ITC series leader Donegal’s Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) headlines the rally after his victory in Clonakilty last year.
That experience will be helpful against opposition that is relatively familiar — none more so than Tarmac champion Declan Boyle (Subaru WRC).
Boyle’s lack of knowledge of the West Cork terrain is unlikely to impede him that much, while he may lose time on the first run over the stage he is adept at making rapid progress on the repeat runs. Former winner Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Fiesta WRC) reckons that it will be hard to keep pace with Kelly and Boyle.
Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC) with local co-driver Karl Atkinson calling the notes, should give a good account of himself.
Welshman Mel Evans (Subaru WRC), can become the second driver to win the event three times after winning in 2002 and 2009. Josh Moffett in the ex-Craig Breen Ford Fiesta WRC has limited experience of the roads in west Cork – he competed in the Fastnet Rally last October albeit in wet conditions, so with good weather predicted it will be a different experience.
Ovens driver Owen Murphy (Mitsubishi) reckons he can make an impression against the Ford Fiesta WRC trio and has targeted a top three finish.
The top ten also features the Citroen DS3 R5 of Jonny Greer, the Ford Fiesta R5 of Stephen Wright and popular Donegal driver, Declan Gallagher (Toyota Starlet), who spearheads the two-wheel drive category that includes the Escort trio of Phil Collins, Adrian Hetherington and Wesley Patterson.
Aaron MacHale (Mitsubishi) leads the conventional Group N contenders. Opposition includes Subaru pair of Brendan Cumiskey and Brian O’Keeffe and Stephen Carey (Honda).
Meanwhile, James O’Mahony (Volvo) and Rob Duggan (Fiesta R2) are the respective top seeds in the Historic and Junior categories.
The ceremonial start tonight is at 7.30pm in Astna Square. Tomorrow’s first stage, Ring, begins at 11am and Sunday’s opening stage at Ardfield gets the flag just after midday. Servicing on both days is at the Darrara Agricultural College. The finish celebrations are scheduled for 4.15pm at Astna Square, Clonakilty.
Elsewhere, Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC) heads the entry for tomorrow’s second round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship at the Bishopscourt Circuit in County Down. Peadar Hurson (Subaru WRC) Jonny Leonard (Mitsubishi), Ray Brammer (Subaru) and Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC) form the thrust of the opposition.
The worst example of misbehaviour in the history of Motorsport Ireland — is how the members of a Tribunal of Inquiry have described the protest by competitors against a fellow competitor during last year’s Wexford Rally.
The report set out the facts of the case: “At Parc Ferme Out Control, on day two of the Wexford Rally, a “protest” by competitors against an overseas fellow-competitor, Damian Cole, was organised and held.
“The aim of this protest was to blockade Mr Cole into Parc Ferme, in order to ensure that he was late out of Parc Ferme and would thus incur a road penalty as a result of the blockade. When the clerk of the course learned of the circumstances, he did not apply any penalty.”
It continued: “Mr Cole was being blamed for making a query against James M. Stafford’s times, resulting in Mr Stafford incurring a road penalty for Day 1, which took him from leading the rally to a position that ruled him out of winning the event.”
The Tribunal directed that competitors and Motorsport Ireland licence holders James F. Stafford, Shay Delaney, James M. Stafford, John Delaney, Joseph M. Kinsella and Niall Fortune be fined €1,000 each, suspended internationally for periods ranging from six to 15 months and each responsible for one seventh of the costs.
The report concluded that “an appeal against an adverse finding in his case, to the National Tribunal of Appeal, has been made by Mr Richard Moore.”