It will be unknown territory for the Donegal man, who campaigned a Ford Focus WRC with huge success in 2015. Work commitments meant a diluted programme this season although he did win the West Cork Rally for the third consecutive year and took back-to-back wins in Killarney.
Kelly admitted: “I’m a bit rusty in the woods, it’s two years since I won the Lakeland Rally in the McGeehan Mini WRC. The entry is formidable and with just a set of notes and no reconnaissance, guys like Steve Petch and Hugh Hunter, big names on the domestic series, will have an advantage as they have competed on these stages many times. ”
Top seed Petch (Ford Fiesta R5+) along with David Wright (Ford Focus) and Hunter (Ford Fiesta R5) will be the benchmark for Kelly who has set a number of targets for 2017. He explained: “The Triton Showers National Rally Championship is an option, but then there are other considerations like trying to win West Cork for the fourth successive time or Killarney for a hat-trick. Certainly, I will be doing more than I did this year, I have missed it surely but it’s just that I have too much work.”
Next season’s Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship will be reduced to six rounds with the best five to count. With the Circuit of Ireland not running in 2017 (it will return in 2018) it’s replacement – a one-day event in Belfast yet to be confirmed wasn’t suitable in any case. Championship organisers (TROA) held discussions with the Munster Car Club on the possibility of the Moonraker Forest Rally joining the series as a “guest round” next April. However, the proposal didn’t get enough support from within the TROA and the series will now run with the usual other rounds - Galway, West Cork, Killarney, Donegal, Ulster and the Cork “20.” Meanwhile, the Cork “20” replaces Killarney as a counting round of the 2017 Celtic Trophy.
The Carbery Navigation Trial, the second round of the Munster Navigation Trial Championship will traverse 85 miles of intricate terrain around the Carbery division on Saturday night (11pm). Based at the Kilmacabea GAA headquarters in Leap, the Ovens/Drinagh duo of Donal Healy/Denis O’Donovan (Toyota Starlet), who won last year’s event will not find it easy to record back-to-back wins. The local crew of Dermot Whelton/Mark McCarthy - second overall in last season’s national series and winners of the first round of the Munster series last month will present a formidable challenge. So too will - Monaghan’s Derek Mackarel and his Togher navigator Muireann Hayes; Limerick’s Joe and Greg Shinnors and the Cork pair of Owen Murphy and Owen Murphy. There’s nostalgia in the air as Cork’s Michael “Bones” O’Connor, now domiciled in Australia teams up with his former navigator Alan Cavanagh in the car they used a few decades ago. The pair won Cork the 1000 Shakes Rally from 1977 to 1981.