BY MARTIN WALSH
IN what is an uncertain time for all sport, The Southern Star sought the opinion of the chairpersons of the four County Cork clubs affiliated to Motorsport Ireland. Here, in the first of a two-part question and answer feature, they give us their own personal views and not necessarily those of their club. Colman Hegarty of the Munster Car Club, Paul Casey, Cork Motor Club, Cal McCarthy, Skibbereen and District Car Club and Tony O’Driscoll of the Imokilly Motor Club took time out to answer our questions.
MARTIN WALSH (MW): When do you think rallying should re-start?
Colman Hegarty (CH): Rallying should only restart when current government restrictions are lifted (including social distancing).
Paul Casey (PC): When rural communities are happy that it is safe to welcome us back, when residents are happy to let clubs close off their roads and restrict their movements over a weekend, when medical personnel and hospitals have the capacity and are willing to support us again, when our competitors and volunteers are back to work again and can consider spending on rallying, when sponsors can be sought and are in position to support events and when we, as a sport, have a clear plan in place for the future
Cal McCarthy (CMC): Realistically, I think rallying is well down the priority list, the nation's health and livelihood comes first. I think it may be possible for some grassroots motorsport such as autotesting or autocrossing to get up and running in a controlled environment. I don’t see rallying up and running until the latter half of the year at best, but I remain optimistic!
Tony O’Driscoll (TOD): Rallying should start when we get the go ahead from the HSE and Motorsport Ireland.
MW: Are there too many rallies?
CH: There are too many events for the rally car population. I don’t think it will be addressed, but who knows what type of a rallying world will emerge from the present situation.
PC: Yes. there are too many multi-stage events. We need to reintroduce single stage events and consider alternative rally. Club competitors are crying out for more simple, more fun events as we had in the past.
CMC: In short, yes, but clubs depend on their major event to turn what little profit they can to cover running costs of the club, therefore no club will want to drop their event they need to ensure their survival. Maybe some clubs with multiple events could be reduced to one per calendar year.
MW: What is the biggest issue in the sport (excluding Covid-19)?
CH: Insurance is probably the single biggest problem at present, it’s more to do with the claim culture in this country than insurance. In some cases, when somebody falls or trip, they tend to claim from insurance.
PC: The lack or practical experience held by current senior decision-makers in our sport. We currently have senior decision-makers that have never sat in a competition car, never owned a competition car, never ran an event and who have limited understanding of the costs involved (in either organising or competing) yet they are currently steering the direction in which the sport is going. If you tried to explain that to somebody from outside the sport, they would not believe you.
CMC: Participation, there is a core group of individuals in each club organising and marshalling at events and participating at governing body level – but there is a severe shortage of marshals to run events and some competitors are quite happy to sit back and not marshal. This is unsustainable and there will be no events for competitors if they continue to take this attitude. Clubs aren’t asking for devotion, just to marshal once or twice a year to allow others have their fun also.
TOD: Entry fees and the lack of marshals.
MW: Should clubs have more of a say in how the sport is being run?
CH: Clubs should be consulted before any major rule changes, as ultimately it’s the club that will have to implement those very changes. I totally agree that all Motorsport Ireland events have to run at very high standard regards safety. Most other aspects of the event are the responsibility of the organising club.
PC: Yes, all commission positions should be democratically elected by the clubs once every three years. Candidates should be drawn/nominated from active club members and meet certain criteria before being considered for election with strict rotation guidelines. The commission should elect its own chairperson and secretary at its first meeting each term.
CMC: Yes, we are an amateur sport, dependent on volunteers that help out and compete for the love of the sport. If the people on the ground are not being listened to, it (motorsport) will eventually lead to a collapse.
TOD: Yes, as it takes a club to run the event.
MW: Competitions Advisory Committee (CAC) is to be replaced by a new committee, Clubs and Commissions Group, are you in favour? Is it too much to ask that delegates (two from four) will have to be either yourself, vice chair, secretary or treasurer?
CH: My opinion is the CAC was working fine as it was and should be left so.
PC: No, I believe it is insulting to the delegates of the former CAC. Senior club officials are usually heavily involved in running the events also and are stretched to the limit as is. Running a club these days is a time-consuming activity. Expecting these same people to travel to Dublin city centre on a weekday evening shows very little understanding of how our sport actually works. We nominated our CAC delegates – these are our people.
CMC: I certainly don’t agree with this new format being forced through. We have nominated club delegates with vast experience every year and now they have been dismissed by the governing body. It will lead to issues where it will be hard to fill roles in the club. I don’t see too many being able to commit to that level of time and compete in the sport as well.
TOD: I don’t agree. It should be up to the club who they want to send to these meetings.