A resumption of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship after 11 weeks and the return of the Stonethrowers Rally after a two-year absence dovetail on Sunday in the Clonmel event.
The top three seeds in their Ford Fiesta World Rally Cars have switched from the usual Class 7 to Class 20 thus allowing for the addition of “Power Plus Kits.”
Questions are already being asked why this is the case as Class 20 was never intended for homologated rally cars. Series leader and top seed Donegal’s Declan Boyle is enjoying more consistency this season and with a win and two second places he is 15 points ahead of another Donegal driver, Joe McGonigle (Mini WRC).
The nine-stage event is the first Triton round since May due to the postponement of the Sligo Rally and with the series based on the best six scores from seven rounds, Boyle’s biggest threat to a third national title (when the dropped score rule is taken in consideration) is Monaghan’s Josh Moffett.
Former champion Clonmel’s Roy White has admitted a repeat of his 2016 Vard Memorial Trophy success is a long shot due to his results in Mayo and Cavan where he finished outside the top ten.
Given the increase in power in all their WRC’s the one fear for organisers is beating the bogey time on the three stages that will be repeated three times. Championship sponsor Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett in the Triton liveried Subaru WRC will also be aiming to get a strong finish on the terrain between Clonmel and Cashel.
Meanwhile, Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (Fiesta R5) intermingles with the national brigade for the first time and knows that unless it rains, he has little chance of even staying close to the WRC drivers.
Dry conditions will suit the modified cars of Maynooth’s Ian Barrett (Darrian T90 GTR+), Donegal’s Stuart Darcy (Darrian T90) and Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington (Ford Escort).
Barrett is likely to be the pacesetter while Darcy and Cavan’s Chris Armstrong (Escort), who is seeded just outside the top ten, have their own duel in the shape of the rally.ie award (top two-wheel drive in the overall standings) within the championship.
Elsewhere, Wicklow’s Daniel Barry (Citroen Ds3 R5) is back after a lengthy absence while Welsh ace Tomas Davies (Ford Escort) returns after his brief tenure in the Raven’s Rock Rally when he retired after the opening loop.
In Group N, Tyrone’s Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi EvoX) will be the barometer for Maynooth’s Paul Barrett in a similar car and the EvoIX versions of Wexford’s Tomas O’Rourke and Waterford’s Brian O’Keeffe.
Others in the top 20 are Cahir’s Andrew Fanning (Proton Satria S2000) and Limerick’s Keith Lyons (Ford Fiesta R5).
The latest bi-monthly nominee for the Billy Coleman Driver of the Year Award, Armagh’s Jason Black (Toyota Starlet) is the top entry in the Junior category. Based at the Clonmel Park Hotel, the first of the day’s nine stages starts at 9.40am.