Rally bids farewell to clerk of the course Gallagher.
WALES Rally GB bade a fond farewell yesterday to one of its staunchest supporters and most loyal servants - as clerk of the course Fred Gallagher confirmed his retirement from the role on the eve of his 20th event.
Gallagher has enjoyed a long and proud career in rallying at the very highest levels, co-driving for no fewer than five World Rally champions. The Ulsterman made his WRC debut alongside John Haugland in a Skoda 120 on the 1975 RAC Rally - the forerunner to Wales Rally GB.
In 1981, he embarked upon a successful partnership with the late Henri Toivonen, firstly in a Talbot Sunbeam and subsequently an Opel Ascona, before switching to Toyota in 1984 where he navigated for another 'Flying Finn', Juha Kankkunen.
In 1986, Gallagher joined Bjorn Waldegard and the pair won the fearsome Safari Rally at their first attempt together - his second of three triumphs on the gruelling African event. It was a working relationship that would endure all the way up to 1992.
Other greats of the sport to be delivered pace notes by the Northern Irishman included world champions Ari Vatanen - with whom he won the 1997 FIA World Cup for Cross-Country Rallies - and Petter Solberg, making it fitting that the latter was on-hand to help celebrate his former co-driver in Deeside. The 2003 World Rally champion is similarly being honoured at the event as this year's 'Rally Legend'.
After hanging up his co-driving helmet, Gallagher went on to work with the FIA Rally Safety Group and in 1996 was appointed clerk of the course on Rally GB - a position he has held to this day.
At yesterday's traditional preevent press conference, he was presented with a special collage by Solberg, featuring images of the winning crew from every edition of Rally GB over which he has officiated.
The Norwegian triumphed on four of those events - in consecutive years between 2002 and 2005 - the most of any driver under Gallagher's watch.
Following the conclusion of this weekend's Wales Rally GB, Gallagher's role will be assumed by deputy clerk of the course and British Rally Championship manager Iain Campbell.
The rally gets underway in Deeside this morning, with today's stages including Hafren, Sweet Lamb and Myherin.