Connacht Motor Club was originally established in 1947 however, it was later registered as a Limited Company in January 1949 with 12 founding Committee members. The 1st Secretary of the Club was R.W.M. Tamplin (an auctioneer from Dromahair) & AP Mac Arthur (a local Company Director) was Club President.
Club records for that era are limited however, records available indicate that the Club had 97 members when originally established - the membership fee was 10/- (shillings) and events in the calendar included Treasure Hunts, Hewison Trials, Navigation events and Petrol economy runs.
In the early 50’s, the club held a no. of Hill Climbs on the Curlew Mountains outside Boyle – a challenging drive to say the least. Other records suggest that there was a Circuit of Connacht in 1952 which included Sligo, Mayo & Donegal.
By all accounts, the club was recognised as 1 of the best in the country for 2 decades but some further records indicate that there was a special General Meeting of the Club called in November 1968 to consider a motion to cease club activities due to the lack of interest – 10 members attended the meeting & fortunately, it was agreed to give things a go for a further year & the Club survived on that occasion and as they say, the “rest is history”
Records show that the Club was involved in a Spring Rally event in May 1982
with the Irish Veteran and Vintage Car Cub which was a move away from the East Coast for the Rally, although it had previously visited Sligo in 1972. The event started in Carrick-on-Shannon and visited Forest Park, Boyle, Riverstown, Ballintogher and Dromahair en route to Sligo. It was a 2 day event and finished with a Gymkhana in Wine Street Car Park on the Sunday.
The major breakthrough for Motorsport in the area came in 1980 when the 1st Sligo Stages Rally was hosted by our & friends from the Ballina club with the late Bertie Fisher taking 1st overall.
The COC for the event was the late Fintan Newport & Fintan went on to do COC for 7 events - a record which has yet to be beaten.
The 1981 event was then organised & promoted by Connacht Motor Club and it has remained as an integral part of the club's Annual Motorsport calendar since then although much has changed.
The 1981 Sligo Stages Rally had a 1st prize of £1,000 and the over all prize fund was £6,185. Class Awards were presented to up to 7 finishers in class & there were also, Overseas awards, Northern Ireland, Southern Ireland, Ladies & CMC Club awards. Indeed, it was believed to be 1 of the richest events in the Calendar at that time.
The winner in 1981 was Vincent Bonner.
The event was a 2 day event in 1983, 1984 & again in 1986 and those 2 day events sponsored by Union Foods are very special events in the history of the Club.
The Sligo Park Hotel has been Rally Headquarters for the event since 1980 (with only a few exceptions) and the hotel came on board as Main Sponsors in 1989 and since then, have remained as either Overall Sponsor or Joint Sponsors.
The Rally has been very popular with Competitors since its inception and has been a qualifying round of several Championship(s). These include :-
In addition to the Sligo Stages Rally, the Club has hosted very successful Autocross events for many years – these include the now infamous Ballisodare events, where many successful motorsport careers were developed, as well as Trotter’s Quarry outside Manorhamilton (Leitrim) & more recently, the Saehan venue at Hazelwood, Sligo since April 2008.
The club also organised many enjoyable and demanding Night Navigation events over the years but these events have now ceased following a review of demand amongst club members and other factors.
The Hewison Autotest is also an integral part of the Club calendar and continues to be hosted on an annual basis.
Club meetings were held in the Silver Swan Hotel for many years however, when the hotel was sold and closed for re-development, a move to the Sligo Park Hotel was the obvious choice.
When the next chapter of Club History is written, it will undoubtedly refer to the Club’s involvement with candidate WRC events & then Ireland’s WRC Rallies in 2007 and 2009.
Club members were involved at all levels with the event and we were fortunate to host some classic local stages such as Lough Gill & Arigna for these events.The Service Park was based in Sligo IT & Rally Headquarters was the nearby Clarion Hotel.
There’s no doubt that much of the experience gained on the Sligo Stages Rally & neighbouring events was very beneficial and contributed to the success of the WRC events.
Certainly, we were fortunate to have the opportunity on our ‘home patch’ but despite the additional workload and long days (& nights), there was great support and co-operation from all club members. We take much satisfaction from the fact that we did our club and our many past members proud in promoting Motorsport at the highest possible level in this area.
The Club was re-constituted in April 1991 and now operates under the title of Connacht Motor Club (Sligo) Ltd.