Opposition will come from several quarters including fellow Antrim driver Desi Henry in an S9 Subaru. The Portglenone man won last Monday’s sprint event at St Angelo in Enniskillen. The stages in the Sperrins with their notorious bumps and jumps will be a much tougher affair but Henry, who will have regular co-driver Millstreet’s Liam Moynihan back on the pace notes, will relish the encounter.
The rally is the fourth round of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Championship with McGarrity heading the standings. For Tyrone’s Paddy McVeigh it will present another opportunity to get to grips with the ex-Patrick Elliott S12B Subaru WRC. Scotland’s David Bogie will compete in his Ford Fiesta R5 that will have the +kit for the Sperrins.
Much will be expected of Derry man Marty McCormack in his Skoda Fabia S2000 while his fellow Draperstown driver Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC) is also competing and there’s a return to action for Donegal’s PJ McDermott, who will drive a Subaru WRC.
The popular Modified category includes Camillus Bradley, Frank Kelly, Alastair Cochrane and Adrian Hetherington, all in Escorts. Killarney’s Rob Duggan in his Ford Fiesta R2 is journeying north and his battle with the equally promising Northern Ireland pair of Jon Armstrong (Peugeot 208 R2) and Callum Devine (Opel Adam) should prove interesting. Based in Maghera, the first of tomorrow’s eight stags starts at 10.15am.
On Sunday, the Seven Oaks Hotel Carlow Rally has a good entry even though it’s not a round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship on this occasion. British driver James Belton, a regular in last year’s national series is the top seed in his Ford Fiesta S2000. Another overseas driver Steve Wood (Subaru WRC), who was third in last month’s Circuit of Kerry will fancy his chances. For Paddy McVeigh (Subaru WRC) it will be his second rally in twenty-four hours.
Meanwhile, London-based Cork driver Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC) makes a return to the tarmac surface. The top six is rounded of by Stephen Cullen (Subaru WRC) and Mark Straker (Darrian T90). In Group N, the Mitsubishi pair Neil Tohill and Gavin Kelly are the main contenders.
The rally will also feature the popular Carlow Mk. 2 Ford Escort Challenge with Circuit of Ireland winner Craig Breen participating in the James Coleman Escort. Drivers like Wesley Paterson, Vivian Hamill, Frank Kelly, Jonathan Pringle, David Condell and Adrian Hetherington will be keen to measure their performance against the current leader of the European Rally Championship.
One interesting late entry is that of Donegal’s Declan Gallagher, who will campaign Pat Donegan’s Escort on what will be his first ever rally in a Ford Escort. “It will be challenging, I’m looking forward to it and try and not doing anything silly.” he said. The first of the day’s nine stages gets underway at 10.18am.
The IM Gold Manx National Rally begins this evening. Jason Pritchard (Ford Focus) is the top seed, opposition includes Mel Evans (Subaru WRC), Paul Bird (Ford Focus WRC) and Steve Simpson (Subaru).
It appears that the organisers of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship, the TROA, are set to give strong consideration to banning cars like the Subaru WRC and the Ford Focus WRC from outright victory in the 2016 series.
It is believed they are to give preference to the R category cars such as the current Ford Fiesta WRC and R5 cars. A planned meeting on Sunday week next has been postponed due to a clash with a Motorsport Ireland senior officials seminar.
The Radisson Hotel in Little Island has been chosen as headquarters for the Acesigns Cork “20” International in October 3/4 next.
The winner of last week’s National Historic category of the Cartell.ie Rally of the Lakes, Joe Connolly, is set to become the latest driver to acquire a Ford Fiesta R5.
The Kilkenny driver could debut the car on the Raven’s Rock Rally in Waterford at the end of June.
The British Touring Car Championship continues at Thruxton on Sunday with round four of the campaign. Reigning champion Portadown’s Colin Turkington (VW CC) with his new BMR team is just two points behind series leader Matt Neal from the Honda Yuasa Racing outfit. Dubliner Aron Smith, a team mate of Turkington’s is ninth in the championship.
This weekend’s fixtures:
SATURDAY: Tour of Sperrins Rally, Maghera 9.30am; TDC James Pringle Memorial International Trophy Autotest, Newtownstalaban, Drogheda. 11am; Leinster MC/BARC Races, Bishopscourt, Co. Down. 5pm;
SUNDAY: Carlow Rally, Carlow. 9.50am; TDC James Pringle Memorial International Trophy Autotest, Newtownstalaban, Drogheda. 11am; Leinster MC/BARC Races, Bishopscourt, Co. Down. 9am; Mayo Autocross, Swinford. 10.30am; Kildare MC Rallycross, Pallas Karting, Tynagh, Co. Galway. 11am.