And the winner is: Carryduff Forklift Down Rally

Wednesday 20 December 2023

It wasn’t so long ago that the future of the Down Rally was in serious doubt but, thanks to a successful partnership between the Rathfriland Motor Club and Ballynahinch and District Motor Club, the much-loved event is not only still going but it’s thriving.

As a round of the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt and McGrady Insurance Motorsport UK Northern Ireland Rally Championships as well as the Micra Challenge, last summer’s event attracted a top-class entry with more than 100 crews contesting eight special stages.

Victory went to Cathan McCourt and Brian Hoy in a Fiesta Rally2 but the real winner was the rally itself – a fact now verified by the award of Motorsport UK’s coveted Organising Team of the Year accolade.

Much of the recent success has come via the nurturing of a stronger relationship with Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, which has enthusiastically supported the growth of the event.

In partnership with the Council, the revitalised event moved its Service Area into the heart of Lisburn in 2022 and this year – again working closely with Council Officials – the entire 2023 Carryduff Forklift Down Rally was based in the city centre. The Ceremonial Start on Friday evening took place in Council’s city centre event space with a well presented Start Ramp, full commentary and live internet streaming. Then, after the dust settled on Saturday, the Podium celebrations were hosted in the same area.

The busy downtown location was also used throughout the event to host a Council Family Fan-zone with family-oriented activities, livestreaming from the rally stages on a big screen plus a visit by all competing cars to a mid-day regroup control at the ramp. Creating a real buzz, all of the city centre activities were well attended by a wide cross section of the community, including families and all age groups as well as motorsport enthusiasts, media and sponsors.

The very worthy Carryduff Forklift Down Rally was nominated for this award as an example of an event which had reached a crossroads around 2016/17, with real doubts about its survival. Through making the commitment to work together and pool ideas and resources, the two organising clubs have now not only saved the rally but continued to develop it each year to the current situation of having a unique level of community interaction through the local Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council which is bringing motorsport to new audiences and the very heart of the community.

“The Down Rally Team is delighted to be honoured and recognised with the Organising Team of the Year Award,” said Andy Gilmore, Clerk of the Course.

“This award reflects our dedication, passion and drive to deliver a rally enjoyed by competitors and spectators alike. We extend our gratitude to everyone who contributed, including team members, all volunteers who helped, our sponsors Carryduff Forklift, and host city Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council.”

Those behind the impressive 2023 Carryduff Forklift Down Rally will receive a cheque for £1000 plus a Motorsport UK Trophy at next month’s Night of Champions staged at the Royal Automobile Club in London.

Completing the double for organising teams in Northern Ireland, those behind The Ronnie Trouton International Autotests were awarded with the Runner-Up laurels for their staging of the province’s biggest event of its type in living memory. “It is amazing to receive this award for the Ronnie Trouton Autotests,” said Team Leader for the event, Mark King. “The event not only meant a lot to everyone involved within the organising team, but it was also a massive opportunity to showcase what grassroots motorsport can accomplish when people come together. We are honoured to bring this award to Northern Ireland and the Autotest community.”