Irish Tarmac braced for gripping Galway Rally opener

The 2024 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship is buckled up for a thrilling opening round – the Galway International Rally.

New contenders, returning champions, and familiar foes make up a blockbuster entry for the notoriously difficult two-day rally.

Over 30 Rally2 cars are set to start the Samdec Security supported international series’ curtain raiser with reigning Irish Tarmac champions Callum Devine and Noel O’Sullivan opening the road as top seeds.

Devine is yet to win in Galway and will have second seed and 2022 victor Josh Moffett breathing down his neck. Josh’s brother Sam made a solid start to his Irish Tarmac campaign 12 months ago with a third-place finish in Galway. There could well be another Moffett duel in this latest edition of Irish Tarmac drama.

Jonathan Greer, Desi Henry, and two-time Galway winner Garry Jennings are consistently competitive and will be bidding for top positions on round one.

There will be two Ford Fiesta Rally2s, however, that Irish rally fans will be eager to see in action on the slippery Connacht stages.

2016 Irish Tarmac and four-time British Champion Keith Cronin returns to Galway for the first time in eight years. Seeded third, there are fewer more talented than Cronin and one can be confident he will waste no time in getting up to speed.

Seeded sixth, Wales’ Matt Edwards makes his first-ever Irish Tarmac bid after two years fighting for Donegal International honours. The three-time British Champion’s entry adds extra intrigue to what is a fascinating top ten.

Eddie Doherty is another name to look out for in Galway’s international field. The 2023 McEvoy Motorsport Modified Irish Tarmac Champion has swapped his Ford Escort Mk2 for a Skoda Fabia ahead of this season.

Gary Kiernan has also swapped rear-wheel-drive for four-wheel-drive and is seeded 22nd in his Rally2 Fiesta.

While Doherty and Kiernan will be a loss for the modified field, the two-wheel-drive cars will still be at their entertaining best in Galway. Mark Alcorn, Frank Kelly, and Kevin Eves are some of the modified stars expected on round one. Conor Murphy put himself in the mix of modified’s best last year and will be one to watch in Galway.

The grueling two-day event demands a balance of speed, bravery, and caution as the high-powered modified cars slide their way through the stone wall-lined stages.

Alcorn and John O’Donnell scored a supreme modified victory in Galway last year, searing to a one-minute, seven-second win in flamboyant style. Eves threatened Alcorn early on but was forced to retire before the end of day one.

ITRC’s Rally4 battle looks to continue at its best this season with early Galway entries from Keelan Grogan, Casey Jay Coleman, Aoife Raftery, and Motorsport Ireland’s Young Driver of 2023 – Jack Brennan.

The Sherwood Engines Historic ITRC has already had its opening round, December’s Killarney Historic Rally.

Tom Clark and Declan Casey hold top points heading into Galway but will face stiff opposition from a strong field of top historic cars to keep their top spot in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ championship. Casey will be navigating for Hugh McQuaid in Galway.

Reigning champions Duncan Williams and Guy Weaver are the top seeds on the Galway entry list – lining up 57th on the road in their Ford Escort RS1800.

Last year’s Galway Historic winner, Meirion Evans, will be eyeing up another victory as Ray Breen and Ross Forde add further interest in a Subaru Legacy and Ford Escort respectively.

Eight Honda Civics have entered round one of the Paul Browne Plant Hire and Civil Engineering Junior ITRC.

Jason Gorham, Ronan Dorrian, and Patrick Doherty are seeded in the top three positions. One of 2023’s title contenders, Barry McIntyre, is seeded fifth with Brian Keohane set to call his pacenotes.

Photo by D Harrigan Images