A rallying year which began with uncertainty ends in style tomorrow with a capacity entry list for the Rentokil-Initial Killarney Historic Rally.
Former winner Millstreet’s Mark Falvey in his familiar Mk. 1 Ford Escort RS1600 is first on the road tomorrow morning and with the multi-winning co-driver James O’Brien calling the pacenotes, it makes for a formidable partnership that will be hard to beat.
Falvey, who won the event five years ago, knows the terrain well but they will have former British Historic Rally champions Derry’s Marty McCormack and Tyrone’s Paul Barrett in their mirrors at the start line of Moll’s Gap, the first of the day’s eight stages.
McCormack’s year has mostly been in his TigerRisk Skoda Fabia R5 as he dabbled in selective rounds of the British and Irish Tarmac Rally Championships. The switch to his Mk. 2 Escort will hold no fear for the Derry man.
Barrett won this event at the first time of asking in 2016 and while he was third last year behind Falvey and winner Denis Moynihan, who is not competing this time, the Tyrone man is an undoubted talent and should be right in the mix for supremacy.
Irish Tarmac Historic champion, Owen Murphy will also be a contender. He will drive the Talbot Sunbeam he debuted on this event last year and with a much-improved suspension and set-up will be aiming to secure outright victory.
Meanwhile, Welsh drivers account for half of the top 10 with Escorts aces Mel Evans, Barry Jones, Neil Williams, and Tomas Davies and the ever-popular Phil Collins in an Opel Ascona adding greatly to the quality of the rally. Evans is a regular in recent seasons with second place (2016) his best result.
The top 10 also includes Ballylickey’s Denis Cronin (Ford Escort).
Elsewhere, Belfast’s Jonny Greer, a driver more familiar in the modern R5 category will debut a Ford Sierra Cosworth while Kilkenny’s Joe Connolly (Ford Escort), English driver Duncan Williams along with Kerry aces Pat Looney and Todd Falvey in Ford Escorts are seeded just outside the top 10. Jimmy McRae campaigns a Vauxhall Firenza can-Am with Keith Cronin’s regular co-driver Mikie Galvin on pacenotes.
Meanwhile, the quality of the Modified category is equally high with Rob Duggan (Escort) leading the way.
The talented Killarney driver has returned from Australia to be the barometer for some of the leading lights in the category. Indeed, such is the quality that any of the top 10 seeds could be a winner.
Donegal’s Declan Gallagher is the one non-Escort pilot as he stays loyal to his Toyota Starlet. Cavan trio of Gary Kiernan, Chris Armstrong, and Jonny Pringle, Scotland’s David Bogie, Armagh’s Damian Toner, Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien, and Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson provide opposition.
The loop of three stages — Moll’s Gap, Beallaghbeama, and Caragh Lakes will be repeated following a service break at the Liebherr complex before two runs of the Kilcummin stage that will also be split by a service halt.
The Modified category will tackle the second run of Kilcummin (SS8) under the cover of darkness. The finish at the Gleneagle Hotel is at 4.40pm.