Derek McGarrity leads Circuit of Kerry charge but rising costs hit entry

One of the most popular events in Irish rallying, the Rose Hotel Circuit of Kerry is a perfect illustration of the current difficulties within Irish rallying.

Ulsterman Derek McGarrity (Fiesta WRC) heads Sunday’s entry that is virtually half of what it was last year when it was a counting round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship.

The Kerry Motor Club event is not a round on this occasion due to the biennial rotation system. However, national status is not the real reason for the dramatic 50% drop off — it’s the increase in insurance costs and the fact that Sunday’s rally is the fourth event in a five-week period that has five rallies.

Most events have fallen short of the suggested 90 mark — the break-even-figure in terms of meeting the insurance costs, the shortfall is being borne by the governing body, Motorsport Ireland, but for how long — it’s estimated it could be as much as €250,000 for the year. Last Wednesday, Motorsport Ireland, through its website, announced that they will be launching a support sticker scheme (at €20 each) to help raise funds. Why has it taken this long?

Both the Galway and West Cork rallies were missed opportunities. The Irish rallying spectator gets a free show and they need to contribute — it is not enough to purchase the rally programme although that does generates revenue for the organising club.

Single day events like the Circuit of Kerry are taking a hammering in comparison to longer rallies that are now seen as better value. For instance, the entry fee for the three-day Donegal International Rally is likely to be around €1,300, three national/one day events cost around €2,500.

Ironically, all clubs agree there are too many rallies, yet, none are prepared to drop out for a year — should it be left to the clubs to sort the problem or should the governing body to take control and make the tough decisions for the betterment and continuation of the sport?

Meanwhile, McGarrity, who won the Circuit of Kerry seven years ago when he edged out Kevin Barrett on a tie-break faces a tough task over the nine stages to the east of Tralee.

Overseas driver Steve Wood (Subaru WRC) heads the challenge. On one of his last outings here he won the Circuit of Munster. Former Northern Ireland rally champion Kenny McKinstry only decided on Monday to enter and having retired with steering trouble on the second stage last year he will be aiming to go the full distance on Sunday.

Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC) is seeded at four. He’s decided to focus mainly on the non-national events this year as he concentrates on the fortunes of his son Paul in the Triton series.

Dundalk’s Brendan Cumiskey (Skoda Fabia) and Dubliner Aaron MacHale (Citroen DS3) head the R5 challenge. Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (Mitsubishi) occupies the number seven berth and the Modified contingent is spearheaded by Ryan Loughran and Ed O’Callaghan, both in Escorts.

The top 10 is completed by Maynooth’s Paul Barrett, who will test a Mitsubishi EvoX rather than drive the Vado-liveried Subaru he uses in the national championship. The rally is the second round of the Top Part West Coast Championship.

An interesting entry is Limerick’s Ken Lyons, who won the first event 30 years ago when co-driven by Philip Moynihan, fittingly, he’s seeded at No. 30. The first stage is at 10.10am.


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