HAVING dominated the Dunlop National Rally Championship so far, it remains to be seen if any of Tim McNulty’s title rivals have the ability to stop him as he goes in search of another victory at Sunday’s Hotel Kilmore Cavan Rally.
Without extending himself on any of the previous encounters, McNulty, who won in Cavan last year but wasn’t contesting the Dunlop campaign, seems to have the measure not just of his title rivals but also, and probably more importantly, the ability to judge his own performance.
Consistency and a little share of good fortune are the pre-requisites of a successful championship bid, victories in Abbeyleix, Monaghan and Tullow illustrate the former, the element of luck was displayed on the last round when a steering problem hit just before the three service halts, where the issue was sorted. Although Cork driver, Liam McCarthy (Toyota Corolla WRC) and Dubliner Robert Barrable (Skoda Fabia S2000) are McNulty’s closest rivals, it is the Subaru WRC pair of Niall Maguire and Kevin Barrett who are expected to present the main challenge in Cavan.
None of McNulty’s rivals are enjoying a good run in the present campaign, however. Maguire is already 41 points adrift and although Barrett’s position isn’t as precarious (31 points behind), he also faces an uphill challenge over the remaining rounds.
Of course, another McNulty victory will almost make their task insurmountable, the fact that it is the best seven scores from 10 events to count, offers some solace at this point. Their need to maximise their efforts through Sunday is relatively obvious.
Omagh’s Seamus Leonard (Subaru WRC), who is seeded at number four, is unlikely to register for the Dunlop series. One of the main protagonists in Group N, Colm Murphy, is a late withdrawal as his Subaru will not be refettled in time following a brush with the scenery in Carlow.
That gives Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Mitsubishi) an opportunity to improve his position in the Motorsport Safety Team Group N award where, along with Murphy, he is 10 points adrift of the non-competing Robert Barrable. Dunmanway’s Liam McCarthy (Toyota Corolla WRC) continues his national involvement and, having annexed 14 championship points in Carlow, will be aiming for a similar result in Cavan.
Meanwhile, current rally.ie two-wheel drive champion Declan Boyle (Ford Escort) will seek a return to the type of form that saw him dominate the series and category just 12 months ago. Fellow Donegal ace Manus Kelly, Escort pair Michael Conlon and Damien Gallagher and Washington James (Darrian) are his main opponents.
Elsewhere, Stuart Darcy (Mitsubishi), Shane Maguire (Subaru) and Trevor Bustard (Mitsubishi) are Moffett’s opposition in the showroom category. The opening stage begins at 11am and the event finishes at 5.30pm.
Several Irish crews are involved in the Jim Clark Rally, the fourth round of the Dulux Trade British Rally Championship. The Skoda Fabia S2000 of Jonny Greer and Robert Barrable line up behind top seed and series leader David Bogie (Mitsubishi) of Scotland. Barrable, who has 30 points, will fancy his chances on what is the first tarmac event of the current campaign.
Meanwhile, the tarmac will also give the Formula Two drivers such as Estonian Siim Plangi (Renault Twingo) and the Northern Ireland duo of Mark Donnelly (Renault Clio) and Martin McCormack (Citroen DS3) a much better opportunity to be close to the four-wheel drive cars.
Also competing are Irish aces and WRC Academy drivers Craig Breen and Alastair Fisher in a pair of Fiesta R2s. Based in Kelso, this evening’s leg of six stages begins with the town stage in Duns at 7.00pm (repeated on SS 4), the final night stage is at 11.00pm. There are 10 more stages tomorrow prior to the finish at 5.30pm.
In the US, Irish drivers Peter Dempsey and Patrick McKenna will feature in the support races for this weekend’s Indy 500. Dempsey races in the Indy Lights series and McKenna, who won the Formula Ford race at Indianapolis last year, will be involved in the Star Mazda class, where he is seventh overall after two rounds.
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