Clonmel native Roy White is just one significant result away from claiming the Triton Showers National Rally Championship and the magnificent Vard Memorial Trophy and joining fellow south Tipperary drivers – Donie Keating (brother of another sporting hero, Michael “Babs”) and the late Frank Meagher as a national rally champion.
The sixth and latest round swings into Clonmel on Sunday via the Sepam Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally. White and his Cork co-driver James O’Brien in their Fesp/Arbelos liveried Ford Fiesta WRC have been the most consistent performers in this year’s series. They have scored in all the previous five rounds and with the best six to count, they need to annex twenty-one points from Sunday’s encounter to land the title - irrespective of what their rivals can achieve. The fact that he is on home territory isn’t really the issue for White. “I would like to say that I am looking at this rally as just another event, but I can’t really. It is on my mind that we can win the championship and it would be great to wrap it up in Clonmel but it’s going to be difficult. We still have a lot of points to get and it’s a very strong entry.” Ironically, White has yet to win a round of the Triton campaign although he has taken maximum points in Cavan and Carlow where the event winners did not resister for the series. “For sure, that is something that has been on my mind. Yes, we have been close but not close enough. I am not going with the view that we have to win at all costs, I am happy with my pace, we are making changes with the car all the time, we analyse what happens after each rally and see where we can improve both the car and myself. I will go as hard as I can, I need a good result to get the points.” Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Fiesta R5) is the top seed courtesy of wining the rally last year, he will use the nine-stage rally as a shakedown for the Ulster Rally in two weeks time.
Meanwhile, Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC) and the S12B Subaru WRC’s of Niall Maguire and Peadar Hurson join White amongst the top to five seeds, the latter duo are the only drivers that can win the title but White’s twenty points lead looks almost insurmountable.
Several other drivers are in the Ulster shakedown mode including Tyrone’s Alastair Fisher, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett in Fiesta R5’s and Antrim’s Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) culminating in the most competitive entry of the Triton season.
The final places in the top ten are taken by the S14 Subaru pair of Kevin Barrett and Kevin Kelleher, who will campaign the McKinstry hired car. The quality stretches further with the Fiesta R5 pair of Alan Ring and Stephen Wright and Jonny Greer (Citroen DS3 R5).
In the Modified section Meath’s Trevor Mulligan leads the line as he tries to extend his lead in both the rally.ie category (top two wheel drive in overall standings) and the Triton Showers Mk2 Escort Champions Trophy.
Tyrone’s Frank Kelly (Ford Escort) is amongst his main rivals while in event terms David Condell, Enda O’Brien, Adrian Hetherington, Barry Ryan and Billy Coleman award winner Rob Duggan – all in Escorts - are the principals.
In the Group N showroom category, defending champion Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi EvoX) has opposition from local pair Patrick and Gus Kearney along with regulars Shane Maguire, Paul Barrett and Neil Tohill.
Elsewhere and having taken maximum points on three events, Meath’s Gary McNamee can clinch the Junior title with another maximum score as Donegal Michael Boyle (Honda Civic) and Cork’s Colin Roche in a hired Ford Escort bid to prolong the title race.
Based at the Clonmel Park Hotel, the first car away is at 9am.
Tomorrow’s MJM Group Dogleap Rally at Ballykelly, County Derry has Joe McGonigle (Skoda Fabia S2000), Alan McGeehan (Mini WRC) and Martin Cairns (Fiesta WRC) as the top three seeds.
Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings is set to drive a Mitsubishi Mirage (built to R5 specification) on the Ulster Rally, the penultimate round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship.