Boyle in driving seat to retain title

The Dunlop National Rally Championship will be decided tomorrow, with the nine-stage Downings Bay Hotel Donegal Harvest Rally determining whether reigning Dunlop champion Declan Boyle, current leader Clonmel’s Roy White (MG ZR) or Welsh ace Hugh Hunter (Subaru WRC) will win the prestigious Vard Memorial Trophy.

Although Tyrone’s Paddy McVeigh and Welsh driver Steve Wood both have an outside chance of the title, they will not start in Donegal.

Maximum points for either Boyle or White will deliver the silverware.

Boyle is favourite to claim back-to-back titles, a feat last achieved four years ago by Cavan’s Patrick Elliott. In comparison to last season when he wrapped up the title in the opening six rounds, Boyle has endured a more difficult path this time.

He had to skip the Carlow event and also has two non-finishes, but he has won the remaining four rounds and should he secure maximum points tomorrow, will win the title with 100 points, the lowest tally in recent times.

With the likes of Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC), Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC) and Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) on the entry, Boyle has a clear strategy. “I’m going to concentrate on finishing and try to stay ahead of Roy (White), who certainly doesn’t hang around. He has been steady all year, it’s not all about the fastest, you must be there at the end of the round collecting the points.

“I also need to keep an eye on Hugh (Hunter), I cannot let him get too far ahead of me either because there is a chance he could beat me in points.

“The car has all been checked after Clare, got all the little problems sorted and hopefully it will not let us down.”

Current leader White is enjoying a great season. He scored in all but one of the seven rounds and, with the best six scores from the eight rounds to count, he is Boyle’s main challenger. The only one of the trio not in a World Rally car, White’s performances in the Arbelos MG ZR are all the more noteworthy.

But he is realistic about his chances. “At the beginning of the year we set a target of finishing third overall, just like last year.

“I can’t match Declan Boyle and his WRC for pace but our MG has performed great. Rallying is fickle and who knows what could happen. Being in with the chance of even getting second in the Dunlop National Rally Championship is unbelievable.”

Even with a win, Hunter can only muster 94 points and that will be not be enough if the top pair are directly behind, nevertheless the Welshman has made the journey to give himself a sporting chance.

Shane Maguire will begin the event as winner of the Motorsport Safety Group N category, given the absence of his only rival and fellow countyman, Monaghan’s Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi).

It’s a similar situation for Tyrone’s Frank Kelly (Escort), who has won the award — for the top two-wheel drive in overall classification.

Barring a disaster, he is virtually assured of the Dunlop Mk2 Champions Trophy.

Elsewhere, the capacity entry (there is also a reserve list of close on 50 crews) features Derek McGarrity (Mini WRC), Seamus Leonard, Kevin Barrett, Niall Maguire and Stuart Darcy, all in Subaru WRCs.

Last year’s award winner, Declan Gallagher, has switched to a Group N Mitsubishi.

Brian Brogan, Damien Gallagher, Jonathan Pringle, Camillus Bradley, Adrian Hetherington and Martin McGee bolster the Escort presence.

On Sunday, the penultimate round of the Valvoline National Forest Rally Championship goes ahead in Carrick on Suir, where series leader Josh Moffett (Mitsubishi) will be aiming to extend his lead over title protagonist Owen Murphy. Desi Henry needs a victory to keep his title hopes alive.

Andrew Purcell will be in the hunt for victory as will Monaghan’s Sam Moffett.

Shane McGirr (Toyota Starlet) heads the two-wheel drive contingent that also features the Escorts of Micky Conlon and James Coleman.

Dunmanway’s Conor McCarthy (Honda Civic) can wrap up the Junior championship by securing his fifth set of maximum points.

The Dunlop Touring Car Championship concludes in Brands Hatch on Sunday with Colin Turkington (BMW 125i Sport) set to claim a second title in four years.

The Portadown-born driver leads multiple champion Jason Plato by 40 points, with Gordon Shedden 54 points further adrift in third. Dubliner Aron Smith (Volkswagen CC) heads to the final round in ninth position.

More in this section

CourtsDunlopRallyDonegalPlace: TyronePlace: DonegalPlace: CarlowPlace: MonaghanPlace: CarrickPlace: SuirPlace: Brands HatchPerson: BoylePerson: Declan BoylePerson: ClonmelPerson: Roy WhitePerson: Hugh HunterPerson: Paddy McVeighPerson: Steve WoodPerson: WhitePerson: Patrick ElliottPerson: Garry JenningsPerson: Sam MoffettPerson: Donagh KellyPerson: RoyPerson: HughPerson: HunterPerson: ClarePerson: Shane MaguirePerson: Frank KellyPerson: Derek McGarrityPerson: Seamus LeonardPerson: Kevin BarrettPerson: Niall MaguirePerson: Stuart DarcyPerson: Declan GallagherPerson: Brian BroganPerson: Damien GallagherPerson: Jonathan PringlePerson: Camillus BradleyPerson: Adrian HetheringtonPerson: Martin McGeePerson: Josh MoffettPerson: Owen MurphyPerson: Desi HenryPerson: Andrew PurcellPerson: MonaghanPerson: Shane McGirrPerson: Micky ConlonPerson: James ColemanPerson: Conor McCarthyPerson: Colin TurkingtonPerson: Jason PlatoPerson: Gordon SheddenPerson: Aron SmithEvent: Dunlop National Rally ChampionshipEvent: Harvest RallyEvent: Vard Memorial TrophyEvent: World RallyEvent: Dunlop Mk2 Champions TrophyEvent: Valvoline National Forest Rally ChampionshipEvent: JuniorEvent: Dunlop Touring Car ChampionshipOrganisation: DunlopOrganisation: MG ZROrganisation: Subaru WRCOrganisation: CavanOrganisation: Ford Fiesta WRCOrganisation: Ford Focus WRCOrganisation: MGOrganisation: GROUPOrganisation: MitsubishiOrganisation: Subaru WRCsOrganisation: Toyota StarletOrganisation: Honda CivicOrganisation: BMWOrganisation: Volkswagen CC
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