The eight-stage event is the third round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Championship with former champion Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5) headlining the entry.
Moffett, fresh from winning the Easter Rally last Saturday, and winner of the last Valvoline round in the Silvermines is in a rich vein of form. However, series leader, Waterford’s Andrew Purcell (Fiesta R5) poses a stern challenge.
Purcell won the forest opener in Carrick on Suir and was heading for back-to-back wins until a puncture thwarted his efforts in Tipperary and he had to settle for third.
Of course neither are going to have it all to themselves as New York-based Barry McKenna in yet another Fiesta R5 has shown great consistency with two-second places to hold second in the series - a point behind Purcell.
Derry’s Connor McCloskey in his Fiesta R5+ is somewhat of an unknown quantity – the superb stages should suit his style. Another Derry ace Marty McCormack and his Mallow co-driver David Moynihan, who were third in the Easter Rally should also be able to mount a good challenge.
For Cavan’s Stephen McCann (Fiesta S2000) it offers another opportunity to continue his solid form in his first season in the forests, presently, he is third overall in the series.
Local driver Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi Evo VII) will be eager to impress on home territory but a personal best fourth overall finish may be difficult to attain on this occasion.
Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt (Citroen DS3R5) and Omagh’s Niall McCullagh (Mitsubishi EvoIX) make the long journey south in search of a strong result. The top ten is completed by Monaghan’s Michael Carbin (Mitsubishi EvoIV).
Others in the four wheel drive category include New York-based Enda McCormack (Ford Fiesta R5) and Cahir’s Andrew Fanning (Proton S2000) along with the Group N Mitsubishi’s of Dunmanway’s David Guest and Limerick’s PJ O’Connor.
The two-wheel drive entry has Down’s David Crossen (Escort) as the top seed, he won last time out on the Silvermines but the likes of Tyrone duo Shane McGirr and Adrian Hetherington and Down’s John Gordon will ensure there is no easy passage to victory.
Others like Monaghan’s Mickey Conlon, Carlow’s David Condell and Derry’s Thomas O’Connell should be close to leaders. The Peugeot 208 trio of Marty Gallagher, James Wilson and William Creighton will have Boherbue’s John O’Sullivan (Fiesta R2) as their principal opposition.
The first stage begins at 9.15am with the finish at the Abbey Hotel, Ballyvourney at 5.30pm.
Meanwhile, Cork racing driver Matt Griffin begins another frenetic season as he competes in three different championships with three different teams.
First away this Sunday is the European Le Mans Series with the Spirit of Race outfit.