Jardine attempts vertical climb

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!”