There is now little over a week to go to the opening round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the Colm Quinn BMW Galway International Rally, and there is a sense of anticipation and excitement that’s almost unique in Irish Rallying. Throughout the years Galway has been the curtain raiser to the championship and with unpredictable weather, drivers debuting new cars, and drivers who have never competed on the International before it rarely fails to disappoint. The good news for Irish Rally fans is that this year’s event promises more of the same with new cars and promising young drivers on the entry list.
Current Tarmac Champion Declan Boyle is top seed in his Subaru Impreza WRC S12 and he returns to the scene of his first ever international victory twelve months ago which acted as a springboard towards his championship success. He is without doubt one of the quickest drivers in the country at present and has also won the National Championship for the past two seasons and will be hot favourite to win in the west again. Garry Jennings at two in a similar car was champion in 2013 but suffered a troubled year in 2014, with a costly excursion denying him victory in Galway, a heavy accident on the Circuit of Ireland which also ruled him out of Killarney, and a subdued drive in Donegal where he was third overall, a long way behind the leading duo. He eventually finished a distant second in the championship in 2014 and will be hoping for much better luck in Galway than he has had in the past.
Multiple Irish Tarmac Champion Eugene Donnelly starts at three in the first of the Colm Quinn BMW sponsored Mini WRC’s and he is another driver who will want to move quickly on from the past year. His only two outings were on Galway and the Circuit of Ireland where uncharacteristic accidents put him out of both events and he will be looking to prove he still has got what it takes to challenge for overall honours. Donagh Kelly is at number four in his Ford Focus WRC, and had a fine third place in Galway last year followed by second on the Circuit of Ireland. Having also won the non-championship West Cork Rally, hopes were high for a breakthrough in winning an international event. However an accident late on the Rally of the Lakes when he was poised for victory set him back and another non finish in Donegal saw his season peter out disappointingly.
Sam Moffett at number five has had a full season in his Fiesta WRC behind him and has shown he can be a serious contender for championship honours having won in Killarney last year and finishing second in Donegal, he will be up there challenging for overall victory. Dean Raftery from Craughwell starts at six in the second Colm Quinn BMW sponsored Mini WRC and if he adapts to the new car the Billy Coleman Award winner could be in line to gain one of the best results ever by a Galway driver on his home event. Josh Moffett the current Group N champion and Billy Coleman Award finalist is at seven in a newly acquired Fiesta WRC and is another of the new driver / car combinations to watch out for and it will be interesting to see how he compares again his older sibling in a similar car.
Steve Simpson from England returns in his Impreza WRC hoping for better luck than in 2014 when he got caught out in a deep drain on the Black Road stage and subsequently retired due to related mechanical issues, while James Belton brings his Fiesta S2000 to Galway for the first time all the way from Wales. Jonny Greer and Joe McGonigle are two other drivers to have new and interesting machinery for the coming year driving a Citroen DS3 R5, and Skoda Fabia 2000 respectively. Greer hasn’t been seen on Irish Tarmac too often in recent times even though he had a good result in Galway in 2008. McGonigle from Donegal has over the past few years has campaigned a Citroen and a Renault Clio.
The 2014 Modified Champion Declan Gallagher the “Flying Milkman” is back out in his Toyota Starlet and will be favourite to do well in defence if his crown. An impressive haul of four wins over six rounds last year made him a worthy champion. Other drivers who will feature in the modified section include Pat Donegan who ran Gallagher close in both Galway and West Cork last year before retirement, Liam Howlett, Cal McCarthy, Richard Whelan and Brian Brogan. A very interesting and welcome entry is at 29, Kai Dieter Kolle in a Porsche 911 should provide some welcome nostalgia as Porsches once dominated the Galway International Rally back in the 1970’s.
The Historic section has ten cars and to date only a few of these have registered, with current championship leader Denis Moynihan and second placed Tomas Davies not competing, third placed Gareth Lloyd has a chance to move into the lead in his Escort while Adrian Kermode, Ernie Graham and Luke McCarthy will also fancy their chances. John Coyne makes a welcome return from the USA driving his immaculate Talbot Sunbeam Lotus after many outings in the category last year.
Mick Brackens On the Limit Sports will provide the TV coverage for the 2015 season with Siobhan O’Connor presenting on each event, while Becs Williams who is well known from her work on World Rally Radio will provide the voiceover for each TV programme. You can keep up to date with live times though the Irish Tarmac Championship Smartphone app (iOS and Android), Twitter (@IrishTarmacTROA), the championship Facebook page (Irish Tarmac Championship) and of course the championship website, www.irishtarmac.com.
Press & Media Officer,