There is a noticeable decline in the level of entries for most Irish rallies with some organising clubs struggling to run their events without incurring losses. Some events are down 30 to 40 entries compared to previous seasons with scarcely any club having maximum entries as was the case in former years.
Motorsport Ireland’s chief executive Alex Sinclair says the fall-off can be attributed to either the economy or the additional levy (close to €200 on most events) imposed on competitors due to the increased insurance premium, or perhaps even a combination of both. A reduction of events doesn’t seem an option as most clubs survive on the basis of running their premier event.
In addition, monies generated from events actually pay the insurance premium. Sinclair added, “It’s amazing we have so many rallies, it would be a less challenging process (insurance) if we had less events.” He added clubs organising events in the second half of 2016 would find it more difficult. Yet, to date, there is only a 2% reduction in the number of licences issued by Motorsport Ireland compared to last year. The chief executive admitted: “We need to be careful to get over the next two or three years without having any incidents where bystanders are involved. Over the past six months, it is evident clubs are making that extra effort.”
Meanwhile, close on 100 crews will tackle Sunday’s Midleton-based Imokilly Rally, round four of the Plastic Bags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship.
With last year’s winner Gary Kiernan ruled out due to a cracked engine block in his Ford Escort, fellow countyman Chris Armstrong (Ford Escort) is the top seed. Opposition is provided by Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien (Ford Escort), who should have a similar turn of speed. Ovens driver Donal O’Brien (Ford Escort) spearheads the local challenge and has promised maximum attack from the very start.
Midleton’s Mark Dolphin (Ford Escort) will be on home territory and that should be an advantage. Another local man Colin Byrne (Ford Escort) is likely to target a top three finish. Although Ballylickey’s Denis Cronin is seeded at number six, a back injury has ruled him out and instead his nephew Daniel will drive the ex-McCann Mitsubishi.
For Tyrone’s Frank Kelly (Escort) and Donegal’s Declan Gallagher, participation is all about honouring a fundraising commitment by the organising club, who are helping four-year-old Culann Cashman, who suffers from cerebral palsy. Another Midleton driver, Wesley Daly, has hired the Andrew Fanning Mitsubishi for his local event and Galwegian Tom Flaherty (Escort) completes the top 10.
The first of the six stages starts at 10.50am. The service park and finish ramp will be located at the Market Green.
Former Motorsport Ireland International Driver of the Year winner Matt Griffin (Ferrari 458 Italia) and his AF Corse team-mates Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott compete in the 4 Hours of Red Bull in Austria.
The National Grass Surface Autocross Championship continues with Sunday’s fifth round in Dromore near Ruan in County Clare. Meath’s Cian Carey (22) from Ratoath, County Meath, has been selected as the Young Racing Driver of the month for May.
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