Festival of Motorsport to ‘Mark’ iconic anniversary

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

ARMAGH Lions Club is getting in gear for its 11th annual Festival of Motorsport, held in Loughgall Country Park.

Saturday, 6 May is the day for more rip-roaring excitement in celebration of all things motorsport, and Armagh Lions are looking for help in paying tribute to a classic icon of motoring - the Ford Escort Mark I.

The Rally Experience makes a welcome return and Armagh Lions are delighted to confirm some top names in rally sport will be lending themselves and their wheels to allow others to enjoy a special stage, in a safe and supervised environment.

The static display is a favorite feature at the event and had grown year on year, with individual owners, car clubs and associations joining in the fun of all things vintage and classic.

This year sees a variation on the regular showing of shining examples of polished cars, groomed to perfection.

The Festival will host "Glow in the Park", in which competitors are invited to enter their vehicles for a Top 10 Best-In-Show, which will be independently judged and promises some surprises along the way. More details on this section to follow in the coming weeks.

Every year the Festival takes on a special feature which celebrates motorsport milestones. For 2017, it is the turn of the Ford Escort Mark I which first rolled off the production lines 50 years ago and is considered by many as the original classic all-rounder.

Festival coordinator and proud owner of a Mark I, Cathal Hughes said: "In my book it's the best example of a reliable and most adaptable car. The rally version began when a Ford Lotus Cortina engine was trialed in a Ford Escort.

"The late Roger Clarke from Leicester shot to fame behind the wheel of one of these examples in which he went on win the Circuit of Ireland in 1968. That was just one year after the Mark I first left the Ford factory in Dagenham. Clarke went on to repeat that first victory not once but twice, in the same model in 1969 and 1970 - scoring the hat-trick."

The Escort Mark I had - for the first time in any Ford model - a rack-and-pinion steering. It also had a new platform, all-synchronised gearbox and crossflow engine.

It was hailed as a good drive with light controls, slick gear-change and excellent handling. Ford developed models for road, track and rally which performed exceptionally well at completion level, and orders came thick and fast for sporting drivers including Adrian Boyd and Ireland's great, Billy Coleman - a long-term friend of the Festival.

Cathal added: "As the Mark I celebrates its 50th anniversary, Armagh Lions are aiming to suitably celebrate this milestone.

"We are hoping to gather 50 Mark I's for display on the day and a lap of honour around Loughgall Country Park. Anyone who has a Mark I, please keep the date in your diary and plan to join this special event."

For further information on any aspect of the Festival of Motorsport please contact Malcolm Dawson on 028 3778 8906 or Cathal Hughes on 07766 276764.


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