Lynch in driver’s seat as rival out

THE MOONRAKER Rally, an event steeped in tradition, marks a beginning of an era for the Munster Car Club, the rally section of the now technically disbanded Munster Motor Cycle and Car Club, one of the oldest clubs in the sport that originally catered for four different aspects of motorsport.

The development of each discipline rallying, karting and motorcycling, along with the veteran and vintage section, meant it really wasn't feasible to run under one organisation.

The Moonraker is the fourth round of the McCauley Trailers Irish National Forest Championship and will be based at the Midleton Park Hotel. Top seed Kevin Lynch, in his S8 Subaru, has an ideal opportunity to extend his lead in the absence of close rival Brian Murphy, who is on co-driving duties with Austin MacHale in the Rally of Wales. Lynch has won Carrick and Wicklow, was second in Tipperary and there is no doubt he is the pre-event favourite.

Former champion Kevin O'Kane (Subaru WRC), series returnee Pat Norris, in a Subaru 555, and top Group N exponent John Shanahan (Subaru) provide the thrust of the opposition.

Shanahan has achieved respectable finishes in his showroom car and could annex a top three finish.

Another Group N driver creating a stir this season is Stephen Moore. The Northern Ireland driver should be amongst the contenders where Patrick Elliott makes his customary appearance in a Mitsubishi.

Lismore's Pete Willoughby is not competing; he was scheduled to drive an ADR hired Mitsubishi Evo but the car was extensively damaged on last week's Roush Manx National Rally.

Meanwhile, the top rear-wheel drive exponent in the Moonraker will be John Reid, with opposition featuring Brian Lawlor and Tommy Kiely, both in Ford Escorts, and the ultra quick Paul Mulcahy in his Toyota Starlet. Trevor Harding, in a Subaru Legacy, who is seeded just outside the top 10, should make an impression, along with Andy Mackarel (Ascona).

First car away from rally headquarters is at 8.30am with the stages in the Cappoquin/Lismore region.

Centralised servicing is in the Cappoquin Industrial Estate.

Austin MacHale will drive his Sanyo-backed Ford Focus on tomorrow's International Rally of Wales, the second round of the Kwik-Fit Pirelli British Rally Championship.

He said yesterday: "I have just decided to use the Focus. It will be in full gravel specification and I expect a decent result."

Jonny Milner (Subaru WRC) will be hoping for a longer stint than his first round appearance, while winner of that event, David Higgins (Hyundai Accent WRC), has put a budget in place to continue his exploits.

Steve Perez, Paul Bird, Barry Johnson and Matthew Wilson, son of M-Sport boss Malcolm, also feature.

Aaron MacHale competes in his Mitsubishi Evo8 and other Irish interest features Kris Meeke in his Opel Corsa. Tomorrow's six stages start at 1pm with Sunday's three stages, including the popular Hafren and Sweet Lamb, starting at 9am.

French ace Sebastien Loeb will be hoping to rediscover his early season form on the Cyprus Rally, the fifth round of the WRC that begins today.

Despite two wins he has been overtaken, albeit by a point, by Ford's Markko Martin, a driver who could be part of the Punchestown Rally Experience in July. Marcus Gronholm is a threat to both.

Other events this weekend are the Kildare MC 4x4 Production Vehicle Trial at Granard, Co Longford tomorrow and Sunday (noon); the Castle Automobile Club loose surface Autocross at Athboy on Sunday (noon) and the Munster Kart Races at Kartworld, Watergrasshill at 11am on Sunday.

The Lurgan Park Rally on Saturday, August 14 will be underpinned by Triton Showers. There was doubt over the event, due to development plans for the park that is controlled by the Craigavon Borough Council.

Fortunately, the local authority's plans have taken account of the event and it now seems part of the fabric of the area for the foreseeable future.

The Chamber of Trade has also pledged its full support for the event that is running since 1980, when it was won by the late Bertie Fisher.

Ten-time winner Kenny McKinstry said: "You can definitely count me in. I see Lurgan Park as one of the most important events of the year, it is also one of the most enjoyable and yes, I will be trying to win it again."

Meanwhile, next month's Shell Donegal International Rally will have a number of route changes. The changes have come about in response to competitor feedback.

More in this section

courtsmotorsportplace: midleton park hotelplace: tipperaryplace: northern irelandplace: cappoquinplace: lismoreplace: cappoquin industrial estateplace: granardplace: co longfordplace: athboyplace: kartworldplace: watergrasshillplace: lurgan parkperson: lynchperson: kevin lynchperson: brian murphyperson: austin machaleperson: carrickperson: kevin o'kaneperson: pat norrisperson: john shanahanperson: shanahanperson: stephen mooreperson: patrick elliottperson: pete willoughbyperson: john reidperson: brian lawlorperson: tommy kielyperson: paul mulcahyperson: trevor hardingperson: andy mackarelperson: jonny milnerperson: david higginsperson: steve perezperson: paul birdperson: barry johnsonperson: matthew wilsonperson: malcolmperson: aaron machaleperson: kris meekeperson: sebastien loebperson: markko martinperson: marcus gronholmperson: bertie fisherperson: kenny mckinstryevent: the moonraker rallyevent: mccauley trailers irish national forest championshipevent: rally of walesevent: roush manx national rallyevent: international rally of walesevent: kwik-fit pirelli british rally championshipevent: cyprus rallyevent: wrcevent: punchestown rally experienceevent: munster kart racesevent: lurgan park rallyevent: triton showersevent: shell donegal international rallyorganisation: munster car cluborganisation: munster motor cycle and car cluborganisation: subaru wrcorganisation: subaru 555organisation: group norganisation: subaruorganisation: mitsubishiorganisation: adrorganisation: mitsubishi evoorganisation: ford escortsorganisation: subaru legacyorganisation: asconaorganisation: sanyoorganisation: fordorganisation: hyundai accent wrcorganisation: m-sportorganisation: opelorganisation: craigavon borough councilorganisation: chamber of trade

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox