REGIONAL Championships are important to former triple national champion, Niall Maguire, who is the top seed for Sunday’s Ennis-based Auburn Lodge Clare Rally, the fifth round of the Top Part West Coast Championship.
The Monaghan native heads the standings after four of the seven rounds and is 10 points ahead of Kerry’s Thomas Fitzmaurice. Of course the nine-stage event will also provide him with a valuable workout ahead of the penultimate round of the Dunlop series, the Donegal Harvest Rally in three weeks’ time. “I will use the Subaru S10 in Clare. Championships such as the Top Part are important, I’m keen to hold onto the lead. My son Shane is also competing so that’s another reason for making the trip down to Clare.”
Maguire faces another Dunlop contender in the Banner County as Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings (Mitsubishi) is also on a shakedown exercise in the run in to the Dunlop Group N title. The way the recent Galway event panned out will be encouraging for Jennings and he should be able to give Maguire a good battle over the roads around the Burren. Local hero Anthony O’Halloran (Mitsubishi) will try to emulate his second place finish of a few years ago. Thomas Fitzmaurice, who led the Group N category of the Dunlop series over the early rounds, will try and close the deficit to Maguire. Top two-wheel drive competitor, Mike Quinn (Ford Escort), who has Clare’s Grainne McEnery calling the notes, is third in the regional series. Boosted by his third place in the Circuit of Kerry, a repeat performance will be on his radar. Other entries include Andrew Purcell (Mitsubishi), who could spring a surprise; Trevor Bustard (Mitsubishi), Ed Synan (Ford Escort) and Richard Casey (Ford Escort), who completes the top 10. Having clinched both the Irish and British Fiesta Sporting Trophy series, Kilkenny’s Craig Breen will continue to test the M-Sport Fiesta R2. Great credit is due to the Clare club in attracting a capacity entry.
Also on Sunday, last year’s winner, Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan (Renault Clio), returns to defend his title.
Other competitors include Hillclimb expert, Paul O’Connell (Delta), Jim Power (Renault 5 Turbo), Allen Treacy (Toyota Corolla), Tom Geraghty (Escort) and Mike Deane Jr. in his 450bhp Nissan Drift car. The first of the three timed runs over the 1.7km Gould’s Hill (off the Mogeely/Killeagh road) is at 11am. It’s the first tarmac event for the hosts, Imokilly Motor Club.
British Touring Car Championship leader, Colin Turkington reckons the title will go down to the wire as he prepares for the penultimate round of the series at Rockingham on Sunday. The Team RAC BMW 320i driver has an 11-point lead over Fabrizio Giovanardi (VX Racing). With a maximum of 52 points available from the three races, the Portadown driver will be hoping to stretch his lead. It’s possible that if other results went his way, he could clinch the title. “I don’t expect the title to be decided until race three at Brands Hatch in two weeks. The title normally comes right down to Finals Day anyway – that’s the nature of the BTCC.” Akin to the last round, Turkington will be backed up by Stephen Jelley and Anthony Reid. That’s in response to rival Giovanardi whose bid will be aided by Vauxhall drivers Matt Neal and Andrew Jordan. Turkington has a lead of 50 points in the Independents Cup.
Former European Alfa champion, Eoin Murray, will race with the top Italian team Rangoni Motorsport in Sunday’s final round of the Seat Leon Eurocup at Imola, Italy. The Dubliner was offered the drive to assist the front-running Italian squad’s championship contender Massimiliano Pedalà for the final round.
The IMRC Retrospective Trial begins from Sandyford at 9pm tonight. The Munster Kart Races at Kartworld, Watergrasshill and the Cavan Autocross at Latton Quarry, near Cootehill both start at 11am on Sunday. The MEC Sporting Trial at Glenealy, Co. Wicklow begins at 12.30pm.
Neil McCance clinched the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evo Challenge Ireland series on last week’s Dick Bailey Wexford Rally. The Honda Cup was also decided in favour of Tomas O’Rourke. However, there was great confusion when pre-event leader, Damien McCarthy was prevented from tackling the second day, having retired on Saturday’s leg. Permits for all such championships for next season will have to be made via organising clubs. That should clarify such situations that are considered far from acceptable.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved