WITHIN days of the announcement of a raft changes to improve the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, one of its most popular events, the Donegal International Rally, has secured a new three-year deal with current sponsor, Topaz.
The Letterkenny-based event that celebrates its 40th anniversary, is the only three-day event on the Irish rallying calendar. This year’s rally will take place from Friday June 17 to Sunday June 19. It is estimated that the Donegal event is worth up to €25m to the local economy.
Meanwhile, the Tarmac Rally Organisers Association (TROA) has announced the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship will remain a six-round Irish Championship for 2012 and 2013. For the moment, the Jim Clark and Rally Isle of Man will not be part of the championship. David Gray, the TROA chairman, said: “This change reflects feedback from competitors and the economic situation, however, it does not preclude the return of former counting rounds — the Isle of Man and the Jim Clark International.”
In addition, next year, the TROA are poised to introduce a junior tarmac champion award along with points for fastest stage times and the winner of each event leg.
Waterford’s Brian O’Keeffe (Subaru) will defend his title on tomorrow’s Great Stuff Caterers Cork City Rallysprint at the Cork Civic Amenity Centre on the Kinsale Road. Irish Forest Championship front runner, Owen Murphy (Mitsubishi) will provide stern opposition for O’Keeffe. The Ovens driver is likely to adapt best to the dual surface event where the competitors are expected to get a minimum of three runs following the 10am start. The Mitsubishi pair of Forest champion, Pat O’Connell and chief contender, Liam Ryan are also well capable of victory. The top two-wheel drive entry is Youghal’s Jason Ryan (Honda Civic). The remainder of the top 10 is as follows: Greg McCarthy (Subaru); David Cremin (Mitsubishi); Mick Cremin (Mitsubishi); Mike O’Connor (Mitsubishi) and Matt Shinnors (Ford Escort).
Also tomorrow, the Carrick on Suir Motor Club host the Irish Motorsport Expo at the Hub in Kilkenny (11am). The event also marks the launch of the club’s premier event, the Raven’s Rock Rally that celebrates its 40th anniversary. A rally forum (5pm) will focus on young Irish rally drivers including WRC Academyparticipants Alastair Fisher and Craig Breen, current Billy Coleman award winner, Robert Barrable, Motorsport Ireland and RSA Young Driver Ambassador, Toni Kelly along with National Forestry Championship regulars, Vincent McAree and Stephen Wright.