A LETTERKENNY based rally team has grown to become one of the biggest and most professional rallying outfits in the country.
Run by Philip Case out of the Carrygally Business Park, Lismonaghan, the PCRS team has built a strong reputation in Ireland and the UK over the past sixteen years.
In more recent times, the Donegal-based outfit expanded to running in European and World Rally Championship events as well as America – a move which has been fast-tracked by Covid.
Some rally car maintenance, restoration and preparation work continues in Letterkenny but Philip and his team have spent much of the past two years travelling throughout Europe and America for work.
“Success to me is the fact that we’re still in business today. Rallying, like a lot of other sports, has been badly affected by Covid and what the future holds is anybody’s guess.
“Two years ago I decided to go out and find work outside of Ireland because of Covid. It’s what I had to do,” he explained.
PCRS was established in 2005, when Case moved from Laois to Donegal to set up his first workshop. A mechanic by trade, he spent a number of years in the UK assembling the Ford Focus WRC’s and attended the World Rally Championship rounds as rally technician for Ford/M-Sport.
“I used to come up for the Donegal Rally as a small boy and I always liked Donegal so, maybe, that is one of the reasons I ended up here,” he said.
“I was twenty-five, self-employed and I rented a place from Stephen Shevlin. Today, I’m still self-employed and still rent from Stephen so not too much has changed,” he added.
“I was lucky enough to have done the WRC with Ford which took me to places like Japan, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and around Europe and maybe there was a little bit of homesickness so I decided to come home.
“Over the past sixteen years there have been many highs and low but, overall, I’m very lucky to have some great people working alongside me,” he said.
Backing from Hyundai Motorsport and the beginning of an involvement with Motorsport Ireland’s Rally Academy saw the team operating in Europe, Ireland and Britain before the world changed and PCRS lost a substantial part of their business due to the pandemic.
“It was a big bombshell when motorsport and rallying stopped in Ireland and the UK where most of our work was at the time.
“We were faced with two options. We could stop and close up shop or we go out and look for work.
“We’re into motorsport preparation. We don’t have a side business so we decided to go out and see if we could push work elsewhere,” he said.
By the end of last year, PCRS were operating from a Spanish base and the transition to more regular WRC and ERC competition had become a reality.
They had a car in the British Championship, a couple running in Europe while Motorsport Ireland Academy driver Josh McErlean finished third behind Travis Pastrana and Ken Block at the Olympus Rally in the USA.
“The pandemic meant that most people had to stay at home but my work had the opposite effect. I’ve never travelled as much since Covid happened which meant an awful lot of regulation and regular testing but it became part of the new normal for me and the team,” he said.
Looking forward to the 2022 season, Philip said that he was hopeful that big Irish Rallying events will be allowed to start once more.
“We will have a car running in the US Rally Championship while we have four new Hyundai i20s in the workshop over the next few months in preparation for the new season and whatever challenges come with that.
“At the moment we have workshops in Letterkenny, Spain and New York. Our full-time mechanics are mostly Donegal based while we take lads from places like Letterkenny and Quigely’s Point to events in Italy or wherever they’re needed.
“It’s great to be operating in so many different parts of the world. It’s even better to be doing a job that I love alongside people who are so supportive and help make it happen. I couldn’t do this without them,” he said.
“We’ve spent the past two years going around Europe and the US because that’s where the work is. No doubt it will change again and we’ll get back doing what we do where people can see us more locally,” he added.
In the meantime, mechanics from PCRS will be kept busy getting cars ready for the Grizedale Stages Rally in the Lake District, the Galway International Rally, Sweden WRC event and a rally in the north of Spain.
“It’s hard work and there’s logistical problems moving people around but it’s not all bad. Earlier this year, I drove from New York to Seattle (3000 miles) through the Rockies to do a rally and the car finished on the podium. To fly from Europe to New York, get the car ready and load it on a truck to go across America to do this event is a memory which will stay with me for a while,” he said.