Following a winter of uncertainty, Irish rallying springs into action tomorrow with the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally, the opening round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship.
Its two-tier system continues with those in World Cars only eligible to win individual events while the R5 remains the championship choice.
Last year’s Galway winner Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC) is again likely to set the pace. However, the Fermanagh man will face a strong challenge from Declan Boyle, especially as the Donegal driver now seems to have his Ford Fiesta WRC well sorted for the Irish terrain.
Reigning Tarmac champion Keith Cronin is the only real absentee in Galway and this leaves his main rival from last year, Alastair Fisher (Ford Fiesta R5) as favourite for the current series. Interestingly, the Fermanagh driver has switched to Kumho tyres.
illy Coleman award winner Josh Moffett (Fiesta R5) is next off the start line and having won the Cork “20”last October he should be in confident mood. Matching Fisher’s pace will not be easy, however, for late entry Robert Barrable it will be the target as he returns to rallying after a year in the British GT Championship.
Triton Showers National champion Roy White (Ford Fiesta WRC) is using the event as a shakedown for the opening round of that series in Nenagh at the end of the month. Towards the end of last year Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5) was bridging the gap to the likes of Cronin and Fisher.
He needs to continue that upward trend and Galway will be the perfect location to judge his pace. The remainder of the top ten features Joseph McGonigle (Skoda Fabia R5), Jonathan Greer and Aaron MacHale in Citroen DS3 R5’s and Brendan Cumiskey (Ford Fiesta R5).
Monaghan’s Stephen Wright (Fiesta R5) is a late entry, it appears he has served a suspension handed down by Motorsport Ireland in relation to an incident of last year’s Tipperary Stonethrower’s Rally. Meanwhile, other entries in Galway are Stephen McCann (Ford Fiesta S2000) along with the top seeds in the Modified category, Eugene Meegan (BMW 1M) and Tom Flaherty (Ford Escort).
Group N champion David Guest (Mitsubishi) has withdrawn his entry. Fermanagh’s Jon Armstrong will campaign an M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R2T Sport Trophy car. Following tonight’s ceremonial start at Eyre Square in Galway (8.30pm) tomorrow’s nine stages around Athenry start at 9.30am. Sunday’s six stages are based around Tuam with the finish at the Clayton Hotel in Galway at 4.30pm Sunday afternoon.
The Irish Rallycross Championship season starts in Mondello Park where competitors face some changes including reversing the track for round one. The Superfinal remains as the last race of the day with the fastest eight battling for overall championship points. The heats begin at 10.15am. Elsewhere, tomorrow’s MEC Sporting Trial, Corballis near Rathdrum is at 11.30am and Laois Rallysport Club’s Autotest at Hyland’s Yard, Rosenallis on Sunday has an 11am start.
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