Although it is almost a quarter of a century since Peadar Hurson won the National Rally Championship on board an Opel Ascona 400, the Warrenpoint driver remains a potent threat in Irish rallying.
He is one of the favourites for Sunday’s Rose Hotel Circuit of Kerry Rally in Tralee, where a strong result could elevate him to the top of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship standings.
Campaigning the ex-Petter Solberg S10 Subaru WRC, it is testament to his talent that he can still match his rivals even though the car is not as technologically advanced as the S12s, S14s, or newer WRCs.
This is Hurson’s second tenure with the car (2008/09) after he made a winning debut in the Tour of Sperrins.
Possessed with a fine turn of speed, Hurson hasn’t always enjoyed good fortune, while budgetary constraints restricted his rallying outings.
Reunited with the Subaru last year, he won the Cavan Rally, Tyrone Rally, and Galway Summer Rally, the latter was part of the Triton series. Hurson was blighted by problems on other events, like the Raven’s Rock Rally where a leaking fuel tank put him out just prior to the start.
Now with the support of Formula A Karting through its bases in Newry, Dublin, and Limerick, Hurson and co-driver Damien Connolly are committed to this season’s Triton series.
Last year’s Kerry winner, Alan Ring, is the top seed in his all-new Munster Joinery Ford Fiesta R5+.
The Castleisland native knows the task ahead. “The opposition is very strong and I would be happy with a top-six finish. We had a misfire with the car on the West Cork Rally and our times during the second day were much more competitive. It was a bedding-in process.”
With his Fiesta WRC fully repaired, former double champion Declan Boyle will be seeking to get his Triton bid off the ground. He hired a similar car for Mayo but failed to finish. Another ex-champion, Niall Maguire, has had mixed fortunes in Tralee; he has won and lost in tie-break situations.
Several competitors are using the rally as a test ahead of next week’s Circuit of Ireland, including Antrim’s Derek McGarrity (Ford Fiesta WRC), who has Tralee’s Diarmuid Falvey calling the pacenotes.
Clonmel’s Roy White, also in a Fiesta WRC, will endeavour to continue his increase in pace that was evident in the opening round in Mayo.
How Midleton driver Daragh O’Riordan adapts to driving the Thomas Fitzmaurice Subaru S12C WRC will be interesting and it remains to be seen if he will register for the national series. The remainder of the top 10 features the Subaru WRCs of Kenny McKinstry, Steve Wood, and Kevin Barrett.
The strong quality continues well beyond the top 10. London-based Cork driver Michael O’Brien competes in the ex-Sam Moffett Ford Fiesta WRC while Derry’s Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia S2000) and Antrim’s Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) are both on Circuit shakedown duty. Another Northern Ireland driver, Robert Woodside (Ford Fiesta R5) is on a shakedown for the Circuit.
The popular two-wheel drive category will be led by local ace Mike Quinn with opposition provided by Ed O’Callaghan, Gary McPhillips, Barry Ryan, and Frank Kelly, all in similar Escorts. The top protagonists in Group N are Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi EvoX), Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi EvoIX), who begins the defence of his Top Part West Coast title, and Maynooth’s Paul Barrett (Subaru).
The Vauxhall Junior Rally team descend on Tralee in preparation for the Circuit of Ireland. The trio will be led by Billy Coleman award winner Killarney’s Rob Duggan, who will be joined by Sweden’s Mattias Adielsson and Australian Arron Windus.
The three stage locations are in the Ballymacelligott-Knocknagoshel-Brosna region. Based at the Rose Hotel, the opening stage is at 10.20am with the finish at rally headquarters at 5.10pm.
Meanwhile, the Dunlop British Touring Car Championship gets under way at Brands Hatch on Sunday. Subaru has joined the series for the first time.
The Irish action begins at Kirkistown tomorrow with the rounds of the Historic and Classic Formula Ford 2000 Championship.
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