it really is great fun. For the most part, motorsport events will have a trailer park to accommodate the cars and trailers that bring the competition car to an event however with these clubman events 95% of entrants will drive to and from the event via the public highway.
The first of forty cars left the line shortly after 09:30, and made their way to the first Special Test at Lord Dunleath’s Estate. A wide variety of vehicles took part, ranging from the ubiquitous MX5 to the Ford Anglia of Arthur McMullan from Ballynahinch.
A staggering Twenty-one Special Tests lay ahead of them covering a wide area of the Ard’s Peninsula. Unfortunately John Kelly’s MG Midget fell foul to electrical problems early on and had to retire. Some spectacular spins and slides entertained members of the public who arrived to watch the Castlebawn Test at shortly after 11:30.
The overall winners were Car number 1 Christopher Evans and Kevin Fagan driving a Mazda MX-5, with a time of 17 minutes and 22 seconds.
The Clerk of The Course, Mr Ronnie Mitchell said at the prize-giving, “The club would like to thank Harrisons for welcoming us back again for another great days sport, and we are extremely grateful to all the land owners who allowed us to use their properties today.”
The Ulster Automobile Club will be holding its next event, the S W Adair Championship Sprint at Kirkistown on Saturday the 15th October, practice starting from 09:30am.
For a full gallery of images by Graham from the Clandeboye Sawmills Test please CLICK HERE