in Irish International Rally
Media duo set to tackle daunting Donegal International Rally challenge with Anglo-Irish team
In a challenge equivalent to a first time climb of a vertical face, the media duo of Sky Sports presenter Tony Jardine (Ascot, UK) and BBC Radio 5 Live F1 commentator Maurice Hamilton (Bangor, Northern Ireland) will not only attempt the mighty Donegal Rally for the first time, but they will make their debuts in the equivalent of a rocket ship - a full World Rally spec-car, with more go- faster gizmos than the F1 cars the media pair are used to seeing in their jobs in Grand Prix racing.
The Jardine / Hamilton combination will also benefit from another Anglo-Irish alliance on the rally, this time in the form of their Northern Irish VSM Motorsport team and York-based ProSpeed Motorsport, run by Olly Marshall. Richard Hogg (Limavady, L’Derry) has bravely agreed to loan his Skoda Octavia WRC rocket ship to the ‘apprentice climbers’ with support from his Mascott Construction and LGC precision engineering concerns.
The team will be supplied with rally tyres by Kumho. The Topaz Donegal International Rally (13-15 June) is the jewel in the crown of Irish rallying, and has a reputation for being one of the country’s most challenging rallies. So much so that four-time World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb competed in the event last year to familiarise himself with Irish rallying prior to Ireland’s first ever round of the World Rally Championship (WRC). Jardine was due to compete in Rally Ireland 2007, which would have been his first event in the Emerald Isle, but he had to make a dramatic dash back to the UK after his wife was seriously injured as a pedestrian caught up in a road accident.
She has now happily recovered. Now Jardine and co-driver Hamilton will make their Irish debuts after accepting the challenge to follow in Loeb’s tyre tracks, set by the Donegal International team, including organiser Damion Crawford and Clerk of the Course Danny Gormley. To add to the challenge, it will be the first time either of the duo will have competed in a WRC car.
The rally car, a Skoda Octavia Evolution Three, was originally built by ProSpeed Motorsport and is currently prepared and run by VSM Motorsport. In a unique link for this event the team will be supported by both ProSpeed, who have supported Jardine’s Rally campaign for the last two years, and VSM, together with Kumho and Topaz who will supply fuel.
Richard Hogg, who owns the Skoda Octavia, commented, “Tony and Maurice are definitely in for a big shock as the WRC Skoda is a major step up from the production car they are used to. They will probably have to spend the Friday familiarising themselves with the car, then really go for it on the Saturday. After that they will just have to get the car home on the Sunday. We are really looking forward to seeing how they get on, and are hoping for a good result.”
With so much support behind them the pressure will be mounting for Jardine and Hamilton to perform well on the stages. Driver Jardine, commenting on the event, said, “It has always been my goal to compete in Ireland, whilst similarly dreaming of driving a WRC car. Now the two have come together and, being completely honestly, I am scared. Just thinking of the challenge gives me vertigo! The closest I have got up until now is driving a group N Subaru on Rallye Sunseeker three years ago, and that was quick enough!
“From its reputation, I know the Donegal Rally will be fast and tough. I have been watching the in- car footage of Loeb in last year’s rally through my fingers. I covered my face in terror as he reached 130mph on the narrow slippery lanes. And with flat out stages like the famous Atlantic Drive, this event is not for the faint hearted.”
“Tony and I will have to adapt to the Skoda very quickly as we won’t be driving it properly until the event itself. Compared to the cars we have experienced before this will be like a rocket ship – it has more technology than the Formula One cars I write and talk about”, said navigator and BBC Radio 5 Live commentator Maurice Hamilton, who also writes for the Observer newspaper. To help them stay on the road and avoid the sheer drops that edge some of the stages, the VSM / ProSpeed team will be using Kumho tyres who also supply the Euro F3 series.
Lewis Hamilton used them to win the Euro Formula 3 Series three years ago on his way to F1. With the inevitable unpredictable weather the team’s choice between cut slicks, intermediate, or full wet tyres could make all the difference to the final result.
Looking forward to welcoming the crew, after inviting them to take up the challenge of Donegal, Damion Crawford commented, “It’s great that Tony and Maurice have accepted our challenge. It will be daunting, but we are going out of our way to make them feel at ease and have told them to just enjoy this fabulous event. They want to reach the finish, but they will need pace. They will also need pace but of a different kind for their final Irish challenge - to keep up with us when accepting our good old Irish hospitality!”