The quality of the entry for tomorrow’s Carrick on Suir based Willie Loughman Forest Rally, the second round of the Valvoline Forest National Rally Championship bodes well for the series that earlier this week wrapped up a television deal.
Local hero and current S-WRC leader, Craig Breen headlines the entry for the six stage rally, half of which takes place in the hours of darkness. The Waterford ace couldn’t let the opportunity slip.
“It’s so close to home and it is no harm to support my local club. It’s been a while since I competed on gravel and it’s an ideal shakedown for my next outing in the S-WRC in Portugal at the end of the month,’’ he said.
The opposition is one of the best in recent times with last year’s winner, Cork driver, Owen Murphy lining up behind Breen on what is his first outing in the current campaign. Both are former Irish Karting champions and Billy Coleman Award winners. Murphy’s plan is quite simple.
“I’ll go flat out from the start. If my time is close to Craig (Breen) then I will battle on. If not, I will concentrate on the championship side of things,’’ said Murphy.
Both will have to be wary of the in-form Garry Jennings in the Jennings Fuels backed Subaru 555. The Fermanagh driver won the opening Valvoline round in Donegal and was the pick of the bunch in last Saturday’s Fivemiletown Rally in Northern Ireland. A curtailed outing in last week’s Dunlop opener in Abbeyleix hasn’t dimmed his enthusiasm and he will also adopt an all-out attack from the beginning. Colin Britton, a regular on the forest series and third overall in the first round in Donegal, will campaign a Mitsubishi Evo IX and should be well placed if the more high profile contenders make a mistake.
The threat posed by Tipperary’s Pat O Connell (Mitsubishi Evo IX), who won the series two seasons ago, will also be significant. Elsewhere, Mark Donnelly, Vincent McAree and Stephen Wright, all in Mitsubishi Evo IX’s and Enda McNulty (Subaru) fill the remaining places in the top 10.
Cork’s Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi Evo IX) is just outside the top 10 frame. Northern Ireland’s, Desi Henry (Citroen DS3) second in last week’s Rallye Sunseeker along with the rear wheel drive cars of Adrian Hetherington (Ford Escort), Shane McGirr (Toyota Starlet), Shay Power, Seamus O’ Connell and James Coleman, all in Ford Escorts, make for an interesting encounter. Coleman will have Marie Louise O’Donnell on board for a special report on Pat Kenny’s radio show on Monday. No doubt, the opening 25 kilometre stage in the Gurteen Forest complex close to Kilsheelan (3.21pm) will have a huge bearing on the outcome. The remaining stages at Towerhill and Bealough near Portlaw haven’t been used for over a decade.
Rally headquarters is at the Carraig Hotel — another co-sponsor with the service park at the Mill River Business Park. Also tomorrow, the Garda Síochána Motor Club’s Sporting Trial at Aughfarrell, Brittas begins at 11.30; the Cavan Navigation Trial, a round of the national series, starts from Maudabawn near Cootehill at 9pm. On Sunday, the final round of the Irish Rallycross Championship takes place in Mondello Park.
The Munster Car Club, organisers of the Cork “20” International Rally, has announced that Orchard Motorsport will sponsor the rally on October 6/7 next. For the past two seasons, the Armagh based outfit has been an associate sponsor along with the Moran Hotel Silver Springs Hotel, who will continue with the same support. The rally returns to its more traditional format with four stages repeated twice on Saturday and three repeated twice on Sunday. A number of incentives will be unveiled later in the season as the organisers focus on reducing the costs for competitors.
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