With reigning champion Owen Murphy opting to concentrate on other events there is a posse of drivers lining up to make a serious pursuit of the seven round series. Top seed Desi Henry (Mitsubishi) can justifiably feel that the season ahead is a case of unfinished business having lost last year’s series by a single point — although his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan lifted the co-driver’s crown.
London-based Cork driver Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC), with James O’Brien calling the notes, returns for another season in the Irish forests. Consistent last year but with only one win to his credit, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Mitsubishi) now knows what’s required and he will push hard from the start. So too will Lisburn ace Philip Morrow, who was in the championship frame a few seasons ago, very quick, he too will fancy his chances over the six-stage event.
Others like Martin Cairns (S14 Subaru WRC), winner of the Bushwhacker Rally last year, will also be in confident mood. Enda McNulty (Subaru WRX) is also amongst the top ten where seventh seed Waterford’s Andrew Purcell is viewed as the driver capable of upsetting the odds. Ultra fast, reliability has been his downfall in recent seasons, but accompanied by Cork co-driver Liam Brennan, they will be a formidable outfit.
A cracking top ten is completed by the Mitsubishi trio of Mark Donnelly, Sam Moffett and Shaun Sinclair. Elsewhere, Monaghan’s Pauric Duffy takes his pristine Ford Fiesta R5 into the forests in what will be a busy season, he will be joined by Cork’s Gerard Lucey and Mark Murphy along with Antrim’s Niall Henry and Cahir’s Andrew Fanning, all in Mitsubishi’s.
In the two-wheel drive category Adrian Hetherington, Vivian Hamill, Conor Harvey, Mickey Conlon and James Coleman are the principals. An interesting entry is that of Kevin Eves in a Peugeot 208 R2.
The Skibbereen 100 Isles Navigation Trial in Lisavaird in west Cork is likely to play a crucial role in the destiny of both the National Navigation Trial series and the regional Munster series. First car way on the 85-mile route is at 11.15pm tomorrow. After five rounds of the national campaign the Longford/Monaghan pairing of Pakie Duffy/Evin Hughes hold a 15 points lead over Limerick’s Joe Shinnors/Greg Shinnors. Competition in the Munster series is remarkably close – the Shinnors pairing share top spot with Bandon’s David Beamish and his Togher navigator Muireann Hayes. Just one point adrift are Ovens driver Owen Murphy, who is navigated by Togher’s Daire Hayes. Check-in from 7pm at the Lisavaird Community Hall.
Meanwhile, Sunday marks a new season of the National Rallycross Championship that welcomes McLoughlin’s Industrial Flooring as its title sponsor. Welsh driver Mark Watson (Citroen Xsara Supercar) will mix with the Irish regulars. The West Wales Rally Spares R.A.C Rally Championship also begins on Sunday with the Red Kite Rally in Wales.
Elsewhere, Monaghan’s Martin McKenna has been appointed president of the Motorsport Ireland Commission. He succeeds Sligo’s Joe Corcoran.