With under a week to go to the Donegal International Rally, the fourth round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, there is great excitement mounting over what promises to be the event of the year. Donegal is somewhat of a mecca for Irish rally fans, a lot of whom take almost a week off as they follow the tough challenging route over the three days of the Letterkenny based event. It’s the point of the season where championship hopes are either strengthened or dashed and with the quality of entry to date it will be a tricky challenge to predict a winner.
Top seeds and last years winners Sam Moffett & James O’Reilly from Monaghan will be buoyed after their Killarney win which made amends for a non finish on the Circuit of Ireland. Sam has adapted very well to his new Fiesta WRC and currently lies fourth in the championship. Championship leaders Declan & Brian Boyle still have a 20 point lead after three rounds despite an accident in Killarney which sidelined them when they were leading on the second day. As it is their local event the cousins will be going all out to be top of the podium on the Sunday evening and will be hoping for better luck than last year when a burst brake pipe put their Impreza WRC out on the first day. Garry Jennings at number three failed to make the start in Killarney after his last stage Circuit of Ireland accident but now has a chance to make amends as his main rivals didn’t pull away from him in the last round. He showed a blistering turn of pace in the Circuit and won Donegal in 2012 so he will be up there as one of the favourites for overall victory.
At number 4 are Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan who are third in the championship overall in their Focus WRC and were agonisingly close to taking their first ever international win in Killarney until an accident on the penultimate stage put them out. Donegal is a local event for this crew also, and they will be hoping to put their Killarney misfortune behind and finally take that elusive win next weekend. Others that could have a major say in the overall shakeup will be former Tarmac Champions Darren Gass & Derek McGarrity both Impreza WRC’s. Darrens appearances in the championship have been sporadic since then, indeed his last Tarmac round was in Donegal last year when he crashed out while fighting for the lead. He will be determined to set that record straight and will be well capable of mixing it at the top and with a hired Melvyn Evans Subaru for the weekend shouldn’t take too long to get up to speed. Despite much success over the past 15 years, Derek McGarrity has never managed to take victory on this event and indeed retired on the final stage last year while lying second overall. He has a lot of experience but its been sometime since he has been in a position to challenge for an overall victory..
Josh Moffett will be strong favourite in the Group N category despite efforts from Colm Murphy, Aaron McHale, Stephen McCann, Eugene Meegan and Martin Doherty to name but a few. Moffetts speed and consistency is incredible in his Lancer and his remarkable third place overall in Killarney has propelled him into second place overall in the championship standings, although Stephen McCann leads the Group N Category overall.
The Modified Championship is heading into the fifth round and championship leaders Declan Gallagher & Ryan Moore are heading into home territory with a strong lead after three maximum scores from four rounds so far. Wesley Patterson and Johnny Baird are currently in second place and are still in with a shout, but will need to take another maximum score following on from a similar result in Killarney. Frank Kelly and Brian Brogan will be threats to the front two as both are registered for the championship and have recorded good results in Donegal in the past. Adrian McElhinney who only registered in Killarney and scored valuable points will also see his home event as a chance to make an impression on the leaderboard, while US based Enda McCormack and Liam Egan will have their Accent WRC and Corolla WRC in action respectively.
The Historic Championship sees its leader Denis Moynihan bring his Escort Mk1 all the way from Cork to try to increase his lead with some of his closest rivals not entered. The likes of Andy Johnson, Brendan McAree, John Coyne (who finished second overall on the event in 1982), Aidan O’Connor, Niall Creighton, Philip McKibbin and Harry Brown will also see the event as an opportunity to push their way up the leaderboard.
The action begins on Friday 20th of June with the first stage starting at 1pm and six stages in total to be completed on the first day by the time the cars head back to Letterkenny around 5.30pm. The second day is traditionally tough and this year is no different with the first of the days eight stages scheduled for 10.15 am with the cars due in Parc Ferme from 6.30pm. The 11.40am restart on Sunday has six more stages to be completed before the first car is due at the finish ramp just before 5.30pm.
Remember you can keep up to date with all of the happenings over rally weekend on the championship website www.irishtarmac.com, Facebook (Irish Tarmac Championship), Twitter (@IrishTarmacTROA) and the Championship App which can be down loaded for Android and iOS devices for free (Irish Tarmac Rally Championship).
TROA Press & Media Officer,
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