The Mayo Stages Rally, also known as simply the Mayo Rally, is a motorsport rallying event that is held annually in County Mayo, a region found in the western part of Ireland. This rallying event has been organized by the Mayo & District Motor Club in 1983 and is part of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship (ITRC), a premier rallying series that was founded in 1978.
Because the Mayo Stages Rally’s tracks are on tarmac, which is a material that is produced by mixing tar with crush rocks, and also on farmlands that can get pretty muddy during the rainy season, the rallying event is considered to be one of the hardest races in Ireland.
History of the Mayo Stages Rally
Most of the first-place winners of the Mayo Stages Rally were born in Ireland or were representing the country, although there are some winners that represented the United Kingdom. In the very first Mayo Rally, the first place winner was Kenny McKinstry, who was using a Ford Escort RS 1800 MkII.
The Mayo Rally did not make an appearance from 1984 to 1986, but due to popular demand, the Mayo & District Motor Club decided to bring back the rallying event in 1987. In the 1987 race, the first placer was Vincent Bonner, who drove an Opel Ascona 400. The Mayo Rally would return once again in 1989, with James Cullen winning first place with his Opel Manta 400. Another Opel Manta 400 car would win first place again in 1990, but this time it is driven by Michael Barrable.
In the 1991 and 1992 Mayo Rally races, Irish driver Stephen Murphy won first place using the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, although he drove a 4×4 version of the car in 1992. British racer John Gilleece would win the Mayo Rally in 1993 by using the same 4×4 model driven by Stephen Murphy. A Subaru Legacy RS would win the 1994 Mayo Rally, and it is driven by Mickey Farrell.
A three-peat for the Ford Escort RS Cosworth occurred from 1995 to 1997, although the model is driven by different racers, namely Eemonn Boland (1995), Stephen Murphy (1996), and John Gilleece (1997). Ian Greer of the United Kingdom would then place first place in two consecutive races from 1998 to 1999 using a Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD and a Toyota Celica GT-Four.
The first Mayo Rally stage in the 2000s was won by Andrew Nesbitt, who drove a Subaru Impreza, a line of cars by the Japanese car manufacturers that would eventually become the winningest line in the Mayo Stages Rally. In 2001, the Mayo Rally, as well as other sporting events in the UK and Ireland, were canceled because of the ongoing foot-and-mouth disease outbreak. Thankfully, all motorsport rallies, including the Mayo Rally, returned in 2002, with Niall Maguire winning first place in the event while using the Subaru Impreza S5. Another Impreza would win again in 2003, and the vehicle is driven by Eugene Donnelly.
The 2004 Mayo Stages Rally’s first place was Niall Maguire, who drove an improved version of the Subaru Impreza called the S8. James Harrison of the United Kingdom would then go on to win the 2005 Mayo Rally while driving the Subaru Impreza S9. The win streak of the Subaru Impreza would then be broken by Charlie Donnelly in the Mayo Stages Rally 2006, as he would use his Toyota Corolla WRC to win first place. Two Ford Focus RS vehicles would go on to win the Mayo Stages Rally in 2007 and 2008, with the 2007 trophy being taken by Ray Breen while the 2008 trophy is taken by Aaron MacHale. The 2009 Mayo Rally, which would be the last race that would be held in the town of Castlebar before 2020, was won by Patrick Elliot, who drove the trusty Subaru ImprezaS12B. The same model would continue to win the trophy in County Mayo the following year, with Melvyn Evans driving it to get first place.
Kevin Barrett of Ireland would win the 2011 Mayo Rally using the Subaru Impreza S11, while Niall Maguire wins his third trophy at the event in 2012 using the same model driven by Barrett. In the 2013 and 2014 races, Declan Boyle would win first place by driving the Subaru Impreza S12B.
For the 2015 race, Niall Maguire would win his fourth first-place trophy for the Mayo Rally by using the same car that he used to win his third. British racer Garry Jennings would win his first Mayo Rally trophy in 2016 with the help of the Subaru Impreza S12B, while Joseph McGonigle would also get his first trophy in 2017 using the Skoda Fabia R5. The 2018 Mayo Rally’s first placer was Declan Boyle, who won his third first-place finish while driving the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
There was no Mayo Rally race in 2019, and the reason why there was no event in that year is still unknown. However, before the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship was postponed in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Mayo Stages Rally returned in the same year, as documented and photographed by CRSpics.com, with Donagh Kelly winning first place using the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.