The top two seeds for Sunday’s Willie Loughman Forest Rally, the opening round of the Valvoline series, are on a shakedown exercise for the British Rally Championship.
Keith Cronin, the Irish Tarmac champion, will debut a Ford Fiesta R5 in the Carrick on Suir event as the Ballylickey man continues to try and close out a deal for the BRC, a series he has already won three times. The six stages in the south Tipperary forests will provide the perfect test as will the presence of Derry’s Marty McCormack, who debuts his Skoda Fabia R5 ahead of an assault on the BRC. The entry list also includes Billy Coleman award winner Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5), who has set his sights on the European Rally Championship (ERC).
The entry also includes Tyrone’s Niall McCullagh (Subaru WRC), Cashel’s Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi) and the Northern Ireland’s Adrian Hetherington (Toyota Corolla WRC), UK visitor Shaun Sinclair (Subaru WRC), Strabane’s Martin Cairns (Ford Fiesta WRC) and fellow Northern Ireland driver Darren McKelvey (Mitsubishi).
The top three in the two-wheel drive section are Shane McGirr (Toyota Starlet), Mickey Conlon (Ford Escort) and John Gordon (Ford Escort). The final two of the day’s six stages are over a 20-kilometre stage at Gurteen with a service halt in between. First car away from the Piltown GAA complex is at 8am.
Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Rally Championship gets underway tomorrow in Kirkistown with the Pacenotes Magazine Rally that has former champions Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC) and Derek McGarrity (Ford Fiesta R5) as the top two seeded drivers. A late entry from former Irish Tarmac and National champion Declan Boyle has boosted the event. Others on the entry are Connor McCloskey (Fiesta WRC), Jonny Greer (Citroen DS3 R5) and Peadar Hurson, who will debut his Fiesta WRC in advance of his Triton Showers National Rally Championship bid that begins in two weeks in Nenagh.
Derry’s Camillus Bradley (Escort) is the top two-wheel-drive entry. Opposition comes from the Escort pair of Keith White and James Kennedy, Dessie McCartney (Darrian T90) and Kyle White (Peugeot 208 R2). The first of six stages - all within the confines of the Kirkistown circuit, starts at 9.30am.
Following last night’s short Super Special, Rally Sweden, the second round of the World Rally Championship gets underway in earnest today with seven stages. Kris Meeke and Craig Breen, who makes his debut in the Citroen C3 WRC, spearhead the Irish challenge.
Tomorrow night’s Midland Navigation Trial in Ballinalee, Longford doubles as a round of the Motorsport Ireland National Navigation Trial Championship and the Munster Navigation Championship. Monaghan’s Derek Mackarel and his Cork navigator Muireann Hayes lead the National series and are one of several crews capable of winning the Munster campaign where the West Cork duo of Dermot Whelton/Mark McCarthy are in pole position. Mallow’s Derek Butler, who will be navigated by Andrew Wedlock, is also in the Munster championship battle.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved