Belfast Telegraph

Todds Leap Ulster Rally: family are united after death of Timothy Cathcart

By Sammy Hamill

It was never a consideration when the decision was taken to call off the Todds Leap Ulster Rally in the aftermath of the accident in which 20-year-old Fermanagh driver Timothy Cathcart died. But soon the organisers must count the cost of bringing the event to a halt when it had barely begun.

The crash happened on only the third stage of a two-day rally scheduled to be part of the British, Irish and Northern Ireland championships. As many as half of the 140-strong field hadn't even started from Enniskillen when the organising team from the Northern Ireland Motor Club took the decision, rightly, to abandon the rally.

They took it as a "mark of respect to the Cathcart family" who have been stalwarts of rallying in Northern Ireland for many years.

They will have been aware, too, that a number of Timothy's fellow drivers, including the overall rally leader Garry Jennings and the current Irish Tarmac championship leader Declan Boyle, were reluctant to continue even if the event resumed on Saturday morning.

Jennings, visibly upset, made his feelings clear by refusing to fire up his Subaru and drive it into overnight parc ferme as instructed while senior officials assessed the situation. Instead he and his team silently pushed the Subaru into the holding area, followed by Boyle and the rest of the teams.

The heart had been knocked out of the rally and it was their small but poignant gesture of respect to those affected by the tragic accident.

While this was happening, the vast runway complex of St Angelo airfield, which had been laid out to host special spectator stages late on Friday afternoon and again on Saturday, remained virtually deserted.

It should have been thronged with fans paying an admittance fee and helping to finance a rally which will have cost upwards of £100,000 to set up.

Many competitors who never got to cross the starting line will be entitled to refunds of entry fees which range from £500 to more than £1000.

Bills will still have to be paid and, aside from the support of sponsors, entry fees and the special spectator stages are the only source of income. It may well impact on the future of a rally which has an exemplary safety record and has regularly been voted the best in the British championship.

But rally director Philip Murray says it is an issue for another day.

"It will have to be considered at some point but not now. The immediate priority is our duty of care to the family and friends of Timothy (pictured), to his co-driver Dai Roberts who remains in hospital, to the other competitors who were at the scene of the accident and to our medical and rescue teams who attended the incident," said Murray.

Welshman Roberts was airlifted to hospital in Belfast where he is said to be "doing well".

It went almost unnoticed that Jennings, the reigning Irish Tarmac champion, was leading the rally by 20 seconds from Boyle with Eugene Donnelly in third place when the cancellation call was made. Daniel McKenna, the British championship leader, was fourth and some distance ahead of his closest challenger Osian Pryce.

No-one was really interested but decisions will have to be made in terms how it affects the various championships. Will points be awarded? These, too, are issues for another day.

First the Cathcart family and the wider rally community must prepare for the funeral of a talented young man who died doing something he loved.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph