Thursday, 3 February 2011

Who's Looking?

Recent map of visitors to this blog:

Monday, 3 May 2010


Results now published on the event site.  Amazingly, after leading the rally for most of the event, McNulty has gone out on the second last stage, handing victory to local Cronin in the older Scooby.

Time Flies

Especially when you're on holiday.

The Stena express from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead departed 10 minutes late and the journey time has gone up from 1hr 50 mins to 2hr 30mins as one of the 4 water jet engines is out of order.  More time to get blogging then!  We hadn't realised how quiet the outbound ferry had been until now as this return ferry is packed.

From Killarney to Dun Laoghaire - Where Did All The Traffic Go?

Being always on time and never stressed about getting to ferries, planes and trains before they're due to leave (er-hem), we allowed 6.5 hours for the trip up and across Ireland to hit Dun Laoghaire in time for the ferry.  Given it took us just about 5 hours to drive the 180 miles South that seemed a reasonable buffer.  However, today the roads were empty across the Republic as a public holiday was in full swing.  Didn't seem to be public holiday weather though as the fabulous sunshine and clear skies allowed for spectacular views over very long distances.  Emerald Isle indeed.

We made fantastic time and having left the Rivermere at 06:30 we stopped for breakfast at just about 120 miles in at XL services.  Could've been the best £5 spent this weekend on full breakfast, toast and tea.  Great value.  Soon back on the N7 - M7 combination of rough narrow single carriageway winding through towns and villages becomes 3 lanes of empty motorway becomes wide smooth single carriageway and swings wildy between all three as the newly built motorway inches its way along the route.  This will be a very fast journey when (if) its all done from Dublin down to Limerick.

Everything is going well with the Scoob - master mechanic John's "temporary repair" is holding up fine (along with much reduced use of the clutch / gear change) and there's no sign of any further fluid leaks.  Great.

Back at Dun Laoghaire and we're very early for the ferry.  So we go for a long walk along the harbour wall, savouring the views and swapping sea related stories such as snorkelling in Turkey compared to Minorca, jelly fish stings, Seylor inflatable canoes etc.  Passes the time very pleasantly.  A couple of energetic dogs take a dip in the harbour -  we choose not to follow their example.

Very little evidence of rally traffic in the ferry queue.  One other Scoob (bug eye generation), but no indication of its relation to the rally or not.  No more clutch problems despite the manouvering on to the ferry and up the various ramps onto the 2nd floor car deck.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Its Late Sunday Afternoon And The Living is Easy

Hitting Killarney within 40 minutes of the rally finishing is just not recommended.  We sat for 10-15 minutes in the queues and then called it quits - parking the Scoob up near the main church and then heading off for a wander around the Killarney National Park.

Killarney's Main Church (click to enlarge)

The National Park is a joy - a fabulous resource for locals to walk their dogs, picnic, exercise, take some family time etc.  Its somewhat larger than we were expecting so it gave us a good bit of walking to burn off some of those pints of Smithwick's!  From the town to the lake shore is about 1.5 miles and we get there as the lowering Sun gives us some stunning lighting across the smooth waters.

Killarney National Park (click to enlarge)

We eventually head back to the B&B and pack our gear ready for the early morning run out to Dun Laoghaire.  We eat at the Holiday Inn next door and the food is OK, but John's steak knocks him back 18 Euros.  I have some Guiness, which wasn't as heavy as I expected - John stuck with Smithwick's.

We have another look around town and have a couple in Danny's bar where there's a band playing that aren't quite up to the same standard as Thursday evening and take themselves somewhat more seriously.  The town's much quieter tonight - must of the rally population seems to have headed for home already.  We don't go to the prize giving as it starts quite late and we've got to be out early for the ferry in the morning.

We've had a great weekend's sport and we have a bit of a discussion about the merits of Irish tarmac rallying.  There's no doubt that the competition is good but we conclude on this - the rallying's not been as good as the Tour of Mull, but the atmosphere and the craic are second to none.  We wonder if Donegal combines both and think that might be a plan for another year...

Sunday Afternoon Stages 12 and 14

Stage 12 - Shanera

A short run across to the N22, into the North West outskirts of Killarney then out on the N72 towards Kilgobnet saw the Scooby performing well and an air of confidence returning in the cabin.  Probably.  Again, we got within about 500m or so of the stage, spent a bit of time in the car eating something healthy (ish) and then headed out for the action.

Turns out we've arrived at the 90 left that brought the earlier running of this stage noted in the blog entry here to a halt during the junior run.  Its worth noting that, because of the easy access to stages, its really easy to watch the same stage layout both times and get a completely different viewpoint.  So this was the least entertaining stage we'd seen (stage 8) so far, but here, 3 miles away was one of the most entertaining.  A long straight and lots of over-confidence in braking power meant that this very fast approach along a reasonably wide road into a very tight left hander framed by high banks caused some sideways actions, over-shoots and spins.  You'd think the co-drivers notes would've been updated from mistakes on the first run though.

Getting It Right (click to enlarge)

Getting It Wrong (click to enlarge)

 Howlett Entertains Again (click to enlarge)

And It's Always Good To See Dolan's 'beam In Action (Click to Enlarge)

Patterson Rally News Report Stage 12

Stage 14 - Rockfield

THE busiest spectator point we've been too - looks like half the spectator population have headed to this double open right junction with a short straight in between.  As we walk down to the stage we notice again just how many young all female spectating groups are out to watch the rally - very different to the UK where the speccies are about 80% male and not as young as they used to be.  Getting access is a bit tricky and involved us jumping off a 8 foot high wall down into a field.  Equally, viewing points were hard to find, and would've been even if we'd got there a bit earlier.  There are bales, tape and marshals everywhere.  Even so, as the cars approach downhill into an open, slightly off-camber right hander there's still something worth seeing.  We work out that there are still places to fight for as a number of competitors are still trying hard rather than nursing the car to the end of the stage.

Due to all the spectators and other clutter, I didn't even get the camera out of its bag, so no photos.  We enjoyed it here, more than might be expected.  There was a longish walk back to the Scoob and then we headed back into Killarney.  It's here that we find out that the local radio has been broadcasting hourly rally reports over the past 2 days, it would've been nice to see that in the programme or other rally info.

Patterson Rally News Report Stage 14

Sunday Morning, Stages 8 and 10.

Sunday Morning and all is well with the weather. More breakfast (its only polite) and we're off North of Killarney to hopefully take in 4 stages today.  As we approach Stage 8, Sharnera, there's a heavy downpour to wet the roads.  We're at a sharp right-hander with quite restricted viewing.  Those who arrived earlier (perhaps they didn't have the temptation of a cooked brekkie to delay them) had a good view from an open ended barn which looked like the farmer had built a stadium especially for the event.

No photos from there as there was just too much tape, bails etc.  It wasn't that good to watch either.  With the sudden shower there's a fair chance that those on the start line had opted for slicks and so were taking it steady.  McNulty quick but not spectacular to watch again..  There were a few of the rear wheel drive boys taking a risk as the back stepped out under power - the road narrowed quite severely on the exit of the corner.

So we didn't hang around for all the competitors to run through here - we headed off earlier than planned to Stage 10 Currowross to see if we could find some fast easy bends to get an impression of speed.  As we got near the stage pretty much all the other speccies went one way and we went another way - we headed for the middle of the stage at the foot of Currow Hill near Curraknockaun.  There were about 3 other specatators' cars parked up so we had an easy choice of places to watch.  After a bit of a wander, we headed up a steep bank and settled into the bracken - we could see a good bit of the stage with 4 sweeping bends of the single track in view.


View Larger Map

So the famous rally cars demo came through and their numbers continue to diminish  with only the Porsche, Legacy, Innocenti and Manta still in the running.  Of the course cars, the Chevette is still entertaining well.  Despite its age and the harshness of the roads its running well, its quick, and its great to watch.  It would be interesting to know what times it would be setting compared to the National Rally and Historic runners.  Beyond that, it was suprisingly tame to watch here, very few of the cars looking like they're really pushing on.  The S2000 Fiesta of Breen and the S1600 Renault Clio look to be trying hard, but I'm sure the scream of their high revving non-turbo motors helps with the sensation of speed.


Fastest Postie in the Republic?

We watch most of the runners through as the next stage we're heading for (Stage 12 - a re-run of Shanera) is not too far away and there's plenty of time.  Could we have made 5 stages today perhaps? As we walk away from the stage there's a big gap in amongst the Junior crews. Then, as we get to the car we hear a number of competitors running through the stage in convoy. We guess there must've been an incident that blocked the stage. The vid below was taken earlier in the same stage, so I'm guessing this is what caused the hold up.

Patersons Report After Stage 8

Patersons Report After Stage 9

Killarney on Saturday Night

Having had a mix of sarnies and the delight's of Bob's Catering van during the afternoon and early evening, no need for dinner tonight, so straight to the pub when we got back to Killarney around 9pm.

If Killarney was quiet on Thursday, lively on Friday then tonight it was positively bouncing. There was a constant stream of slow moving cars throughout the whole town centre (mostly Japanese, mostly turbocharged, mostly lowered and mostly covered in plastic body kits).  The pubs were packed and so were the streets as the weather was mild. 

We chose Charlie's Bar which was packed and had a DJ playing some techno, house etc.  It was like being in a party as the pub was effectively turned into a dance floor.  More Smithwick's bitter here.  Which reminds me, if you want to drink bitter in Killarney, it doesn't matter which pub you go in, you get Smithwick's on electric pump.  Where is the choice?  Where is the hand pulled real ale?  Seems there's no market for it in the land of Guiness.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

The Legendary Moll's Gap. Almost.

We were in the pub on Friday night (the one that serves Smithwick's bitter, which narrows it down to every single pub in Killarney) and there were a bunch of guys who'd just driven down from Northern Ireland.  Moll's Gap normally runs early on Saturday and Sunday mornings.  However, due to the nuisance factor of those that chose to settle themselves up there overnight and the behaviour they exhibited (I have no experience of this, but all the locals talk of drunk driving, noise, other excess etc.) means that the organisers have had to re-arrange the stage for late on day 1 and only run it once.

Those of you out there who think that abusing the roads, locals and the environment (by dumping all your rubbish about the countryside) take note.  Abuse the event and the hospitality of the locals and you're in serious danger of losing it.  Don't shoot the sport in the foot.

So back to the pub (sounds like a familiar phrase) - the boys from NI were all up for their regular trip up to Moll's Gap the next morning. They'd just arrived and hadn't had a chance to pick up the programme and didn't know about the changes.  So a few red faces saved there.  John had a long and involved conversation with the laaards.  John "pardon?", NI laaard "nnnneeeoooww, gggrrrnnnn, waaahh, waahhh, pppp, screeeech, waahahhappppp", John "pardon?!?!, "NI laaard "nnnneeeoooww, gggrrrnnnn, waaahh, waahhh, pppp, screeeech, waahahhappppp", John "yes, I'm sure". Etc.

So back to "THE GAP".  We drove up the stage well in advance of road closure (having just whizzed over the hills by Loch Guitane) and joined the queue for parking about 1 mile from the top.  All was going well and we kept inching forward, then, about half a mile from the top the Scoob's clutch pedal dropped to the floor and never came back up again.  This is not a good thing.  Swift investigations reveal that there is a problem with the clutch release hydraulics. 

A bit of tinkering later (and lots of sympathy from passers by) and it soon transpired that more work was necessary.  Next thing we're on the back of a tow strap being hauled up the hill by a Toyota LandCruiser.  We can't express our gratitude enough to these guys who put themselves out to haul the Scoob to the parking area. More empathy was expressed as we progressed to somewhere to park, but much of the healthy banter isn't repeatable here!

Once parked up on the road from Moll's Gap down to the Black Valley, more investigation established a fluid leak some where between the master and slave clutch cylinders.  Being extremely helpful, I went off to watch the rally and left John to see if there was a possible fix (although to be fair, I did offer to hang around and help, but John was keen that I did some more watching).  So off up the mile or so of road back to Moll's Gap to find a good spot to watch.


View Larger Map

Turns out that there are about 5-6,000 good places to watch, distributed around the safer roadside areas right up around the rocks of this natural arena.  Pretty cold in the wind for those right up on the top of the rocks though.  The cars are visible (well, those that have survived the extremely bumpy, narrow, rock-surrounded earlier parts of the stage) for about 3/4 of a mile as they run through some wide sweeping bends that are taken at some speed.  They then turn left at an up-hill T-junction which has a nasty kick part way through which causes the back end of all cars (front or rear wheel drive) to step out viciously.  Those with the talent catch the slide and look very impressive.  Those that aren't so talented have 2 options - slow down or spin.  The crowd encourages the sideways approach of course.

The demo of famous rally cars is running on this stage again.  The Scooby Legacy was excellent to watch and raised a huge cheer. 

The TR7 was hounding the Mazda all the way and the little Innocenti Mini was being thrashed within an inch of its life.  Excellent.  Of the main field, Paul Bird in the WRC Focus was again best to watch with Craig Breen in the S2000 Fiesta also on fine form.

                                          Paul Bird
A good number of the Mk2 Escorts were in sideways action too.  So all-in it's a great place to watch.  Can't help thinking that it would be just that bit better with a wet road though.  Some good efforts from the historics too - amazing that to think of driving a 40+ year old Mini flat out up that road - very brave.  The Fubaru, which is Subaru (Impreza or Legacy, not sure) engine and drive train in a Mk2 Escort shell, comes through with a fire in the front offside wheelarch - they appear on the day's results, but we don't see them again on Sunday.  I watched from a cliff perch high up above the back of the cafe and had a spectacular view down on the corner way below.  It seems that even with huge numbers of spectators, there's a good view from where you stand as John made it up to the stage just as the second car came through and he still got a good view from fairly low down.




Patersons Report at end of Stage 7

Oh, and those of you in the UK pushing hard for closed road rallying (and those already lucky enough to be running events), your cause could be significantly helped by running at 30 second intervals rather than 60 seconds.  The roads are closed for a much shorter time (so more acceptable to the locals) and the event's much better to watch with virtually no break in the action.  Good luck with those efforts.

So John and I hooked up again (apparently my coat, "mannerisms"- whatever they may be, and the frantic photographing of the Sunbeams gave me away, even amongst a few thousand spectators) as the historics were running through.  There was hopeful news about the Scoob's clutch.  I recommend, if you're in a car that's broken down, make sure you have someone with you that maintains and engine testing facility.  Clearly the need to mend and make do to get the operation up and running at a moment's notice pays off.  So, by scavenging some silicon tubing from elsewhere under the bonnet, a measure of freshly let blood and a small jubilee clip from the radiator overflow, a bandage was applied to the split hydraulic hose.  Fingers were crossed as we waited for the traffic to clear as much as possible before we headed off back to Killarney.

It was tense in the car - would we make it, would the repair hold, as we took the road down to Black Valley and Kate Kearney's cottage for the longer way back, hoping to avoid the traffic, and hence reducing gear changes.

There's definitely a sliver lining to this cloud though.  Without car trouble, I suspect we would've headed back down the main Moll's Gap road and missed one of the most spectacular valleys either of us have seen anywhere.  The car behaved itsself nicely, and even when we did catch some other cars, everything went well.  We made some friends in a wide bodied 306 who checked we were OK at the end of the road, before they set off into town.  Thanks for your concern.

So what about the view?  Well, no photos I'm afraid as we concentrated on getting back and didn't stop for anything as trivial as photography.  However, the Gap of Dunloe valley is something very special and very different indeed.  The road itsself is incredible in its twist, turns, humps, bumps and extremely narrow little bridges.  But the rock formations are stunning - its really difficult to describe, so here are some links to photos that others have posted up on t'Internet:

From the site of Jedrzej Niezgoda, with thanks.

Another element of the scenery was the heath fires - rings of flame and smoke progressing their way across the heather and brush added to what had become a bit of a surreal experience. We made it back to the Rivermere with no further incidents and a quick check revealled that the clutch fluid hadn't dropped at all and the patched pipe was completely dry.  So a very successful patch, but it would keep us wondering for the next couple of days.

First Stages - Saturday Morning and Early Afternoon

Another decent breakfast at the Rivermere and we were off to watch some action.  The roads around Killarney are a real mixed bag - and that's not necessarily obvious from the grading of the road.  It's the surface that's the challenge.  Generally, just assume its going to be very rough, very bumpy, very badly repaired and when you get better than that, its a nice surprise.

The Scooby's very firmly suspended and lowered, but no grounding so far, and the suspension's very well controlled, so no real problem.

After raiding Tescos for sarnies, crisps and drinks for the day ahead, we headed out to Stage 1 and watched at a 90 right just outside a few people's front gardens.  There were some very heavy showers just before the crews came through so the roads were pretty slippery.  McNulty's on rails, Gareth MacHale was a bit more sideways, but, of the top runners, Paul Bird in the Focus is the more spectacular.  The rain stops during the top 20 and by car 40, with the sunshine and breeze, the road is practically dry again.

Gareth MacHale


We enjoy the S1600 Clio, BMW compacts, Mk2 Escorts and Breen's S2000 Fiesta.

Stage 3 is next up for us and we find a fast left hander where the road has a large hump at the apex.  This is folllowed by a fast sweeping left where the faster crews cut the corner and spread gravel across the road.  Suprisingly, this doesn't cause problems to those that follow.  But where is Gareth MacHale? No sign of the Focus, so one of the favourites out already.  We also get our first glimpse here of the demonstration run of "famous" rally cars which includes an Opel Manta, Subaru Legacy, Mazda 323, Triumph TR8 and an Hillman Avenger, amongst others. Whilst the viewing here is good, photography is limited by the hawthorn bushes.  The weather continues to provide amusement with a mix here of sunshine, showers and hail.

Aaron MacHale




As we were a bit ahead of time (there's no clues in the programme about when the historics and juniors will run so we'd allowed for watching them but it appears they don't join the rally until Stage 7, Moll's Gap) tonight, we top en route at Bob's mobile catering facility on the N22.  Its the usual fare - burgers, chips, tea etc., but fish too.  So John tucked into fish and chips and I added some chips to my sandwich.  The warm food and hot tea was welcome.

Patersons Reports on Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3 and Stage 5

It's All About The Views

Which is better?  Fabulous scenery or a huge slice of the best lemon meringue pie you've ever tasted?  Given the filling cooked breakfast at the Rivermere this morning, all that was needed at lunchtime was a bit of a top up, so cake and tea were just the job.  John chose carrot cake (he gives it a 8/10) whereas the lemon meringue was at least at 9.5.  So back to the choice.  We chose both, cake and scenery at the cafe at Moll's Gap:

To get to the cafe, you have to drive the stage up to Moll's Gap from Killarney.  Stunning.  The road varies between bumpy and narrow to wide and fast, from twisty and tight to open and wide, and then there are the rocks.  Good grief you'd have to be very very brave to be fully committed through this stage.  An in-car video from the Clio S1600 of O'Mahony give and idea of how the road goes from tight and twisty to open and sweeping, smooth to very bumpy. Its a challenge, for sure. 

Scrutineering was held at the Fire Station (seems as good a place as any) and was split by Group N/A cars and the national / historics.  Its a slow but necessary process to ensure the cars meet the safety standards, and that they're modified within the rules.  A few interesting machines about, particularly the (take a big breath now) Toyota 1600 Twin Cam 16 valve rear wheel drive Mk 1 Ford Fiesta that's running in the junior class.  For such an unusual mix of components and configuration its beautifully engineered and put together.

Pizza for tea in the Four Star Pizza shop (what happened to the fifth star I wonder?) which was OK, but the Euro prices continue to be a surprise to us - the equivalent of £11 for a 9" pizza is a bit steep compared to UK prices.

Tim McNulty's Impreza (Car 1) at Scrutineering:

Killarney Is No Longer Sleepy Town

Thursday:  Shhhhh, find a nice quite pub and enjoy some Irish music with built-in banter.

Friday: heaving, busy, folks everywhere, blaaart go the boys as they circulate the one way system for the 93rd time.  Noisier, busier, but just as friendly.

By the way, the Toyota 16v Twin Cam owners' club seems to be in town.  Seen about 25 in one day, more that I've seen in the UK in the last 20 years.

Oh, and the World seems to have become a scene from inside either and X-box 360 or a PS3, or possibly some horrible combination of both.  Soooo many wide wheels, soooo many dodgey Jap graphics, soooo much rivetted plastic....

A pint of Smithwick's goes down OK though.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Out and About in Killarney

You have to eat.  You have to drink.  You have to find a rally programme.

Went up to the HQ at the Gleneagle and Behron Hotels.  HQ not formally open as yet, but we found a programme.  It comes with an excellent map (lot of detail, just the right scale) of where the stages run and in the programme there's information about the good places to watch on each of the stages.  The route is incredibly compact and 3 stages a day should be easy for each day, if not more.

We ate at the Kayne Bar / Bistro tonight.  John reports that the lamb roast was adequate but not spectacular, which was a perfect description of the veggie curry too.  The Smithwick's beer was good.

We moved to the Danny Mann Inn in the centre of town which was populated mostly by middle aged diners. However, the live music was great -  a duo of guitar, vocals and fiddle playing some traditional Irish music including some humourous and fun songs balanced by some seriously emotional stuff. Great.  Scary prices for the beer though - challenging London prices!



Oh, and the blog is now 18th on the list of google results when you search for "rally of the lakes"!


Stena Line Express from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire went very smoothly indeed in 1hr 50mins.


Rivermere House Harmony Inn is where we're at.

Lovely welcome, nice room, right in the heart of Killarney B&B land and about 10 mins walk from the rally HQ at the Glen Eagle hotel.

Bye Bye Holyhead

Now on board the Stena Express out of Holyhead heading for Dun Loaghaire.  Topped up with Shell V-Power at Menai Bridge. Free WiFi on the ferry, which is nice.

Journey from Mold along the A55 was easy with no problems.  The tunnels are a bit loud though, can't imagine why!

Scoob resting on the docks at Holyhead
(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Night Before

After a bit of concern over some cancelled ferries on our route from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire, all seems to be back on track now with technical problems overcome.  The 10:00 express is currently expected to run on time on Thursday.

Motorsport News is running a story about Gareth MacHale's WRC Focus being in MSport's headquarters and now its electrical problems have been solved. Seems a chaffed wire was causing the problem.  Given that Gareth managed second place on the Circuit of Ireland I don't suppose there'll be many betting against him being at the top on Sunday.  Tim McNulty will have his work cut out.

Strangely, we still have windows intact in our house.  This is a bit of a suprise as John must have given the Scoob about 1500 rpm to get up on the drive this evening and the block paving was under threat. Sounds good, I'm sure it'll be even more impressive in the tunnels on the A55 tomorrow.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Entry List Published

With only a week to go to the event now, the entry list has been published, and rather mouth-watering it is too.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

3rd April 2010 - News At Last

Everything had been quiet so far at about the 2010 event.  But on the very same day as I posted the opener to this blog, the organisers published their first news item of the 2010 event which was to advise that competitor entries close in the second week of April.
There will be a more compact route than usual to try and keep mileage and hence costs down a bit, with 14 stages using many of the same roads twice.  So 3 dual run stages + 1 single run stage on Saturday then the same format on Sunday.  HQ at the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney.  A very short article in this week's UK Motorsport News mentioning that for only the 3rd time in the event's 31 years, Moll's Gap won't be the opening stage.  It will the single run stage on Saturday at 18:30. The other stages on the first day will be around the Cork / Kerry border.  Service at Millstreet.  Sunday is based around mid-Kerry and includes Carragh Lake and the single day ending stage will be near Kilcummin.
Compact means no more than 30 minutes driving from event HQ in Killarney.
Entries will be published on 20th April - it will be interesting to see how much effect the recession has had on the number of competitors for the usually very popular event.

Monday, 22 March 2010

March 2010 - What's It All Going To Be About Then?

More motorsport.  See the Tour of Mull Blog for 2008 and you'll quickly get the idea of what this one's about.  Rallying, pure and simple.  Proper rallying with proper rally cars with proper enthusiastic crowds.  This time with added craic.
Different set up this time, travelling with my best man, John.  Ferry from Holyhead to Dublin then the longish drive down to Killarney in the South West of the Repulic of Ireland.  So a foreign land with foreign money.  Haven't decided on which car to take yet - it'll either be the Sunbeam Lotus or John's classic Scoob saloon, so either fit well into the role.
We're off to see the Rally of the Lakes 2010.  More later, but in the meantime you can check out the event's website, but there wasn't much 2010 info there at the time this post was posted.

Rally of the Lakes