Barrett and Cronin set for battle royal

Although not a round of the Dunlop series, tomorrow’s Kilkenny-based Raven’s Rock Rally has still attracted an entry in excess of 100 crews along with 18 competitors in the junior category.

Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC) is the leading entry and faces strong opposition from Cork’s Denis Cronin, who makes his first appearance since finishing third in last year’s Fastnet Rally.

Barrett won last year’s Mayo Rally and Cronin took the Circuit of Munster, both non-national rounds. Cronin hasn’t competed much recently but remains competitive. Waterford driver Davy Long, who purchased one of Cronin’s previous cars, co-drives for the Ballylickey ace.

Wexford’s James Stafford in his Darrian will be hoping for dry conditions in order to maximise his chances of staying with the WRC brigade.

Leading the local challenge, Eoin Doyle will campaign the ex-Ray Breen Ford Focus WRC. Meanwhile, Galwegian JJ Fleming, also in a Ford Focus WRC, will expect to be close to the cutting edge.

Shay Power (Ford Escort), who retired on his home stage last year, will be hoping to make amends this time around. Opposition in the Modified category will come from Welshman, Neil Williams, James Coleman, Liam Howlett and Fergus O’Meara in their high powered Mk. 2 Escorts.

West Cork’s Damien McCarthy (Honda Civic) should also be a contender in the Modified category even though his Class 11 car will not have the power of the Escort contingent. Other interesting entries are Lloyd Hutchinson (Mini Cooper), Enda O’Brien (Ford Escort), Keith Power (Renault Clio S1600), Jason Ryan (Honda Civic), Joe Connolly (Ford Escort) and Cal McCarthy (Honda Civic). The event consists of a loop of three stages repeated three times.

Meanwhile, the World Rally Championship continues with Rally New Zealand and in Belgium, Rally Ypres (IRC) concludes this afternoon.

Although Matt Griffin had a somewhat brief outing in last week’s Le Mans 24 Hours, the Cork driver is eager to return and make amends. On board the AF Corse run Ferrari 458, Griffin’s Le Mans debut resulted in an early retirement after their car, driven at the time by Piergiuseppe Perazzini, was involved in an incident with the No. 8 Toyota in the hands of Anthony Davidson (33), who suffered two broken vertebrae.

“It’s very disappointing to retire especially with our car being involved in a big crash. I’m relieved that my team mate escaped serious injury and I wish Anthony a speedy recovery.” Griffin is back in action tomorrow in round six of British GT Championship at Brands Hatch with MTech Racing.

Today’s 500 MRCI races at Kirkistown include a double-header in the NI Formula Ford 1600 series. Leader Ivor McCullough takes on Jonny McMullan, Adrian Pollock and Noel Dunne, all of whom have won already this season. Tomorrow, the IKC kart races at Whiteriver Park, Collon, Co Louth take place at 11am and the TDC multi venue Autotest Beaulieu House, Drogheda starts at 9.30am.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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