The dynamic of this year’s Irish Tarmac Rally Championship — that is being launched in Galway tonight — sees a major shift towards the Hyundai i20 R5 for many of its top competitors.
Since the series ruled that World Rally Cars were only allowed to win events but not the series, the majority of its major players moved to R5 cars, with four-time British Rally champion Keith Cronin becoming the first winner of the R5 generation.
While he won the 2016 series with a Citroen DS3R5, the Ford Fiesta R5 has been the most popular make and has taken maximum points in most of the rounds since.
The launch comes just a few days after Hyundai Motorsport announced that Ole Christian Veiby (23) and Nikolay Gryazin (22) will drive the latest specification Hyundai i20 R5 cars in at least eight events in this year’s WRC2 category on the World Rally Championship.
The decision seems to have closed the door (for the moment at least) on the prospects of Craig Breen and co-driver Paul Nagle competing with the Korean outfit at the WRC table.
The Waterford/Killarney duo are the reigning ITRC champions courtesy of maximum points in last year’s series, winning their first four events in a Fiesta R5 and clinching the title at the Ulster Rally in a Hyundai i20 R5.
Last week speaking at the Motorsport Ireland stand at the Autosport International Show, co-driver Nagle confirmed that the pair had nothing in place for 2020.
It remains to be seen if they will contest this year’s series which will be without Derry’s Callum Devine, who contests the European Rally Championship (ERC) in a PCRS run Hyundai i20 R5.
Within the ITRC, two former champions, Monaghan brothers Josh and Sam Moffett will also use Hyundais.
Josh’s car will be run by Tom Gahan Motorsport while Sam, due to work commitments, has opted to hire a car from Melvyn Evans Motorsport.
Meanwhile, Portglenone’s Desi Henry is also on board a Hyundai as he concentrates on a full ITRC bid where he will be co-driven by Scotland’s Stuart Loudon.
Former Billy Coleman award winner Armagh’s James Wilson is also in a Hyundai.
Donegal’s Donagh Kelly and Welsh ace Meirion Evans will both compete in VW Polo R5’s.
Fermanagh’s Alistair Fisher stated will decide over the weekend if he is to compete in this year’s ITRC.
Former Galway winner Fermanagh’s Gary Jennings is now likely to revert to his trusty Subaru WRC as it is speculated that Jon Armstrong will campaign a right-hand drive Proton Iriz R5.
The Corrib Oil Galway International Rally (February 2) is also being launched this evening against the backdrop of the TROA (Tarmac Rally Organisers Association) advising the Galway organisers that they will lose their championship in 2021 if it’s not a two-day event.
Meanwhile, Cork karter Daniel Kelleher competes in this weekend’s Dubai “O” Plate at the Dubai Kartdrome.
The 10-year-old from Mogeely will race in the IAME Cadet class.