Sunday’s third round, the Carlow Rally has the strongest entry of a national round in recent years. In the last three seasons White and his Cork co-driver James O’Brien have never been outside the top three overall places in the national series. In 2014 he lost the title to Donegal’s Declan Boyle by a point — those years he campaigned an MG ZR.
Late last season, he made the switch to a World Rally Car and event by event has been stepping up his pace. “Yes, I’m delighted to be leading the series but it is early days yet. I’m hoping to increase my pace so as to be closer to the likes of Declan Boyle and of course Garry Jennings. I expect that Peadar (Hurson) will also be a big threat, and Niall Maguire as well.” Getting to that pace will be gradual and there are some occasions when it appears that White is still showing the traits allied to the MG.
Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson will have the number one decals on the doors of his Ford Escort as he won last year — by a tenth of a second from Steve Wood (Subaru WRC).
Many amongst the top 10 are capable of a win in Carlow including Donegal’s Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC), who won the last round in Kerry. The presence of Garry Jennings depends on whether his Subaru WRC will be ready after he crashed out of the lead of the Rally of the Lakes on Sunday last. The Fermanagh ace took maximum points in the first round in Mayo and it will be a boost for the event and championship organisers should he make the start line.
Former champion Warrenpoint’s Peadar Hurson (Subaru WRC) was a little off the pace in Kerry due to some power issues and will be expected to pose a serious threat in the nine stages in Carlow.
Monaghan’s Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) is showing good form in the ex-Boyle car as he chases a fourth title.
For Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan it will mark the beginning of a national bid. He also has a new co-driver (Andy Hayes) and the partnership may take time to settle.
The only overseas Irish National Rally champion Mel Evans, his compatriot Steve Wood, and championship title sponsor Kevin Barrett all in Subaru WRCs complete a competitive top 10. There will be WRC debuts for Longford’s Tommy Doyle in the Enda McCormack Subaru and Donegal’s Manus Kelly in a Mel Evans hired Subaru.
In Group N, Welsh driver Sebastian Ling (Mitsubishi) will be the barometer for fellow Mitsubishi drivers Shane Aidan Wray, Trevor Bustard and Neil Tohill along with Paul Barrett (Subaru).
Meanwhile, in the Valvoline Forest series tomorrow’s Tour of Sperrins Rally in County Derry also has a formidable entry led by Antrim’s Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan, winners of the last round, the Moonraker Rally. Opposition includes Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC), Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC), Mark Donnelly (Subaru WRC) and Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia S2000).
The first car away for a rally that is also a counter in the Northern Ireland Rally Championship is at 10am.
In motorcycling, the Masters Superbike Championship reaches the halfway point with the first three-race event of the season at Mondello Park. There is one race tomorrow afternoon.