Garda O'Brien recognised for service to motorsport

Sean Moriarty - Motorsport

The two motor clubs in the county have acknowledged the contribution Garda James O'Brien has made to local motorsport following his retirement from the force over the weekend.

The Tralee-based Garda has been a long-time member of Kerry Motor Club. His knowledge and experience in his day job were easily transferable to rallying and he made many safety recommendations that led to a safer sport for competitors, officials and spectators alike.

The north Cork native started rallying - in a Volkswagen Beetle - in 1979, two years before he joined An Garda Siochana. He will move on to a new role working as a road traffic accident investigator for insurance companies, but will remain involved in the sport. He acted as clerk of the course for local night navigation rallies when those events were popular in the county in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

He was also a well-known event safety scrutiniser and witnessed first-hand how car and crew safety improved as modern technology led to increasing speeds.

"In the beginning, I was doing basic checks on brakes and helmets," he said. "But the advancement in roll cage design and the equipment like fire-suits and HANS devices that the crews now wear are the biggest changes I have seen."

As a member of the Motorsport Ireland's technical commission his work as a motorsport safety delegate took him all over the world, and he has officiated at World Rally Championship events and even as far afield as Rally Barbados.

"As a member of the International Police Association I was able to take local police officers out to rallies and show them exactly what was happening," he added.

"In fairness to Motorsport Ireland, when they train their officials they do so to a very high standard. I will be staying with motorsport and will remain on the technical and rallies commissions."

He ran several co-driver courses over the years, passing on his own knowledge to newcomers, many of whom went on to forge very successful careers in their own right.

Mike Dowling of Kerry Motor Club marked the occasion by presenting him with a gift on behalf of his own club and Killarney and District Motor Club at a special retirement function in Benner's Hotel in Tralee on Friday night.

Top Part West Coast prize winner

Abbeydorney crew Ger O'Brien and John Liston have won a €300 voucher against an entry on next month's Sligo Rally as part of the incentive scheme run by organisers of the West Coast Rally Championship.

The draw was open to all competitors who entered the first two rounds of the series (Birr Rally and Circuit of Kerry).

O'Brien is currently building a new Ford Escort. The car won't be ready for Sligo so the prize will be transferred to Stuart Darcy should he enter the fourth round of the series.

Rose of Tralee

Kerry Motor Club member Megan Costelloe was one of 18 hopefuls who went forward for the Kerry Rose title in the Ballyroe Hotel, Tralee on Saturday night. Megan was the first member of the club to enter the competition.

Laois Heartlands Rally

Circuit of Kerry clerk of the course, Eoin Duffin with Mike Quinn on the notes finished 28th overall on Sunday's Laois Rally Sport Club's Heartlands Rally.

It was Duffin's first rally in over a year and getting there was not without drama. A return on the previous weekend's Circuit of Munster had the be put on hold due to head gasket and drive shaft issues in his Ford Escort but they were sorted in time for last weekend which enabled the Kerry crew to make their comeback.

Rally of the Lakes

Rally of the Lakes and officials will meet Friday this week to officially confirm that Ireland's number one car history checking company will continue to sponsor Kerry's only two-day rally for another three years.

The deal was announced at last month's rally but will be confirmed on Friday. has sponsored the rally for the last 10 years and the additional three years will make it one of the longest rally sponsorship agreements in Irish rallying.

Donegal International Rally

Several local co-drivers will tackle the Donegal International Rally in a week's time. Elaine Ní Sé will co-drive for local driver Gary Coney in a Subaru World Rally Car while Decal Casey is on pace-note duty for Michael McDaid in a Ford Escort.

Noel O'Sullivan won't know until later this week if he has a run or not, he is currently the number one reserve entry alongside Jon Armstrong in a Ford Fiesta R2. Other Kerry entries were mentioned in last week's column.