Having basked in his success in last week’s Circuit of Ireland – his fourth victory on this event – his focus is now on Sunday’s Circuit of Kerry Rally in Tralee.
The Glengormley driver will target a win on this, the third round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship and second round of the Top Part West Coast Championship, in a bid to close on early series leader, Mel Evans.
Over the last few seasons, the Dunlop series has been the preserve of the likes of Patrick Elliott, Niall Maguire and Kevin Barrett. Although Elliott is an absentee from the current campaign the latter duo are still very much involved, but it is Evans, with a brace of wins, that is top of the leaderboard.
McGarrity was his closer pursuer in the opening round in Nenagh, but, in Mayo, his quest didn’t even last the opening stage as he slid off, albeit with only cosmetic damage to his Subaru. Buoyed by his Circuit of Ireland win, McGarrity may be a different proposition in the seven stages in Kerry.
The entry is ultra-competitive and testament to the endeavours of the organising Kerry Motor Club. With seven World Rally Cars in the top 10, a cracking Modified entry and the most formidable Group N entry of the current campaign, it should prove very competitive.
Evans is the top seed. The Welshman is a regular at Irish events, particularly in the Munster region. He knows the vagaries of the Irish tarmac and his experience has been a factor as he sits with a 12-point advantage over former triple champion, Niall Maguire.
Another set of maximum points or even second-placed points for Evans would strengthen his bid for a series that’s never been won by an overseas driver.
Kevin Barrett led the Kerry event after the opening stage last year before retiring with wheel problems. He finished second in Mayo and will be expected to be right on the pace.
Down through the years, the Circuit of Kerry has been hotly contested and has been decided on a tie-break three times. Remarkably, Niall Maguire was involved in all three but only come out on the right side on one occasion.
The Monaghan man was devastated when he was edged out by Patrick Elliott last year and will require little motivation to make amends.
McGarrity occupies the number four berth and will be followed by the Group N Mitsubishi of Kevin Kelleher, who will have designs on repeating or even improving on his third place on the opening round.
Overseas drivers, John Stone (Skoda Fabia WRC), Mark Jasper (Hyundai Accent WRC) and Hugh Hunter (Ford Focus WRC) are somewhat unknown quantities in Irish rallying but their presence enhances the event. Having finished third last year, local hero, Mike Quinn (Ford Escort) will do well to replicate the performance.
The top 10 is completed by another Kerry driver, Alan Ring (Mitsubishi), who will be co-driven by Brian Duggan. The Group N entry also includes the Mitsubishis of Eamonn Daly, Thomas Fitzmaurice and Trevor Bustard (Mitsubishi). Mitsubishi Evo UK champion, Danny Barry is a late entry but Sean Flanagan (Subaru) has withdrawn.
Meanwhile’s, Quinn’s opposition in the Modified section includes Declan Boyle, Barry Meade, Manus Kelly, Des Moore, John O’Donnell, Ed Synan, Adrian Hetherington, Fergus O’Meara, Anthony Hand, Tom Flaherty, Frank Sweeney and John Hickey, all in Ford Escorts and Stuart Darcy (Toyota Corolla).
Former Circuit of Kerry winner, Limerick’s Ken Lyons, makes a return to the sport in a Mk. 2 Ford Escort.
Elsewhere, the TDC Irish Classic Retrospective Trial starts at Enniskerry at noon tomorrow and Sunday 10am; the Connacht Autocross at Hazelwood, Sligo begins at 11am; the Meath & District Motor Club Kart Races at Athboy and the Tipp 4x4 trial at Dualla, Cashel both at 11am.
Entries for the Rally of the Lakes (May 1/2), the third round of the Citroen Irish Tarmac Championship, are now open. Due to economic reasons, the Killarney organisers are only using Moll’s Gap on Saturday evening this year. All of Saturday other stages are in the Millstreet region with servicing at the Green Glens Arena. Sunday’s stages include Caragh Lake with servicing in Milltown. The event will again be based at the Gleneagle Hotel.