BY MARTIN WALSH
IN the second part of a question and answer session with the chairpersons of the four County Cork motorclubs affiliated to Motorsport Ireland we get the opinion of Colman Hegarty (Munster Car Club), Paul Casey (Cork Motor Club), Cal McCarthy (Skibbereen and District Car Club) and Tony O’Driscoll (Imokilly Motor Club) on various aspects of the sport.
Martin Walsh (MW): Should the motorsport calendar be re-drafted and, if so, have you any suggestions or ideas?
Colman Hegarty (CH): The rallying calendar is very full as we all know only too well. My personal opinion is there are too many events for the rally car population. Will it be addressed? I don’t think so, but who knows what type of a rallying world will emerge from the present situation.
Paul Casey (PC): For rallying, yes, particularly in Munster. There is significant congestion at a number of points in the year. We cannot continue to expect the same pool of competitors and marshals to keep supporting major events week after week. I think it’s unfair to force selected clubs to drop events, however we need to create alternative and different types of events that could take the pressure off the whole system. I believe there is a market for smaller, cheaper and much more simple rally events such as single-stage rallies and maybe single-venue events on gravel. Rather than forcing and dictating to clubs that they drop events, offering single-stage/single-venue events – with attractive organisational requirements, sensible Motorsport Ireland charges and low marshal requirements – would help clubs drive down costs, reduce entry fees and offer small budget club competitors events they can aim for.
Cal McCarthy (CMC): I believe it needs a shake-up but it’s not an easy task. Some events towards the back end of the year are losing entries and making a financial loss as a result. Certainly, a geographic spread needs to be looked at. In this region we have four major rally events within weeks of each other in October and November and a similar situation at the start of the year – but clubs will have to relent and compromise for the good of the sport.
Tony O’Driscoll (TOD): I don’t think so as each club has their own opinion on the dates they have.
MW: If you could change one thing, what would it be?
CH: Bring the fun back into rallying and bring rallying back to what it was originally, man and machine over difficult terrain. Some stages are too open and too fast with cars reaching speeds that are only suitable for race tracks. If you look at the current WRC, cars are reaching top speeds of 118mph, we have cars competing on events in this country reaching speeds far in excess of that.
PC: The practical knowledge gap at senior level within the governing body. You cannot govern or direct an expensive, complex, technical sport that is run by volunteers – whose participants range from ordinary club competitors up to semi-professional teams, that rely on public goodwill – if you do not possess an extensive working knowledge of the sport.
CMC: The governance of the sport is at a major crossroads, a lot of change has been tried to be forced through (without discussion and some PR roadshows) after decisions are made. I think the competitor and the club officials are close to breaking point. The clubs have stood their ground and this has to be admired but more needs to be done. This period without events is an ideal time for all sides to look at a solution.
TO’D: Competitions Advisory Committee (CAC) meetings to be held on a Saturday.
MW: Are running costs too high?
CH: Running a current rally car in any class is expensive and unfortunately the competitor pays for all – this scenario prevents a lot of young people from entering the sport. I would like to make rallying more affordable, but where do you start, we cannot compromise on safety, entry fees are cut to the bone by the clubs. We need to bring the speed down.
PC: Yes, current running costs are unjustifiable in my opinion. Clubs cannot continue on our current course. If the governing body does not take the lead on cost reduction soon, clubs may be forced to make hard decisions to protect themselves and the sport.
CMC: Definitely, from a competitor viewpoint the sport has become extremely competitive and everyone is looking for that edge and this drives up costs. On the organising side, regulations have added a lot of costs to struggling clubs. Maybe it’s time to simplify the whole sport. I think it may be time soon where clubs will have to merge to share running costs and organising of events to keep afloat. There certainly is savings to be made in this respect.
MW: Clubs are very involved at local level with residents, farming communities, medical, Garda Síochána and Cork County Council – do you think the governing body is aware of how much this involvement entails?
CH: All individual clubs have unique and important relationships with their local councils, Gardai, farmers and residents on the various routes they use. It's difficult for somebody that is remote from the countryside to appreciate how important these relationships are. Indeed, these relationships have been built up over many years by a large number of volunteers working tirelessly to promote the sport and are vital to the long-term survival of the sport.
PC: Absolutely not. If you did a video documentary with a clerk of the course for three months before an event and showed it to competitors or even some within our governing body, I'm sure they would be shocked at what it takes and the sacrifice made by the clerk of the course and their family – it borders on insanity for anyone to volunteer to run a rally these days.
CMC: From my experience over the past three terms as club chairman, I think the governing body appears disconnected from the operation of the sport. Life for the governing body in Dawson Street is the polar opposite of life in rural Ireland – areas where this sport is run. There is little or no rallying within an hour of Dublin.
TO’D: A lot of people are unaware what it takes to run an events but the governing body should be aware.