Irish Rallying Is The Best Rallying

Okay, I’m probably biased, but I’m not wrong.

I’m currently researching for a story that I’m going to be shooting later this week, tracing the routes of famous old Irish rallying stages which I’m aiming to complete in something modern, but that harks back to the glory days of Group B. On my travels around the internet, or watching old video tapes converted onto DVD or even just books of the era, I can’t help but feel like there’s nowhere else in the world that can quite compete on this level.

Scandinavia might have produced better drivers over the years, and the United Kingdom produced better teams, but as far as grassroots rallying goes, Ireland has to be at the very top of things.

They say that there was a point where there were more WRC cars on the start-line of an Irish tarmac event than there were at any WRC event that same season. Needless to say, the top class World Rally Cars of the era were often the headline attraction for the casual spectator, but for the real rallying fan there was something even more attractive…

The MkII Ford Escort. Simply put, there has been no other chassis that has either been as successful or popular on the stages as the humble Ford, although these days, the MkIIs aren’t all that humble any more. When they first debuted on the world rally stages, they were potent but relatively low-powered machines.

Today, the same chassis features high-powered naturally aspirated engines producing over 300hp with modern suspension, engine management, brakes, tyres and composite materials. These ‘modified’ MkIIs are still featherweight machines, and often give the modern WRC and R5 cars a run for their money.

There are few drivers that better epitomise how a MkII Escort should be driven than the pilot of ‘Baby Blue’, Frank Kelly.

Although if there’s one video that sums up Frank Kelly, it’s probably this one. When I first saw the still photograph of the jump I was fully convinced it was photoshopped. It wasn’t.

The Irish’s love for rallying isn’t something that happened overnight, nor is it a recent phenomenon. Some of the very first stage rallys and time trials took place on Irish roads, so there’s a long and illustrious history with the sport here. I’ll cover this history more in that upcoming post which I mentioned at the start, but figured that I needed to at least pretend today was productive by gathering these videos together into a single post to share with you.

Now back to YouTube work…

Paddy McGrath
Instagram: pmcgphotos
Twitter: pmcgphotos



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This was a great story.


I didn't even need to read the story. The title speaks 100% truth! Lol

I very much agree that Irish rally is some of the best. Especially on youtube during lunch break.


That is so true, And i also agree with the lunch break part.


That second clip was awesome! That has to be one of my favorite stretches of road ever and I've never seen it like that! Shame it's always clogged with camper vans in the summer.

The poor french carguy

As far as grassroot rallying goes, I think France could be at the top aswell (and I might be as biased as you are). Every French hot hatch as rallying history and is or was used in Rallying. Manufacturers even made special editions of some models to homologate them to a specific class (205 Rallye or 106 Rallye for example).
One of my friends recently finished the restoration of his father's 205 Rallye after it sitting for a very long time in the back of a garage, and raced it in a local hillclimb race (car was stock). After that, he handed the keys to his father in tears that couldn't believe this was his car that was brought back to life.


I've a tremendous soft spot for Jean Ragnotti's Clio Maxi....

The poor french carguy

Maxi (Kit car, 90's group A) are still being driven here, The 306 Maxi has a sound from heaven, and the Clio here isn't as famous as the Renault 5 maxi turbo when thinking about Jean Ragnotti (famous for his 360s with that little rocket).


One (or two) of his R5 Maxi Turbos live near my parents place, used for historic events and hillclimbs still.


Sure thats rallyin'

Stephen McGowan

Pity the genuine rally fans are getting hard times over silly little boys "diffin" and causing mayhem around the roads at the rally of the lakes, donegal rally etc. I know it's not technically rally footage but Simon McKinley is well worth having a look, throws that escort as hard as any man on gravel or tarmac.

I have fond memories of when the WRC visited the North-West, seeing as the rally HQ was in the car park of my place of education. Such a shame that people got greedy over it and the WRC never returned :(


We're familiar with Simon around these parts, he's still very much sorely missed.


Irish rallying has always been big in our family from my fathers days as a mechanic at most of the events. I have great memories of going to the Ulster and Lakes and of course the two WRC rounds when it visited a few years ago. The father rambles on for hours about how great the circuit was in the 80's and still obsesses over videos of Ari Vatenen piloting 'black beauty'. Being a ford man with his concourse RS2000, he's probably a little biased...


Awesome article and awesome footage! I wish every article had a tiny bit of footage.
Man, nothing in the states touches this stuff. It makes me so sad.


I really do like Ireland and Irish people. And I also like the car scene there, well from what I see on the net. Sorry to burst your bubble mate, Irish rallying is a far cry from being even in the top 10 of the best rallying. Roads way too narrow and in order to find two bends one after the other you have to move as far as ...France. The fact that there isn't such a thing as an Irish car maker or an Irish rally driver known anywhere further than his local pub doesn't help much in persuading people that your title is near to being legit.

Paddy McGrath

You're so far off the mark, it's actually pretty funny. Good thing that there's not two Irish drivers competing in the WRC at the moment either or else you'd look really silly :)


Yeap, you 're right. True rally legends both of them. I might look silly , but I'm not paid for what I write. And well, the one who actually gets paid wrote a huge overstatement. You could just accept it's something like a journalistic platitude thing and move on.

Paddy McGrath

The tone of the post is one of celebration, which includes examples of hyperbole for effect. I am biased (see opening line) because I'm proud of what happens on this tiny, wet rock where no car culture should ever even exist.

Out of curiosity, if we're a 'far cry from being even in the top 10' what countries would you rank as being the best?