Remembering Rory Galligan

I had a bit of downtime last night, so I decided to get nostalgic and pop one of my old British Rally Championship reviews from Duke Video into the player. I picked the 2006 season because I have always had a special place in my heart for Group N rally cars, and they headlined the BRC that year. I love everything about these cars. I love their over the top anti-lag with their flames, pops and bangs. I love the way their weight transfer was so visible as their heavy frames were thrown from corner to corner. But most of all I loved the fact that anyone could literally buy an Evo or WRX at the local dealership, strip it, fit a roll cage with a few reinforced parts, and in theory compete on the biggest rallies in the world. Some said the cars were quiet and boring, but I always felt that a well driven Group N car was an absolute joy to watch. It took a special driver to keep the car balanced in the fast stuff and prevent it from bogging down in the slow stuff. One of those special drivers from that era was Rory Galligan.

Rory in his Peugeot 205 on the Donegal International Rally

The timing might just be a crazy coincidence that I pulled out the 2006 DVD last night, but as it turns out, it was 7 years ago today that Rory was lost to¬†Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). It struck when he was in the prime of his career. Rory spent his early years primarily in Peugeot’s. In a Peugeot 205, he began to gain attention on the Irish national scene, winning several rallies in his class on the Irish National and Tarmac Championships. In 1999, he went over to the UK to compete in the Peugeot 106 Super Cup, and despite a rocky start, he eventually won the championship in 2001. That championship win led to a prize drive in a Peugeot 206 S1600 in the 2002 BRC. After taking a year off, he returned in a privateer Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII Group N and won the Mitsubishi Challenge that season. Like in 2001, that victory led to a prize drive with the factory Mitsubishi team in a brand new EVO IX alongside 2004 BRC champion, David Higgins. That season, Rory’s talent really came to the forefront. He blitzed Higgins, his more experienced teammate, and won 5 rallies in the Group N category, and even gave the far more powerful and nimble WRC cars a run for their money on several events. Rory actually finished the championship in 3rd overall that season, beating out several WRC cars including a (then) current spec M-Sport Ford Focus driven by Matthew Wilson! Despite all his accomplishments in 2005, I had to include his most viewed video on YouTube, this “whoopsie” from the 2005 Ulster Rally.

 

Sadly, it was in 2006 when things came to a screeching halt. After a disappointing start to the BRC, he began to experience strange neurological symptoms after competing in Neste Rally Finland. He returned to the Mitsubishi works team for his home rally in Ulster, but that would be the last international rally for Rory. At the time, the nature of his illness was kept under wraps, but it came out later that Rory was suffering from ALS, an incurable neurological disorder. Rory’s career accomplishments are one thing, but it was his personality that made him so memorable. Even when he was mad at the end of a stage, a cheeky smile would sometimes sneak through as he gave his one line answers. Here’s the transcript of an interview he did on Crash.net before the Jim Clark Rally in 2006. I hope you’ll get a bit of a sense of Rory’s personality from this piece.

Q:
Rory, is tarmac a sensible surface for a rally car to be run on?

RG:
Yes.

Q:
What’s the secret of the Jim Clark Rally?

RG:
To be fast.

Q:
Outline the main changes to your car for the Jim Clark.

RG:
Lower and stiffer than the forest car.

Q:
How are you approaching this event?

RG:
From the west by car!

Q:
What’s your previous experience on the event?

RG:
Four times.

Q:
What happens if it rains?

RG:
It’s like rally drivers’ hell!

Q:
What did you learn from the Pirelli International Rally?

RG:
Try your new helmet in testing, not on stage one!

Q:
What condition was your car after the Pirelli?

RG:
Like new…

Rory going through the Langton water-splash on the Jim Clark Rally. Photo Credit: Crash.net

I was trying to think of a fitting way to close out this piece. The best way I could think of honoring Rory would be to ask you to consider making a donation to the ALS Association. Tell you what, I’m fortunate enough to have a wee bit of spare cash at the moment, and I’m willing to gift an electronic copy of Dirt Rally 2.0 on Steam (not Xbox or PS4) to whoever makes the largest donation over the next week. Just write a comment below that includes your real name, your Steam username, and using the image button in the comment field, attach a screenshot of the online donation receipt. Let’s honor Rory Galligan and try to see how much we can raise over the next week! Here’s the link to the ALS Association to make a donation. I’ve made mine, and it’s super easy. You can use any credit card, checking account, or PayPal to complete the transaction. Next Wednesday, I’ll check the comment’s section below and send the electronic copy via Steam to the biggest donor. Thanks for considering making a donation!

I’m going to leave you with this montage that was put together by Greenlight TV, the group that produced the British Rally Championship in the mid 2000’s. It’s a great video that shows some of the highs and lows of Rory’s career that was cut far too short. If you knew Rory, I hope that this gives you some warm memories. If you are hearing about him for the first time, I hope you get a sense of what a cool guy and a superb talent he was.

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