McNulty, the first driver to win both National and Irish Tarmac titles in the same season, will make a competitive return to rallying on next month’s Corrib Oil Galway International Rally.
The Meath driver entered the record books in 2011 when he campaigned his Subaru S12B to both titles.
He took a break from the sport after the 2012 Rally of the Lakes in Killarney but promised to return.
His championship-winning car was later acquired by Donegal’s Declan Boyle, who also netted the same double in 2014 before parting with the car for a state-of-the-art Ford Fiesta WRC. Last year Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) won both titles.
On the surface, it may appear that little has altered since McNulty’s last rally, but changes are afoot.
In Galway, as a new season of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship gets underway, McNulty will drive a Derek McGeehan-hired Mini WRC. The major change to the Tarmac series is the ban on competitors with World Rally Cars winning the championship but not its individual events — an often-too-complex sport made even more convoluted.
McNulty and others such as Garry Jennings and Gareth MacHale made their views perfectly clear at a meeting called by the TROA (Tarmac Rally Organisers Association).
They were against the move to R5 and S2000 cars being the select mode for the 2016 Tarmac champion.
Meanwhile, McNulty is raring to have a crack at winning in Galway, but knows it won’t be easy, more so because it will be his first time in the Mini WRC.
“It will take a while, there is no two ways about it, everybody else has more seat time but we (McNulty and co-driver Paul Kiely) would be hoping to get on the pace.”
He added: “Look, there will be no question about it, but I will be on maximum attack. If the car doesn’t go around the corner we are going into a field, it’s a simple as that.”
Right now as the Galway entry builds, McNulty is unsure of his Galway opposition, but he has no difficulty singling out a few rivals.
“Garry (Jennings) is going to be there in the two-litre car (Subaru S12B WRC) and he’s not going to be slow in that. Declan Boyle is another, of course.”
On his own chances, McNulty commented: “I absolutely think that the Mini WRC can win a rally, I just don’t know if it will be me in the first rally. If I had an event under my belt I would have no hesitation in saying I’m going to the rally to win it.
“The car is good enough to win. Would Kris Meeke win the rally in the car? Of course he would. You just have to drive it and get on it.”
The presence of a new-look McNulty (by his own admission lighter, albeit slightly less fitter) in Galway will up the ante and certainly attract a bigger attendance.
While the move to R5 has created a divide within the sport, most are now of the view that “it is what it is”.
This year competitors will also face an increase in entry fees for all rallies. This stems from the number of serious accidents in Irish rallying since 2012 that has led to serious difficulties in negotiating renewal terms for this season.
Motorsport Ireland officials are due to meet members of its affiliated clubs next week to outline the difficulties involved.
The governing body have shown strong leadership in securing insurance and has also stepped in to underpin the increase, a move that is not that widely known at present. Entry fees for events such as the Galway International will increase by some €250 while competitors on single day events face a hike of around €180.
Meanwhile, tomorrow’s Carey Cleaning Machines Icebreaker Rally is the first event of the new season. The six-stage event in north Antrim has Northern Ireland Rally champion Derek McGarrity (Mini WRC) as the top seed.
Lisburn’s Philip Morrow (Mitsubishi), Adrian Hetherington (Escort) and the Subaru WRC trio of Kenny McKinstry, Martin Cairns, and Enda McNulty and are the other main entries.
The first car away for stages at Beagh and Slieveanorra (x3) is at 10.30am.
Tomorrow night (9pm), the Monaghan Navigation Trial gets underway at Ballinode and on Sunday the latest round of the Hewison Autotest championship is at the Mastertech Business Park in Longford at 11am.
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