After a few short weeks of rest, the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Historic Rally Championship comes back to life this weekend with the Rentokil Initial Killarney Historic Stages Rally. The event is the only dedicated historic rally in the country and with a bulging entry list its popularity is evident, in this the first of the nine round series. The island of Ireland is well represented while overseas crews come from England, Scotland, Wales, USA and Barbados! Several former champions of various categories appear on the list including Jimmy McRae in a Vauxhall Firenza who won many Irish events over the years including a record seven Circuit of Ireland victories. Jimmy was also Tarmac Champion in 1980 & 1981, while the current Tarmac Champion Donagh Kelly swaps his Focus WRC for an Escort Mk1 this weekend in the modified category.
Ryan Barrett is the top seed and despite a lack of Killarney knowledge will surely be aided by having the very experienced local man Diarmuid Lynch in the passenger seat. Behind Barrett there are several drivers who are capable of taking honours including Melvyn Evans & Seamus O’Connell in Escort Mk2s, local driver Mark Falvey who has won the Historics in the past in his Escort Mk1, and the former Irish Forestry Champion Owen Murphy from Cork who drives the ex-Russell Brookes Sunbeam Lotus. Darren Moon and current Irish Historic Rally champion Ernie Graham will also fancy their chances despite having limited experience of Killarney. The beautiful Lancia Stratos of Steve Perez is at number 8 followed by James O’Mahony who is another former Irish Historic Championship winner and who switches from his trusty Volvo to a BDA Escort. Andy Johnsons Chevette and the Escort pairing of Gareth Lloyd (2015 championship runner up) and Daniel Jones complete the top dozen. Over fifty cars are entered in the historic category, a sharp rise on previous years. Six time winner Dessie Nutt is back after an absence in his Porsche as is another former winner, John Keatley in an Escort. Both of these Northern Irish drivers are previous Tarmac Historic Champions.
The Modified entry has the some of the quickest RWD men in the country battling it out, with last year’s winner Chris Armstrong leading the way from double Irish Tarmac Modified Champion Declan Gallagher. The battle between Escort and Starlet will be fascinating, but Gallagher is probably the quickest modified driver in the country at the moment. Gary Kiernan, Wesley Patterson, Fergus O’Meara and Jonathan Pringle are just some of the other names jostling to be in the frame on Saturday evening when the overall awards are handed out. Other interesting entries include Phil Collins who is as competitive as ever, David Bogie from Scotland who could well feature in the overall reckoning and newly crowned Billy Coleman Award winner Rob Duggan who will be keen to do well in his local rally in a MK2 Escort.
The Rally starts at 8am with the first stage over the classic Molls Gap at 8.45am. There follows a loop of three stages to be tackled twice over the course of the day at Coolick, Anablatha and Gortnagane. The final stage of the day, the daunting Gortnagane, will be tackled in darkness and could provide a sting in the tail. The first car is due back at the finish ramp at 5:40pm.
T.R.O.A. Press & Media Officer