Thursday 22 March 2018

Motorsport: Restructure to boost rallying's top-table influence

Declan Quigley

Rallying's representation at the top table of Motorsport Ireland is likely to increase following the forthcoming root and branch assessment of the structures of organisation forced by the Rallies Committee last week.

The power struggle for control of rallying that ended with the reinstatement of the 2009 Rallies Committee and the resignation of MI President John Naylor from all committee involvement is likely to be just the first stage of a process of streamlining the governing body.

A dispute that began as a reaction to a perceived slight soon emerged as a struggle for the hearts and minds of the rallying clubmen between Dawson Street power brokers.

The Motorsport Commission ultimately conceded on all major points following a debate with club delegates in Portlaoise last week during which it was agreed that former MI presidents would not be eligible for committee representation for at least three years after their term completed.

More significantly in the long term, a root and branch reappraisal of the running of the sport in this country is likely to be to the ultimate benefit of the rallying membership which the Rallies Committee believes is currently under-represented. Despite the fact that approximately 80pc of competitors list rallying as their preferred activity, just two of the 20-member Motorsport Commission which runs the sport are guaranteed seats for Rallies Committee members.

The current structure promotes geographical equality across the Commission with less heed payed to the branch of motorsport which members represent. The Rallies Committee is eager that the changes promised by next year will reflect a greater awareness of the dominant role that rallying plays in this country while retaining geographical equality.

Meanwhile, Naylor has suffered an embarrassing defeat right at the end of a six-year MI presidency that until that point had been an unqualified success.

At the very moment he delivered his valedictory speech at the Motorsport Awards in Santry last month, the Rallies Committee was setting in motion the sequence of events that would end his term on a sour note.

MI's backing of Ari Vatanen for the FIA Presidency would have led to a seat for Naylor at motorsport's top table in Paris but the Finn's defeat ended the dream and the bitter reality of local politics soon reappeared.

It is to be hoped that Naylor will be able to build bridges in the rallying world and his undoubted skills will be called on again when his enforced sabbatical ends in three years time.

In other news, the Circuit of Ireland Rally has forged an association with the Intercontinental Rally Challenge as a step to regaining former glories. The once proud four-day rally over Easter is just another Tarmac series two-day event these days but the UAC believe their event can re-establish its identity by becoming an IRC Supporter Event.

The Supporter Event scheme allows events to benefit from an association with the IRC brand and the series is certainly at the forefront of the average Irish rallying fan following Kris Meekes championship success last season.

Elsewhere, the cold snap is not preventing one rallying crew from making plans for the season. Daniel Barry and Martin Brady, winners of the UK Mitsubishi Evo Challenge last season are looking forward to their debut on the Monte Carlo Rally, round one of the IRC, on January 19.

Irish Independent

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