Massive interest from the clubman circuit has guaranteed a full entry list for this Sunday’s Crosbie Cedars Hotel Wexford Single Stage Rally - the second Slaneyside event of the year.
Wexford Motor Club driver David James of Gorey, who finished fourth in last month's day-long event, leads the start list in his Escort BDX ahead of fellow Wexfordian Willie Carroll in a Cosworth, who finished a tremendous fifth in mid-November.
Much will be asked of co-drivers Ron Guha and Jason Mernagh respectively.
Carroll succeeded in pipping Kilkenny's Willie O'Dwyer those few short weeks back, but O’Dwyer assisted by Andrew Purcell - has an opportunity for revenge this time around, as he is seeded third in his Metro 6R4.
Carlow's John Nolan is fourth seed, ahead of Tipperary's Jimmy Lambert, who is seeking a battle at the top of the leaderboard in his Ford Escort with James, following their gladiatorial scrap for both the Lighthouse Rally in Fethard two years ago and the Courtown Single Stage this time last year.
The unrestricted event will see the 10-mile course in the Newbawn area of South-West Wexford being traversed three times, with the final circuit taking place at night, following fall of darkness.
Rally HQ will once more be situated at the Crosbie Cedars Hotel in Rosslare, with Ballinaboola being the location of the service area.
Clerk of the course Des Byrne - assisted by Sean Gaul has devised an intriguing circuit that is certain to test the best, particularly in the dark
The South-East is strongly represented in the event.
Outside of the leading names, Wexford competition is expected to come from the likes of Liam Wall, James M Stafford, Shay White (and Bea White), James Kent and PJ O’Farrell.
In fact just over a third of the field comes from the Model County.
Waterford’s main hopes lie with Impreza-driving ninth-seed Colm Doyle, and Escort trio Eamonn Murphy, John Redmond and Sean Ryan.
Willie O’Dwyer isn’t the only Kilkenny man with his eye on a high finish also include Pat Bolger, James Travers, Pat Croke and John Brennan.
Another county that could easily provide the winner is Tipperary, and not just because of the increasingly competitive Lambert.
The Premier County provides three of the top ten seeds, with Kieran Molloy’s Lancer and David Percy’s Escort also fated to be involved at the sharp end somewhere.
John Hennessy, Jason Dooley and Emmet Watchorn provide a smattering of Carlow opposition, with quite a number of the field coming from the Kingdom.
Kerry will be ably represented by Dave Slattery, Robert Moran, Donal O’Connor and Brian Duggan, co-driver for Dublin-based Willie Fannin, driver of car 16 and 14th seed.
But don’t rule out the Northerners - after all, they have an impressive record in Wexford.
Down’s Peadar Hurson took the honours in Newbawn last month, Ballymena’s Dominic McNeill was crowned Courtown Forestry Rally Champion last December, Terrance Taggart claimed victory for Armagh in last year’s Courtown Single Stage twelve months after brother Martin had done the same in the Lighthouse.
The last two events mentioned saw David James miss out at the death -could this be the Goreyman’s year?
If so, he’ll have to fend off the best that Ulster can throw at him namely Fermanagh’s Philip Shaw, Ollie O’Reilly of Cavan and Monaghan duo Paddy O’Reilly and Noel O’Reilly.
Behind the scenes, preparations have been progressing solidly since the climax of last month’s Single Stage, which proved to be an outstanding success, and could provide a pointer for the future of Single Stage events.
As part of the foundation-laying for Sunday’s events, prospective marshals for the rally had a welcome chance of being trained in on Tuesday night.
Marshals were given a run-through of their duties and training for any eventuality in the car park of the Crosbie Cedars.
The meeting point for marshals and officials on the Sunday morning of the rally will be at 8am in the car park of the Horse and Hound, Ballinaboola.