One of the most scenic locations in the country, Achill Island, provides the backdrop for the opening round of the Triton Showers Rally Championship on Sunday.
The nine-stage Óstán Oileán Acla/Connacht Print & Signs Mayo Rally has a quality line-up, headed by last year’s winner Joe McGonigle (Mini WRC), who is the only driver in the top 10 with previous experience of the terrain accessed via the Michael Davitt Bridge.
McGonigle is committing to a full Triton campaign but with four former national champions in his mirror it will be a difficult task to stay ahead.
His rivals Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) and Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC) will push hard but with the series based on the best six from seven events, the room for error is minimal.
So it is important for Boyle that the glitches that stymied his progress on his shakedown outing in Nenagh have been ironed out.
For Kelly, the event has a dual purpose, he will register for the Triton campaign but will also treat the event as vital preparation for next week’s West Cork Rally where he seeks a fifth straight win.
Clonmel’s Roy White (Ford Fiesta WRC) will be buoyed by his victory in Nenagh especially, finishing ahead of Kelly and Boyle.
Triple national champion Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) completes the national championship winning quartet.
All will have to watch former Tarmac champion Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC) who is well capable of winning in the west but akin to Boyle, he too needs his car to be fully responsive.
The threat of Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Fiesta WRC) cannot be overstated, though his brother Sam has chosen not to defend his Triton title.
The top 10 is completed by Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC) and the Ford Escort of top-seeded two-wheel drive exponent Adrian Hetherington.
Chris Armstrong (Escort) and former Billy Coleman award winner Donegal’s Stuart Darcy (Darrian) are others in the modified section.
Former Junior front-runner Michael Boyle (Honda Civic) is also competing.
Reigning Motorsport Safety Triton Showers Group N champion Monaghan’s Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi EvoIX) will have ex-champion Tyrone’s Aidan Wray and Maynooth’s Paul Barrett in Mitsubishi EvoX’s as opposition.
The opening stage is scheduled to get the green light at 9.56am and the event finishes at Óstán Oileán Acla at 5.15pm.
It’s also opening round time for the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship that starts tomorrow with the Bishopscourt Rally.
Top seed Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC) has former national champion Peadar Hurson (Ford Fiesta WRC), Connor McCloskey (Ford Fiesta R5), Mark Massey (Subaru WRC), and Alan Carmichael (Mini WRC) following in his tracks.
Wesley Patterson (Escort) is the top-seeded two-wheel drive entry.
The Munster Car Club, organisers of the Cork ‘20’ International Rally, has secured a new title sponsor for the two-day Macroom-based event.
CB Tool Hire, who are celebrating 20 years in business, will underpin the event on September 29/30 next.
Irish duo Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) return to the scene of a famous win last year when Rally Mexico, round three of the EWRC, gets under way today.
Meanwhile, subject to the approval of Motorsport Ireland, a 2017 specification Ford Fiesta WRC could be among the entry for the Joule Donegal International Rally next June.
The top 10 for next weekend’s Quality Hotel West Cork Rally in Clonakilty is
1. Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC)
2. Sam Moffett (Fiesta R5)
3. Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC)
4. Josh Moffett (Fiesta R5)
5. Robert Barrable (Fiesta R5)
6. Jonny Greer
7. Desi Henry
8. Eugene Donnelly (Hyundai i20)
9. Daniel Cronin (Fiesta R5)
10. Stephen Wright (Fiesta R5).
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