The Donegal driver has been ruled out as his Subaru WRC will not be repaired in time after he crashed while leading last week’s Rally of the Lakes. It leaves his opponents with an ideal opportunity to gain ground during his absence.
The top seed amongst the 140 plus cars is Wexford’s James Stafford in his rear-wheel drive Darrian T90. In dry conditions he is likely to mount a serious challenge although Welsh aces and Subaru WRC pair Hugh Hunter and Mel Evans are the most likely to secure the laurels. Evans won the Dunlop title in 2011 hasn’t competed for some time and may be a little rusty over the early part of the nine-stage event on the Laois border.
Of course Hunter’s main quest is the acquisition of maximum points that wold enable him to close to within two points of leader Boyle.
The consistent Paddy McVeigh (Subaru WRC), 10 points behind Boyle, could become the new leader of the series. Others like Roy White (MG ZR) will be aiming to add to the batch of points he gleamed in Mayo while Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC) seeks his first finish of the Dunlop season. The entry also includes British driver Steve Wood (Subaru WRC), third in the current campaign where he is using the ex-Darren Gass Subaru WRC, and London based Cork driver Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC). Wicklow’s Daniel Barry (Mitsubishi EvoX) is a late entry but Longford’s Tommy Doyle is uncertain about his participation due to issues with both a Hyundai WRC and his own Renault Clio.
On what is the tenth anniversary of the Carlow Club’s Mk. 2 Challenge the category is very formidable with Frank Kelly, Wesley Patterson, Sam Smyth, David Condell, Fergus O’Meara, Ed O’Callaghan and Trevor Culbert the chief protagonists.
Meanwhile former national champion Ed Colton, who won the series in 1982 in a Hillman Avenger and actually won the Carlow Rally that same year, will compete in a Mitsubishi and will be co-driven by Cork’s Claire O’Mahony. He has just completed a cycle run from Mizen Head to Malin Head as a fundraiser for former rally navigator Eddie Greene, who suffers from Motor Neuron disease. Colton was joined in the cycle by his fellow members of the Castleknock Cycle Group that included racing driver Gordon Kellett. Donations can be made to mycharity.ie.
The loop of three stages at Ballyhide, Killeen and Sleaty will be repeated three times with the service park at the Carlow Institute of Technology. Headquarters is at the Seven Oaks Hotel, Carlow.
Back on the World Rally Championship trail, the Irish crew of Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen WRC) compete in Rally Argentina. Since their fine start to the season in Monte Carlo they have been out of luck and have failed to finish the last two rounds. Sebastien Ogier (VW) holds a commanding 29 points lead over team-mate Jari Matti Latvala.
A win for any of the Volkswagen trio that includes Andreas Mikkelsen would create a new record of nine straight wins. On the last round in Portugal, VW equalled Citroen’s unbroken winning streak of eight wins. Citroen have been unbeaten in Argentina since 2003. Today’s action is over four stages and there are nine more before the finish on Sunday evening.
Meanwhile, Derek McGarrity (Mini WRC) is amongst the entry for tomorrow’s Maghera based Modern Kitchen Supplies Tour of the Sperrins Rally, round three of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship. Connor McCloskey and Desi Henry both in Subaru WRC’s and Shane McGirr (Toyota Starlet) are all part of the 80-car entry. The first of the six stages gets underway shortly after 11.30am tomorrow.
The Manx National Rally begins this evening with Paul Bird in his Ford Focus WRC as the top seed. Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna (Ford Escort) is the leading Irish entry and is using the event to gain experience of the Isle of Man terrain ahead of his outing when Rally Isle of Man will be the penultimate round of the British Rally Championship next September.
Kenny McKinstry is the first entry for the popular Lurgan Park Rally that moves to a new date on Saturday June 28. The event will be underpinned by Orchard Motorsport and the Craigavon Borough Council is in its 34th year, McKinstry has won the rally a record 11 times.