Motorsport: McCann defends title in Kerry Winter Rally

Three previous winners of the Banna Beach Resort Kerry Winter Rally will renew rivalry on Sunday over familiar territory in north Kerry as the six-stage event concludes proceedings in the Top Part West Coast Rally Championship.

Top seed and last year’s event winner, Cavan’s Stephen McCann, will campaign his recently acquired Ford Fiesta S2000. Driving a Mitsubishi 12 months ago, he had just 5.5 seconds to spare over 2014 winner Daniel Cronin. Winner of the recent Fastnet Rally, Cronin ironically now drives that same Mitsubishi.

For local hero Mike Quinn (Ford Escort), who won three years ago after suffering heartbreak on many previous occasions, a win would round off a barren spell.

Monaghan’s Shane Maguire, seeded at four in his Group N Mitsubishi, is favourite to clinch and regain the Top Part West Coast Rally Championship. He is well clear of Waterford’s Keith Power (Toyota Corolla WRC) and only a non-finish is likely to derail his bid. Fourth last year, Kildare’s Jack Newman (Ford Escort) will set his sights on a top three finish.

Meanwhile, Cashel driver Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi Evo IX) could spice up the event and provide the top three with a good challenge.

The remaining places in the top ten features the Escorts of Rockchapel’s David Murphy and Limerick’s Ed Synan, and Kilcrohane’s Jer O’Donovan (Subaru).

The local contingent includes Tim Enright, Charlie Hickey, and Tom Relihan, all in Ford Escorts — they will be vying to win the Donal O’Flaherty Memorial Trophy for the Kerry Motor Club crew.

The main contenders in Class 11F are Cork’s Jason O’Mahony and local ace Darren Young in Honda Civics.

The first car away from the Banna Beach Resort Hotel is at 9am, the first stage near Ballyduff is at 10.24am. Servicing after stages two and four is in Ballyheigue with the finish at rally headquarters at 4pm.

Meanwhile, the seven interviewees for the Billy Coleman Young Driver of the Year award will be put through their paces on Tuesday at Motorsport Ireland’s headquarters in Dawson St, Dublin. The list was completed as Omagh’s Patrick O’Brien was added as a wildcard selection.

The other nominees are Callum Devine (Derry), Gary Kiernan (Cavan), Chris Armstrong (Cavan), Josh Moffett (Monaghan), Eric Calnan (Cork), Gary McNamee (Meath), and Shane Kenneally (Waterford).

The winner receives €50,000 worth of support to contest national and international events in 2017, along with advise of Billy Coleman co-ordinator Tom Walsh.


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