DMACK tackles tough tarmac terrain on Circuit
The DMACK British Rally Team hopes to bolster its lead of the 2016 MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) next weekend when it travels across the Irish Sea to contest one of the oldest rallies in the world, the iconic Circuit Of Ireland.
The first Tarmac round of this year’s revitalised championship is steeped in history and is revered for its tough, fast and high commitment roads. This is the 85th anniversary of the event which, in its heyday, took competitors on a four-day lap of the Emerald Isle.
BRC leaders Elfyn Evans and Craig Parry from Wales are aiming for a repeat performance of their opening round win on the Mid Wales Stages to consolidate their stunning start to the season. However, in contrast to the Welsh event, Evans has limited experience of the Northern Irish stages and knows the competition will be fierce when the two-day event bursts into gear on Friday morning.
Meanwhile for 25-year-old Finnish star Max Vatanen and co-driver Jacques-Julien Renucci from France, it will be another step into the unknown. Vatanen has never set foot on the island and next week’s event will be his first Tarmac event in a four-wheel-drive car.
His only knowledge comes from father, and former world rally champion, Ari who has talked his son through the complexities of the tricky asphalt stages.
The roads are notoriously difficult and renowned for their bumps – unsettling cars and making it tough to find a comfortable set-up. Both crews will test on Monday to fine-tune their Autotek-run Ford Fiesta R5 Evo cars ahead of the event.
They will be fitted with DMACK’s latest generation asphalt tyre, the DMT-RC2. Complying with regional rally regulations, it’s the first time the tyre has been used outside of the world rally championship after being launched at Rallye Monte Carlo in January.
The Circuit of Ireland will be run entirely within Northern Ireland and based from the King’s Hall in Belfast. A qualifying session on Thursday will allow the top 15 drivers to choose their road position for the first taste of competition on Friday.
The opening day features six stages over challenging mountain and coast roads in County Antrim, including Glendun and Torr Head, which threads its way along the cliff-top scenic coast drive. It’s a day for zero mistakes with only a 15-minute remote service to make running repairs and change tyres.
Saturday’s action moves south to the fast, flowing country stages in County Down. With high hedges, gravel-lined junctions and high-speed jumps the tests through Buck’s Head and Hamilton’s Folly will no doubt bring the event to an exciting conclusion.
Alongside the main series, the DMACK Junior BRC runners will also battle on the Circuit, with Irish driver Rob Duggan the pre-event favourite in his Vauxhall Motorsport Adam R2. Overall crews will tackle 14 timed stages and 209km of action.
Elfyn Evans said: “The rally is going to be a big challenge. The stages in Ireland are both technical and high speed so they require detailed pace notes, good car set-up and precision. The competition is immense, probably one of the strongest regional entries for a while, so hopefully we can push right from the start.”
Max Vatanen said: “It’s my first time competing in Ireland and I’m really excited by the thought. My dad has shared many stories about rallying in there and I know there is a lot of passion in the country for motorsport. The Circuit of Ireland has so much history and the stages require a lot of commitment so it’s going to be a big challenge – maybe like Rally Finland on Tarmac.”