Three former winners are amongst the entry list for Sunday’s Acesigns Laois Heartland’s Rally in Portlaoise with Cavan’s Jonny Pringle bidding to become the first man to win back to back events. That eight drivers have won the rally since 2011 underlines the competitiveness of the six-stage rally.
Such is the strength of the opposition, any of the top ten are capable of victory and that group does not include former winners Limerick’s Ed O’Callaghan (Ford Escort) and Carlow’s David Condell, the first-ever winner, who will drive a 2.5 litre Skoda Fabia.
Perhaps the biggest threat will come from Cookstown’s Ryan Loughran and Meath’s Jack Newman in Escorts. Wexford’s Richard Moore and Donegal’s Mark Alcorn should also be in the frame while Cork’s Barry Meade is on a confidence-building exercise after crashing out of last year’s Fastnet Rally.
The Ulster trio of Frank Kelly, Wesley Patterson and John Bonner complete the unbroken Ford Escort dominance of the top nine seeds with Cashel’s Pat O'Connell (Mitsubishi EvoIX) and Laois man John Lynch (Darrian T90) next off the start line and both well capable of making an impression. The first stage begins at 11.15am.
In motor racing and fresh from a double podium last time out, Cork’s Matt Griffin and his Spirit of Race teammate Duncan Cameron compete in the third round of the GT Open championship at Spa-Francorchamps.
Although their Ferrari 488 GTE runs in the Pro-Am category, they took second overall in the first of the two races in Hockenheim last month. Since then Griffin completed his Le Mans 24 Hours test for next week’s classic race.
Meanwhile, Cork’s All-Ireland and All-Star winning camogie player Ashling Thompson will make her competitive motorsport debut at Mondello Park this weekend when she competes in a Ford Fiesta in the three rounds of the Keelan Construction Fiesta Zetec Championship at the County Kildare venue.
The 29-year-old enjoyed a good pre-event test on Wednesday last, previously in Mondello the Milford ace took part and won a charity time trial event and also drove in the Formula Female One Lap Challenge. Her participation is in association with Motorsport Ireland and Formula Female, an initiative set up by hockey star Nicci Daly to encourage more women into motorsport.
The Barrett International Transport/ Daly Motor Services Munster Autocross Championship continues on Sunday with round four at Ladysbridge in east Cork. Wexford’s Paul Furlong (Semog) leads the current series but will face an onslaught from the Cork contingent of former champion Clonakilty’s Paul O’Driscoll, Donoughmore’s Stevey Lane, Vicarstown’s Dermot O’Riordan and Rosscarbery pair Brian O’Mahony and Fachtna McCarthy, all in Semogs. Blarney’s Nicky Hegarty (Honda Special), and Leap’s Diarmuid French (Suzuki Special) seek to break the Semog dominance.
The first timed run is at 10.40am. In two-wheel motorsport, British rider Craig Mallabone (Hayabusa 1300) bids to secure his sixth win on Sunday’s rearranged West Cork Motorcycle Drag Races at the Halfway, Ballinhassig at 11am.