Marty McCormack proved he has the pace to compete with some of the best drivers in Europe, after setting some impressive stage times at last weekend’s Renties Ypres Rally (28-29 June), the fourth round of the British Rally Championship.
The TigerRisk Skoda Fabia R5 pilot has enjoyed success in Ypres in the past, taking eighth overall behind the wheel of his S2000 spec machine in 2015 as part of the European Rally Championship. He would return this year with the aim of bettering that result. Sadly, despite a positive showing on the opening day of the event, McCormack’s Fabia left the road on day two and the subsequent damage meant he was forced out of the rally.
McCormack would head across the English Channel with one eye on the British Championship as the series made a guest appearance in Ypres, one of the biggest events in Europe’s calendar. Third place at the season-opening Cambrian Rally was followed by fourth at the West Cork Rally and despite missing the Pirelli Rally due to work commitments, he sat just outside the top three in the standings heading into the event.
A pre-event shakedown at Rally van Wervik showed promise, taking sixth overall despite not having a competitive outing in the Skoda since March. However, the Ypres Rally is much tougher, with over 275km of competitive driving spread across 23 stages and two days. The searing heat would add an additional element with the deep ditches and gravel strewn roads ready to swallow up any lapse in concentration.
Some of the quickest asphalt drivers in Europe assembled with a large contingent of R5 machinery, all ready to make their mark on the leader board. With Barney Mitchell calling the notes, the duo opened their account in fine style, going fourth fastest overall across the opening stage of the rally on Friday afternoon and leading the BRC contingent.
Settling into a comfortable pace, McCormack cited a “clean and tidy” approach to the day which would be an attempt to stay out of trouble. But the pace required to keep within the top seeds was intense and perhaps inevitably a handful of overshoots during the day hampered progress up the leader board.
A trip into a ditch on the final stage of the day could have proved disastrous for the Draperstown driver but luckily, the off was after the flying finish of the notorious Kemmelberg test and he would end the leg second BRC crew and eighth overall.
Sadly, on the opening stage on Saturday morning, the TigerRisk Partners Skoda would find another ditch on the tricky Dikkebus stage which also caught out a number of leading drivers during the morning. Whilst the car was extracted and no significant damage caused, broken rear suspension would mean the car could go no further and McCormack was forced out on the spot.
“Of course, I’m gutted to have ended such a great rally on the first stage on Saturday, it was really unlucky that we couldn’t continue,” said McCormack.
“I’ve had such a good feeling with the car this weekend, probably the best it’s ever been, and I think that’s been reflected in some of the stage times we have achieved against some tough competition out there. I don’t come here often enough to be a master of Belgium and the roads are so unique. But we loved every second of the stages that we did and I’m so glad that it showed we have the pace to compete at the front of the BRC crews. It just wasn’t to be this weekend.”
McCormack would quickly turn his attention to the following day as he would be joined by some of the staff from TigerRisk Partners for a corporate day across the border in France.
“I just love being in the car and to be able to entertain our fantastic backers on a day like today is a real privilege,” he said.
“They all got a taste of the Skoda and some of the roads that we could be using on rallies over here. The weather was perfect too, so it certainly wasn’t a wasted weekend, just hope I didn’t frighten them too much”.
McCormack will next be in action at Goodwood Festival of Speed (4-7 July) in his Fabia S2000 before the Ulster Rally in August, round five of the British Rally Championship.
Marty is sponsored by TigerRisk Partners, P McCormack and Sons Ltd, Ears.ie, Millers Oils, IMF Fabrications, Pirelli and MTec Graphics.