Regaining and rebuilding confidence can be a slow process for many rally drivers. Tomorrow’s Wexford Volkswagen Rally is a case in point for the top two seeds, Tyrone’s Paddy McVeigh and Welsh ace Steve Wood. Earlier this season Wood crashed his Subaru WRC out of the Abbeyleix Rally while McVeigh has been involved in a few skirmishes that altered the shape of his S12B Subaru — a championship-winning car in the hands of Cavan’s Patrick Elliott.
Ironically, Wood and McVeigh have led the National Rally Championship in previous seasons, however, they have struggled to recapture the form they showed on those occasions.
Earlier this season Wood won the Circuit of Munster while McVeigh took the laurels in Sligo — however, it was the modified cars of Frank Kelly (Escort) and Damien Toner (Escort) that were their closest and respective rivals. Neither event was a guide to their true pace and they would welcome drivers in World Rally Cars to provide that test. It will be something similar in the south-east tomorrow with the entry bulging with Mk. 2 Escorts.
Fifteen stages over the next two days will certainly help McVeigh and Wood, who, given recent showings, is the most likely to be at the front. Last year the Welshman was at the cutting edge of the rally before turbo troubles forced him out.
Cavan’s Gary Kiernan, in his 2.5 litre Ford Escort, could well challenge the WRC pair. In the Galway Summer Rally a few weeks ago Kiernan finished a few seconds ahead of McVeigh. Such is the power of the Mk. 2 Escorts that overall victory by Kiernan and others like Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson, who has good experience of the Wexford terrain; Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington, Kilkenny’s Enda O’ Brien and Carlow’s David Condell, is not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Kevin Barrett in his S14 Subaru is seeded eight in a top 10 completed by Frank Kelly and Liam Howlett, both in Escorts. However, there is a doubt hanging over Kelly’s participation as his car was damaged on the Galway Summer Rally. Elsewhere, some of the other 100 entries include Graham Scallan (Mitsubishi), Tomas Davies and Joe Connolly in Fiesta R5’s. There are nine stages tomorrow and six on Sunday with the service park on both days at the Wexford Racecourse. Rally headquarters is at the Riverbank House Hotel.
Former Billy Coleman Award winners Monaghan’s Stephen Wright (Fiesta R5) and Cork’s Owen Murphy are both competing in next week’s Hyundai Limerick Motor Centre-backed Clare Rally as a shakedown for the forthcoming Acesigns Cork “20” International Rally. The Shannon-based event in the penultimate round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship.
The Abu Dhabi Total WRT has announced that it will enter two cars for the Tour de Corse (September 30/October 2). Irish pair Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle and along with Waterford’s Craig Breen and his British co-driver Scott Martin will compete in the French round of the World Rally Championship nicknamed “Rally of 10,000 Corners.” Breen replaces Stephane Lefebvre, who was injured in Rallye Deutschland. It will mark Meeke’s fourth appearance at the Tour de Corse while Breen already has had four outings in the event.
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