Garry Jennings (Subaru 555), current leader of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship, could take a major step towards the title in tomorrow’s Mallow-based Jim Walsh Cork Forest Rally.
The Fermanagh driver takes on last year’s event winner and former champion Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi) and local hero Owen Murphy (Mitsubishi EvoIX), the current national champion.
Jennings is in tremendous form this season both in the woods and on tarmac. Already on his way to retaining his Irish Tarmac Championship Group N title, boosted by a fine third overall in the recent Rally of the Lakes, he created great interest in the forest series.
With victory in Donegal, maximum points in Carrick-on-Suir and second spot in Moonraker Rally, Jennings has a nine-point lead over Colin Britton (Mitsubishi).
Top seed Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi) took third in the Moonraker and will fancy his chances in the six-stage event. For Ovens driver Owen Murphy it’s a key event and an outright win is also a pre-requisite as he seeks to reduce the 39-point deficit to Jennings.
Meanwhile, Britton occupies the No 4 berth followed by Vincent McAree, Ian Cochrane and Stephen Wright. The top 10 also includes the Subaru WRC duo of Martin Cairns and Kevin Barrett and Ballyvourney’s Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi). Barrett, a regular in the Dunlop National Rally Championship, is a surprise entry after retirement from last week’s Carlow Rally effectively ruled out a title challenge.
“I really needed to finish first or second to stay in contention, but it’s gone now,” he said. “My son Paul  is making his debut in the Cork Forest event so I thought it would be a good idea for me to do it as well.”
Elsewhere, the entry also features Liam Regan (Peugeot 206 4x4) and the Modified cars of Shay Power (Escort) and Shane McGirr (Toyota Starlet), James Coleman, Michael Conlon, Paul Fitzgerald and Jimmy Deane. Power is the leading two-wheel drive competitor in the Valvoline series.
In the Junior category, the top three entries are Ian Downey (Opel Corsa), Dean Raftery (Honda Civic) and Daniel Cronin (Peugeot 206). The first stage, Bweeng, begins at 1.30pm.
Also this weekend, the Laois Rallysport Club’s 4x4 Trial at Derry Villa near Portarlington, begins at 11am tomorrow and Sunday.
On Sunday, the Birr Autotest at Kilcotton, Borris-in-Ossory starts at 11.30am and the Northeast MC Autocross at Mullary, Dunleer starts at 12.30pm.
In motorcycling, the International North-West 200 takes place tomorrow. Race favourite Alastair Seeley will take on Michael Rutter and local duo Michael Dunlop and Ryan Farquhar over the circuit linking Port rush, Port Stewart and Coleraine.
Following confusion over results of the Historic category of the recent Rally of the Lakes, the organisers of the Irish Tarmac Championship will clarify the rules. The event regulations of the rally conflicted with Motorsport Ireland’s (MI) Green Book yet, both were approved by MI.
Despite rumours to the contrary, the Cavan Rally will go ahead next week as planned. To date, more than 80 entries have been received.
Following last week’s Carlow Rally, Kerry’s Thomas Fitzmaurice leads Monaghan’s Niall Maguire by four points with Cork driver Brian O’Mahony a further 12 points in arrears.
Meanwhile, Clonakilty’s Kevin Kelleher will debut his recently acquired ex-Connor McCloskey Subaru S9 in the forthcoming Circuit of Munster.
The Imokilly Motor Club will host their maiden stage rally on July 28. The single stage rally (20km) run three times will be sponsored by Great Stuff Caterers and will be based at the Midleton Park Hotel. The event is open to all cars with the exception of currently homologated WRCs.
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