Swedish driver and WRC 2 contender Pontus Tidemand (Ford Fiesta S2000) stunned the opposition by setting the fastest stage time followed by Mads Ostberg (Citroen DS3 WRC) and Jari Matti Latvala (VW Polo WRC). In the shakedown, Sebastien Ogier (VW Polo WRC) was fastest with Meeke/Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) just 0.3 of a second off the pace.
The McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship kicks off with the Eurocables Rally in Kirkistown tomorrow. Almost 90 crews line up for the North Armagh Motor Club-promoted event that is headed by reigning champion Derek McGarrity.
Although the Glengormley driver is listed to drive a Subaru WRC, it is more likely he will campaign a Mini WRC. Ballymena’s Alan Carmichael occupies the number two berth in a Mini WRC with car preparation expert Kenny McKinstry on board his S14 Subaru WRC at number three; Strabane’s Martin Cairns is also on board an S14 Subaru WRC.
In recent weeks Dungannon’s Paddy McVeigh has acquired the ex-Patrick Elliott S12B Subaru WRC. Last year McVeigh campaigned an S10 Subaru in the Dunlop National Rally Championship and actually led the series for a while, how he will cope with his new acquisition should be interesting.
Another driver in debut mode is Stephen Wright. He has acquired the ex-Robert Barrable Ford Fiesta R5 and the Monaghan driver will use Kirkistown as a shakedown for the Quality Hotel West Cork Rally. He also intends to compete in the Circuit of Ireland and the Monaghan Rally.
Meanwhile, Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett — in yet another S14 Subaru WRC — is using Kirkistown as a shakedown for the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel Rally, the opening round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship.
Others in action in Kirkistown include Subaru WRC duo of Stuart Biggerstaff and Emma McKinstry and Kieron Graffin (Mitsubishi), who has Maynooth’s Paul Barrett in his new N14 Subaru as opposition in Group N. The main contenders in the two-wheel drive category are Davy Armstrong, Fintan McGrady, Wesley Patterson and Keith Wood, all in Ford Escorts and Dessie McCartney (Darrian T90).
The BTRDA Championship begins tomorrow with the Wyedean Rally in Chepstow. Paul Bird (Ford Focus WRC) is the top seed from Dave Weston (Subaru), Charles Payne (Fiesta R5), Steve Petch (Ford Fiesta) and Hugh Hunter (Subaru WRC), who competed in last season’s Dunlop series.
The National Navigation Trial Championship and the Munster Navigation Trial series dovetail on tomorrow night’s Midland Navigation Trial that is based in the Olde Tavern in Drumlish in north County Longford. In the national series, the top three crews are Pakie Duffy/Evin Hughes (71 points); Joe Shinnors/Greg Shinnors (58 points) and Colin Duffy/Sam Johnston (48 points).
It’s a much closer affair in the Munster series that culminates in Longford with three crews — separated by three points — vying for the overall award. The Cork crew of Owen Murphy (Ovens) and navigator Daire Hayes (Togher) top the standings — two points clear of Limerick’s Joe Shinnors/Greg Shinnors. Cork’s David Beamish (Bandon) and Muireann Hayes (Togher) are a point further behind in third position. The first car away is at 9.01pm.
The first of the nine rounds of the O’Shea Bus Hire Munster Autocross Championship takes place in Keohane’s Pit in Grancore near Clonakilty on Sunday. Organised by the Skibbereen and District Car Club, the event will feature three timed runs, each run will consist of two loops of the 0.8 mile course. Scrutiny begins at 9am; the practice run is scheduled for 10am with the first of three timed runs starting at 11am. Former Munster champion James Lucey (Special) Rosscarbery’s Brian O’Mahony (Honda Special) are amongst the entry.
Having sold his Ford Fiesta R5, Dubliner Robert Barrable has no immediate plans for the season but is trying to put a deal together to compete in the Circuit of Ireland. At the beginning of March, he is set to travel to the Czech Republic to take up an invitation to test-drive the new Skoda Fabia R5 car.