Barrett has won the Historic Isle of Man Rally and is rated highly. That will negate his lack of knowledge of the classic stages like Moll’s Gap and Gortnagane.
The Killarney Historic event, with a ceremonial start in the town at 7.30pm this evening, has attracted quality and quantity although the vast numbers in the Modified section is a concern given the true nature of the event.
Barrett (Ford Escort) has local co-driver Diarmuid Lynch calling the pacenotes as they bid to repel the charges of several competitors that are well capable of victory.
Former winner Mark Falvey, in his pristine Ford Escort RS1600, is one such driver. He should be on the pace right from the opening stage at Moll’s Gap.
Welshman Melvyn Evans (Escort), with a pair of third place finishes in the past few years, will also need to be at the cutting edge from the very start and cannot afford to lose ground to his rivals. Derry driver Seamus O’Connell, with Brian Duggan as his co-driver, should be able to make an impression — he is seeded at three with Falvey occupying the number four berth.
The Escort domination is interrupted by the Talbot Sunbeam driven by Ovens man Owen Murphy. The ex-Russell Brooke’s car, owned by London-based Waterford businessman John Leahy, has been rebuilt in recent weeks. Murphy was due to drive the car on the Roger Albert Clark Historic Rally but that was cancelled due to a lack of entries, leading them to switch their attentions on Killarney.
The top 10 also includes the Escort duo of Darren Moon and Ernie Graham, the latter is the reigning Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Champion and tomorrow will mark the beginning of the defence of that title.
The iconic Lancia Stratos, in the capable hands of Steve Perez, occupies the number eight berth in a top 10 completed by Limerick’s James O’Mahony and County Down’s Andy Johnson in his Vauxhall Chevette HSR.
Welshman Gareth Lloyd (Ford Escort) is one of the many interesting entries amongst 50-plus starter list, which also features the legendary seven-time Circuit of Ireland winner Jimmy McRae in his Vauxhall Firenza Can-Am and Kilkenny’s Joe Connolly (Ford Escort), a winner of the national Historic Rally of the Lakes earlier this year.
Although the entry is dominated by Ford Escorts, others like Bantry’s Noel Hurley (Saab 99), Millstreet native Conor Falvey (Porsche 911) and Glounthaune’s Luke McCarthy (Porsche 911) offer variety. The event is the final round of the Plasticbags.ie Southern 4 Historic series.
Meanwhile, the Modified category is led by last year’s winner Chris Armstrong (Ford Escort). The Cavan driver and Billy Coleman nominee will have a tough task against another former Modified winner, Donegal’s Declan Gallagher in his Toyota Starlet.
Gallagher is the barometer of pace that the likes of the Escort quartet of Gary Kiernan, Wesley Patterson, Fergus O’Meara and Jonathan Pringle will be trying to match. Others like Jack Newman, the popular Philip Collins and Scotland’s David Bogie, all in Escorts will be hoping to stay in touch.
Local driver Robert Duggan, who will drive an ex-Fergus O’Meara Escort, has stated he is competing for fun only. A few days after winning the Billy Coleman Award it is easy to understand why. Tipperary’s Barry Ryan (Ford Escort) could spring a surprise and is capable of challenging the top drivers.
Following the Moll’s Gap stage, the action continues over a double loop of three stages — Coolick, Anablatha and Gortnagane — the second run of the latter is during darkness. The winners are expected at the finish ramp at the Gleneagle Hotel at 5.30pm.
Meanwhile, changes are afoot in the World Rally Championship with Mads Ostberg returning to M-Sport following a two-year stint at Citroen. The Norwegian, whose only WRC win was actually in a Ford Fiesta run under the Adapta banner, will be joined by 28-year-old French driver Eric Camilli.
Elfyn Evans has been dropped from the full-time factory seat but is likely to have a roll with the team, possibly on selected rounds of the WRC. Ott Tanak, who drove with M-Sport this season, will continue to pilot a Fiesta but he switches to DMACK’s new team.