THE Tarmac Rally Organisers Association (TROA) meet in Dublin on Sunday against the backdrop of a changing demographic in the Irish Tarmac Championship. The top contenders in the ITC have stated that the series should continue without any dramatic changes.
Over the course of the next few years it is likely to be a mix of WRC, Group N, S1600 and Super 2000 cars. The TROA consists of members from all the eight events including the three clubs that overlap with the British Rally Championship (BRC).
With the BRC organisers setting out a plan that their events will not be won by WRC’s, both organisations will have to work around the current framework towards a solution to keep both championships on an even keel.
It is of course a rehash of the annual debate as to who wins events and really only applies to the Manx, Jim Clark and Ulster events that dovetail as both ITC and BRC counters. The fact remains that the quickest crew to traverse the stages should be the one that wins the rally, any other scenario brings confusion even within the sport, not to mention from an outside perspective. What is clear is that the current crop of drivers that pilot WRC’s in the ITC have no desire to play second fiddle in any rally.
Next season’s rounds of the BRC were announced several weeks ago, interestingly, what was previously termed the Ulster Rally has been renamed International Rally Northern Ireland. That could see the BRC crews tackle that event with the ITC competitors tackle the Ulster Rally over the same stages. How that rests with the TROA remains to be seen. The ITC is self-policing, perhaps if there isn’t a satisfactory outcome to the ITC/BRC dilemma on Sunday, maybe, the time is ripe for a new series to be developed within Ireland – replacing the three BRC counting events with rallies within Ireland and not necessarily of two-day duration.
Meanwhile, Irish pair, Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Peugeot 207 S2000) continue their exploits in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge on round nine of the series, Rally Principle de Asturias in Spain. They have a three-point lead over Jan Kopecky (Skoda), who has managed to get sufficient funds to compete in all three remaining rounds. Giandomenico Basso (Fiat Grande Punto) and Freddy Loix (Peugeot) are equal third – twelve points further behind. Toni Gardemeister will drive the MSD Opel Corsa S2000.
Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC) takes his Hankook Northern Ireland Rally Championship bid to tomorrow’s Fisher Engineering Lakeland Rally. The Glengormley driver is 17 points ahead of his principal rival, Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC). Others on the entry are local ace, Alastair Fisher and fellow Mitsubishi drivers, Donagh Kelly, Raymond Johnston and Stephen Whitford (Mitsubishi) and Seamus Devine (Subaru WRC). Keith Cronin will drive his Mitsubishi Evo9 as one of the 00 cars as a shakedown for International Rally Yorkshire, the final and deciding round of the British Rally Championship.
Local hero, PJ McGrath (Subaru WRC) heads a capacity entry for the two-day Riverbank House Hotel Dick Bailey Rally in Wexford that will also decide the Mitsubishi Evo Challenge Ireland series and the Honda Cup.
McGrath, who won last year, faces opposition from Michael Barrable (Ford Focus WRC), who has Diarmuid Falvey calling the pacenotes. Damien Cole (Ford Focus) and Eoin Doyle (Subaru WRC) are the other main entries. Darrian pair, Geoff Kitney and James Stafford are the top two-wheel drive exponents and with fine weather expected, should mount a serious challenge. William Mavitty and Stanley Ballentine will battle for supremacy in the Mitsubishi Evo Challenge Irish series.
In the Honda Cup, that has a round each day, Cork driver, Damien McCarthy has an eight-point advantage over Wexford’s, Thomas O’Rourke.
Entries for the Cork “20” International Rally are still being accepted, the event will determine the outcome of the Irish Tarmac Championship between Eugene Donnelly and Gareth MacHale. Meanwhile, entries for the Imokilly Hillclimb at Killeagh on Sunday week remain open, details from Donie McCarthy on 086/1721362.
Dubliner, Eoin Murray will contest three races for the Seat Leon Supercopa at Albacete, Spain this weekend. With 43 points on offer, Murray is hoping to close the 12-point deficit to leader, Marc Carol (Spain).
Almost 50 drivers from the Formula Vee class will battle it out for the famed Leinster Trophy in Mondello Park on Sunday.
A1 Team Ireland’s Managing Director and Team Principal, Mark Gallagher, is stepping down from his management duties to join Cosworth Ltd where he will lead its Formula 1 Business Unit.
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