With a new base and headquarters – Kilmallock and Deebert House Hotel, the rally marks the halfway point of the Triton series. The Donegal driver is 14 points ahead of former triple champion Niall Maguire, whom he rates as a formidable opponent. Defending champion Declan Boyle has given up his pursuit of the title as he prepares to debut his new Fiesta WRC in next month’s Donegal International Rally.
Kelly won the opening rounds in Abbeyleix and Roscommon and a few weeks ago took maximum points in Monaghan – 20 for the top registered competitor and three for posting the best time on the Power Stage.
“If we were to secure another set of maximum points, then the Triton Championship becomes a reality. But you can take nothing for granted, the car has been completely rebuilt since the Rally of the Lakes. You have to work on every aspect. The Power Stage is a good incentive especially if you are not in the rally lead.”
Although Maguire has acquired ex-Boyle S12B Subaru WRC, he will continue with his usual S11 in Limerick where he needs to turn the tables on Kelly to crank up his title bid.
Meanwhile, Clonakilty’s Kevin Kelleher (Subaru WRC), who won the event two years ago and was second last year, returns to championship action. He hasn’t scored points since finishing fourth in Abbeyleix, nevertheless, he’s targeting a top three championship finish.
Castleisland ace Alan Ring at the wheel of the Mel Evans hired S12B Subaru WRC will endeavour to notch up some strong points to boost his bid while the S14 Subaru WRC of Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett in the Triton Showers liveried car, are also on the Limerick starting list along with Clonmel’s Roy White (MG ZR), who also requires a big result.
The two-wheel drive category will feature the impressive Cavan driver Chris Armstrong (Ford Escort) – he leads the rally.ie category and the Mk2 Escort Challenge. Opposition on Sunday will come from local stalwart Ed O’Callaghan, Cavan’s Jonathan Pringle and Tipperary’s Barry Ryan, all in Escorts. Others on the list are John Stone (Skoda Fabia WRC), Longford’s Tommy Doyle (Skoda Fabia S2000) and in Group N, the Mitsubishi duo of Aidan Wray and Shane Maguire and Paul Barrett (Subaru) are the principals.
It’s a local event for former forest rally championship regular, James Murphy (Escort Cosworth WRC), who has not competed since he won the single stage event in Kilmallock in 2009. The first stage is at 10.14am.
Meanwhile, it appears Keith Cronin will have to miss Rallye Italia Sardegna (June 11-14) as his Citroen DS3 R5 will be re-fettled in time. The Ballylickey man crashed in a pre-event test for last week’s WRC event in Portugal. He will still have to count Portugal as one of his WRC2 events and the same is likely to happen in Italy.
“It’s hard to know what to do now, we have to have a big re-think. We only have a week and a half to turn it around and that’s not really possible. I don’t know even if it is possible to continue (with WRC2).”
The lack of competitive outings prior to major events is a concern for Cronin. “I need to get out more, I have so little done in the last two years. Right now I am throwing so many thoughts around my head, maybe I should be out doing more events, getting more confidence in the car and getting myself back up to a good level. I know where the pace I need to be is at and I’m trying to force it all the time and that’s when mistakes happen. There was more went into Portugal than any rally in a long time, it was very disappointing.”