Tarmac Championship heads to the North West

The fifth round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the Joule Donegal International Rally, promises to be one of the events of the year with all of the championship contenders due to take part. It has been a number of years since Alastair Fisher competed in Donegal, but that 2011 event saw him take a superb second place. He is currently leading the championship after some very good recent results and on current form could well add another maximum score. Fisher is unlikely to have it easy though, with Sam Moffett in another R5 Fiesta starting to show some excellent pace, having come close to taking top points in Killarney along with winning the recent Cavan Rally. Sam of course has also won Donegal in the past, so recent experience of the event will stand to him this year.

Josh Moffett blotted his copybook in Killarney with an accident which dropped him from first to fourth in the championship, but he is undeniably quick and will be keen to make up for that mishap. Keith Cronin started the year with two maximum scores but it’s been downhill since as an accident on the Circuit of Ireland and mechanical problems leading to a massive time loss in Killarney dropped him back a little. Another problem for the talented Cork driver is lack of experience of Donegal, having only competed there in 2010, and that only lasted six stages. However when on form there are very few drivers in Ireland capable of staying with him and he will be hoping to have more luck with the car this time around as well.

Stephen Wright has had a very consistent year and has climbed to third overall in the series as his pace increases, he is very familiar with Donegal and could well be in line for another top result this coming weekend. Jonny Greer & Joe McGonigle have also shown a sharp turn of pace this year and will be poised to take advantage if any of the leading crews suffer any mishaps. Greer didn’t compete on Killarney while McGonigle was forced out after damaging a radiator having also lost a lot of time before that with a puncture. In Group N David Guest the championship leader and Gus Kearney will be looking to pull away from the chasing pack by getting among the points in their respective Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9s.

The Class 2 battle has been very competitive all year long and this event should be no different as Callum Devine in his extremely rapid and well driven Opel Adam leads the class after three maximum scores to date. He has been pushed all year by William Creighton in a Peugeot 208 with Marty Gallagher and Fraser Mulholland also performing very well during the year. An interesting switch is that of 2015 Junior Champion John O’Sullivan from Mallow who has moved from a Honda Civic to a Class 2 Fiesta. It may take some time for him to acclimatise but it will be interesting to see where he slots in over the course of the event.

The Modified championship is being led by Davy Armstrong in his Escort and he has had a very consistent run this year, scoring on all rounds to date. Ross Marshall from Scotland had led going into Killarney but he retired on that event to drop back to second place. Two drivers who will expect to be in the final shakeup are Brian Brogan who took maximum points on his only championship outing to date in West Cork, while Eugene Meegan ended his run of bad luck with a fine result in Killarney. A good result for either or both of these drivers will bring them back into championship contention.

The Historic Championship is being led by Florida based Galway driver Frank Cunningham who switched from a Sierra after Galway to an Escort in West Cork. Since the switch he has racked up three excellent results to open up a twelve point lead in the series. His closest rival is English driver David Goose in an Escort who took top points in Galway and was second to Cunningham in Killarney as he attempts to stay in touch. Other registered drives looking to improve their position include Andy Johnson in his Chevette while Brendan McAree brings his fabulous Porsche to the hills after scoring in two rounds to date. Jimmy McRae makes a welcome return to Donegal in a Vauxhall Firenza, while John Coyne is another to make the long trip from the U.S. to compete in his Sunbeam Lotus.

The Junior Championship is currently being led by Justin Ryan from Noel Murphy with Kevin Horgan in third place and all three have entered Donegal. Ryan currently holds a twelve point advantage after the three rounds so far, and another good result here could make him extremely difficult to catch. Christy McCarthy from Cork is another driver who has the potential to score well in Donegal while Kieran O’Donoghue from Kerry scored maximum points on the last round but is currently on reserve for Donegal.

The three day twenty stage event gets underway at lunchtime on Friday with six stages on the opening day, eight on the second day and six more on the final day in what promises to be one of the toughest and most exciting events of the year. You can keep up to date on Twitter (@irishtarmactroa), and Facebook (Irish Tarmac Rally Championship) and the championship website at www.irishtarmac.com.