Have you ever driven on our narrow little Irish roads and thought how on earth do the locals drive so quickly when the sides of the road appear only millimetres away? Now imagine driving on these same small roads at speeds of up to 200 kilometers per hour (124 miles per hour) in a two litre turbocharged family saloon? You can’t? Well this week that’s what the best rally drivers in the world are going to do on the narrowest, bumpiest, most scenic roads in Ireland when the World Rally Championship (WRC) comes to Ireland for the very first time.
For those of you who know nothing about rallying, it takes place on ordinary roads which are closed to the public and the cars cover set distances (special stages) timed to one hundredth of a second. The cars set off thirty seconds apart and are not racing each other but against the clock. The rally consists of a set number of these special stages and the team who cover it in the shortest amount of time wins the rally. Unlike racing which takes place in stadium settings, the rally spectator gets close to the action standing just metres away from the cars as they come hurtling through the countryside generating unbelievable noise as the turbo powered engines crackle, pop and bang (you really have to hear it to believe it).
Rallying is a hugely popular sport in Ireland and the fact that the WRC is finally coming to this country has been dominating the thoughts of those hardcore fans who have dreamed of this for years. For the uninitiated, the rally is about to show you a whole new Ireland. The rally will take place in two jurisdictions, NorthernIreland and the northwest counties of the Republic of Ireland over four days, starting at Stormont Castle outside Belfast on Thursday 15th November and finishing in Sligo on Sunday 18th November.
The roads of Tyrone, Fermanagh, Sligo, Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Roscommon will be jammed with the 113 entries and the tens of thousands of spectators who will line the route. Safety is a priority at these events so where you can spectate is restricted as is where you can park and where you can drive. The advice is to plan your route carefully using the maps on the official Rally Ireland website, arrive early and get ready for one of the greatest shows you are ever likely to see in Ireland. A lot of stages will be run twice so bring food and water, weatherproof and warm clothing and prepare to be blown away by the speed and skill of the world’s greatest drivers.
The world championship could well be decided on Irish soil with the soon to be retired Marcus Gronholm (twice a world champion in the past) leading the standings by four points from the young gun phenomenon Sebastian Loeb, himself a three time winner between 2003 – 2006. With 10 points for a win, 8 for second, 6 for third down to 1 point for 8th place it’s all to play for. For those of you who can’t be there it will be live on television across the world but trust me – if you go you will not regret it!