Free ferries for Irish drivers in Galloway rally

After celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2013 with a new spectator-friendly “Super Special” stage, the Armstrong Galloway Hills Rally has more exciting plans in store for this year’s event on Sunday, October 26.

In association with the Dumfries and Galloway Council Major Events Fund, the Castle Douglas-based event plans to offer free return ferry crossings to crews travelling from across the Irish Sea.

Before the recession, the Galloway Hills Rally annually attracted 25-30 regular Irish competitors and the towns in the area buzzed with the Irish craic. During the recession, the Irish economy suffered more than most, and the entries fell to a low point in 2010, when the event received only one.

The organising committee believe it is now time to attract back their traditional Irish support, and to kick-start the process the event plans to offer a unique free return ferry crossing to the first 20 entrants from Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Michael Riddick, clerk of the course, said: “For a while now, we have wanted to do something to regenerate the Irish interest in the Galloway Hills, so when the opportunity arose to apply to the Major Events Fund, we put a great deal of effort into our application to secure some funding.

“By offering a free ferry we are hopefully making the cost of competing in the event the same for everyone, whether you live in Armagh or Aberdeen. We have already run the news by some of our past regulars from Northern Ireland, and they are delighted.”

The inaugural running of the purpose-built “spectator stage” in a quarry near Dalbeattie was a huge hit with competitors and fans alike in 2013, and will return in 2014. This stage is unique in the UK, offering competitors a different challenge to the traditional forest stages on the event, while providing spectators with a great platform to see the cars tackling the whole 1.5-mile route in safety.

Event sponsor and six-times winner of the event, Jock Armstrong, added: “The super special stage was a big success in 2013, and it will return in a bigger and better format this year. All of my friends in the Scottish Rally Championship were full of nothing but praise for our 2013 event, and I am hopeful they will choose to return this year also.

“I know a lot of work went into securing funding from the Major Events Fund, which in turn will hopefully bring in enough entries to secure the future of the event. It’s been nearly 10 years since the Drew Gallacher Trophy last went across the Irish Sea when I finished second overall behind Sean Devine from Strabane. I will be trying my hardest to stop that from happening again! I am looking forward to October already.”

Supplementary regulations will be released in September, but in the meantime interested crews from Northern and Southern Ireland can find full details at www.gallowayhillsrally.co.uk/ferries.