A year ago, Tyrone’s Ryan Barrett (Ford Escort) was set to sample the challenge of some of the classic Killarney stages until Storm Desmond forced the cancellation of the Rentokil Initial Killarney Historic Rally.
Tomorrow morning, over an identical route Barrett, the top seed will set off on his maiden run up Moll’s Gap against relatively similar opposition. It includes former Irish National Rally champion, Welsh driver Mel Evans (Escort), who has West Cork co-driver Sean Hayde calling the notes.
Another national champion, Cork’s Owen Murphy, a double winner of the Irish Forest series is particularly bullish about his chances. Breaking the Escort dominance, the Ovens ace will campaign the John Leahy owned ex-Russell Brookes Sunbeam Lotus. “I’m going for the win. I’m always confident in Killarney, as I’ve done all these stages before,” Murphy said.
With the final and seventh stage in darkness, Murphy sharpened up for this element of the rally in perfect fashion winning last weekend’s Carbery Night Navigation Trial. Tomorrow, Limerick’s Anthony Nestor will co-drive for Murphy in what is the first round of the 2017 Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Historic Tarmac Championship and the final round of this season’s PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship.
Others like the Escort trio of Ernie Graham, Gareth Lloyd, and Stanley Orr will be waiting to pounce should the top three make any errors.
Although marketed as a Historic Rally, the majority of the entry is within the Modified category that has close on 100 starters. Billy Coleman Award winner and newly crowned British Junior Rally champion Rob Duggan (Ford Escort) will occupy the lead role.
The Killarney driver will relish driving on home territory, however, he will have a major task in holding off the Escort of Gary Kiernan (Ford Escort). The challenge from the Escorts of Ashbourne’s Jack Newman, Monaghan’s Dessie Keenan, Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien, and Welshman Phil Collins cannot be discounted.
The Junior category will be headed by Mitchelstown’s Colin Roche (Toyota Starlet). The ceremonial start takes place from Killarney town centre this evening at 7pm. Based at the Gleneagle Hotel, tomorrow’s opening stage (Moll’s Gap) gets underway at 8.45am and will be followed by a service halt in Killarney. A loop of three stages - Coolick, Anablatha and Gortnagane will be repeated twice albeit split a service halt. The final stage starts at 5pm with the finish at the Gleneagle Hotel at 5.40pm.
Meanwhile, the racing season for Ballincollig’s Matt Griffin continues at pace with the Ballincollig driver contesting his 26th race of the season on Sunday. Competing in the second round of the Asian Le Mans Series at the Fuji Speedway in Japan with Clearwater Racing, Griffin will have Singapore’s Mok Weng Sun and Japan’s Keita Sawa as his team mates. Griffin’s season will end in two weeks time with 12 Hours of Abu Dhabi with Dragon Racing.
Tomorrow’s Midland Navigation Trial, the third round of the National Navigation Trial Championship is based in Drumlish, Longford (9pm).
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