Tomorrow, on board their Munster Joinery backed Mitsubishi Evo9, Ring and his Cork co-driver, Adrian Deasy, tackle the Donegal Harvest Rally, the final round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship. They lead the Group N category on the national series.
They have a 13-point lead over their only rivals, Seán Flanagan/Brian Duggan (Subaru) and while there are a number of permutations, the acquisition of seven points will guarantee the Kerry/Cork pair a second national title in three years.
In the current season, they have recorded just one non-finish — on the Circuit of Munster, while on the other rounds, they have garnered significant points that has elevated them to fourth overall in the 10-round campaign.
However, having to drive in “championship mode” is often a difficult task, as they will try to avoid getting drawn into a battle with those that have no championship involvement. Ring, in his sixth year of rallying since he switched from circuit racing said: “Realistically, I just need to keep it clean and get around in one piece. Seán (Flanagan) has shown good pace all season. I know what I have to do. I didn’t envisage that I would be contesting three championships but it’s a great way to end the season, but nothing is won yet.”
Meanwhile, for Flanagan/Duggan, it’s a case of being ready to pounce should their rivals fail to finish. However, that scenario would also have to be accompanied by the acquisition of a minimum of 14 points to deprive the Munster pair. Given the fickle nature of the sport, it remains a possibility for the Meath/Kerry pairing, who picked up 13 points on the eighth round in Galway. Adding to the intrigue is that both crews are run by the same team. Ring also leads the 023 Tiles Southern 4 Championship and the Top Part West Coast series.
Meanwhile, newly crowned champion, Patrick Elliott (Subaru WRC) heads the Donegal entry that also features Derry’s Kevin Lynch, Omagh’s Seamus Leonard and Donegal’s PJ
McDermott, all in Subaru WRCs. Dunlop series runner-up, Niall Maguire, withdrew his entry earlier this week and that will make the Ring/Flanagan Group N battle even more absorbing, as it opens up the possibility of garnering higher-placed points. Other entries include
Mitsubishi pair, Shaun Gallagher and Garry Jennings and top two-wheel drive expert, Gary McPhillips. Based at Ardara, the first of tomorrow’s nine stages begins at 9.58am.
Elsewhere Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) is favourite to extend his 12-point lead in the World Rally Championship on Rallye de France starting today.
As usual, Bangor’s Michael Orr will co-drive for Abu Dhabi’s Khalid Al Qassimi in the team’s third car. Another Irish co-driver, Paul Nagle (Killarney) partners Britain’s Barry Clark in the Stobart VK M-Sport squad.
The Irish and British Rallycross Championships dovetail at Mondello Park on Sunday. London based-Limerick driver and reigning British champion, Ollie O’Donovan (Peugeot 306) is just one point ahead of Ulster’s Lawrence Gibson (Metro 6R4) in the Kumho Tyres British series that is down for decision at the Kildare venue.
The event is the second round of the Irish series with the Escort Cosworth pair of Tommy Graham and Derek Jobb and Eddie Kinirons (Ford Focus) best placed to take advantage on series leader, Kevin Proctor’s non-appearance.