Classic Rallypress Ltd was set up in 2002 by Malcolm McKay and Mike Johnson and they now organise events designed to tempt people who have never competed into having a go themselves.
Using their wealth of experience from competing in and photographing dozens of events around the world, they brought a professional approach and competitive pricing to the world’s first historic microcar rally, Liège-Brescia-Liège, in 2008.
It proved hugely popular both with highly experienced competitors and with many novices on their first ever rally. Keeping their rallies as ‘niche’ events for specific vehicle groups and/or in places other rallies haven’t ventured, you can be assured of a unique and friendly spirit.
This brings me to Kirkistown Racing Circuit in County Down on a windy but dry Friday morning at the end of May, 2022 with an event named ‘The Craic’.
‘The Craic’ being a Round-Ireland Rally for Jaguar XKs and E-types, which had been postponed for two consecutive years due to the ongoing pandemic.
If ever a sales pitch was required for a road-trip around Ireland, Classic Rallypress Ltd done it perfectly, stating: “Enjoy the Emerald Isle at its finest: warm hospitality, fine early-summer weather, quiet roads, beautiful scenery, steeped in history and legend… ‘The Craic’ will start and finish in Dublin, with discounted ferries from Britain for those who need them.
“We’ll stay in truly magnificent hotels including Lough Eske Castle, and with at least two nights in most so those who want a relaxed tour can relax, while those who want action can enjoy extra driving and tests on circuits, and those who want history and culture can take in all the castles, dolmens, monasteries, museums and so much more that Ireland has to offer. All backed up by a well-equipped service crew, carrying XK and E-type parts from SNG Barratt.
Classic Rallypress Ltd continued, “This event will be both Tour and Rally – for those who like an element of competition, a detailed Road Atlas will be provided with route instructions for you to plot your own route, while for those who do not enjoy navigation, for a small extra fee, each day’s route will be supplied direct to your Smartphone’s Google Maps app, with all the waypoints pre-programmed for you to follow (you will still receive the maps and route instructions as back-up and can opt to do some days competitively and some touring as you go along).”
When Kirkistown’s manager rang me telling me about this unique event, which was scheduled to stop by them for some form of a regularity test, I was very keen to slip down the coast road with the camera and see what it was all about.
What I wasn’t expecting was a driver list from across the globe, never mind such an eclectic mix of Jaguar’s from varying generations, as well as a few other oddities thrown in for good measure. The sight, sound and smell of the older cars simply cannot be described.
“The event is a classic rally for mainly classic Jaguar’s, we have one classic Alfa because the owner from the [United] States didn’t wish to ship his concourse E-Type by roll-on, roll-off ferry, so he brought his Alfa Romeo instead. But otherwise it’s mostly XK and E-Type Jaguar’s,” said organiser, Malcolm McKay, before the start of the event.
“The majority of our entrants are UK-based, but we do have one car flown in from the States, one car shipped over from the States and we have a couple from Hong Kong whose car stays in the UK. We also have couples from Switzerland, Germany and France, so it’s a fairly International entry.”
With a total of 19 vehicles taking part, the almost two-week-long event started and finished in Dublin. Following a clockwise and complete circuit of Ireland, the route features mostly coastal roads, cutting inland from time to time for particularly attractive roads and places of interest to visit.
Stopping off at six hotels in total, with a minimum of two nights at each venue, Malcolm commented, “It’s been a lot of fun and everyone has absolutely loved Ireland. People here that have travelled all over the world have said that these are world-class views and sceneries, it’s fantastic.”
Covering in excess of 2,000 miles in total, this is a proper test for man, woman, and machine.