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