The opening round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship, the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally, has attracted a very strong entry and a fabulous line up of cars. The R5 class once again is the premier category in the championship with World Rally Cars no longer eligible to score points. After the tremendous battles that went to the wire in 2016 there promises to be as much excitement in the coming season. Despite taking maximum points on three rounds last season Alastair Fisher & Gordon Noble were extremely unfortunate to only finish fourth on last year’s series and will be looking to improve in that in in 2017 starting in Galway where once again they will use their R5 Fiesta.
Most of the top contenders are using R5 Fiestas and these include Sam and Josh Moffett who finished second and third respectively in the championship last season while Robert Barrable makes a welcome return to the Irish Tarmac series also in a Fiesta. Joe McGonigle has upgraded to a Skoda R5 and should be very competitive while Jonny Greer will drive a Citroen DS3 while Aaron McHale is also making the switch to Citroen. Brendan Cumiskey, Stephen McCann and Tomas Davies are just a number of others who will be very competitive and last year’s Group N champion David Guest is also entered in his Mitsubishi Lancer. Another interesting car is that of championship sponsor Ed Twomey who will drive a Fiat Punto Abarth S2000. Marty Gallagher and William Creighton had some great battles last year in the R2 class and are set to renew their rivalry in 2017.
The modified entry is also competitive and includes a pair of BMW 1Ms in the hands of Eugene Meegan and Richard Whelan while Brian Brogan who took maximum points on two rounds last year is also entered. The Historic Championship has already seen one round completed and with Frank Cunningham and Gareth Lloyd the last two Historic Champions entered, it looks like it could be a very competitive year. Among others who have entered in Galway are Ernie Graham, Barry Jones, John Coyne, Desi Nutt and David Goose who will provide stiff opposition to Frank Cunningham who won the championship so impressively last season. Amongst the entries for the Junior Rally are last year’s second and third placed drivers, Justin Ryan and Noel Murphy who took the battle for the title all the way to the final round in Cork last year.
A small change to the points system this year sees the top points for winning overall / class winners increased from 16 to 17 points. The R5 class will score points in the ITRC 1 category, Group N / R4 / S2000 will score in the ITRC 2 category while classes 1, 2 and 3 will score in the ITRC 3 category. The Corrib Oil Galway International gets underway at 8:30am on Saturday 4th February and competitors will get nine stages on the Athenry area. The second day’s action is centered around Tuam with six more stages before the first car due at the finish ramp around 4pm on Sunday 5th February.