By Martin Walsh
A new season of the Motorsport Ireland Rally Championship with Triton Showers begins with the Claremorris based Mayo Rally on Sunday next that has attracted a star studded entry led by reigning champion Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Hyundai i20 R5). The eight stage event is underpinned by McHugh’s Service Station, Ballindine.
Moffett won the Triton championship in 2019, but the 2020 series and last year’s campaign both fell victim to the Covid-19 situation.
The desire for competitors to get back into action, that on Sunday will include two stage locations, each repeated four times, albeit with a shorter deviation on the penultimate and final stages, is reflected with a capacity entry with some twenty crews on a reserve list.
The top ten is dominated by R5 cars but three time champion Donegal’s Declan Boyle will campaign a Fiesta WRC as he sets out on achieving a record breaking fourth title.
“I know the R5 is the way forward and I think the VW Polo GTi seems to be the best, for now though I will stick with the Fiesta WRC, but I will definitely be out in an R5 soon.” Boyle, who won the last of his three titles in 2018, is committing to the full Triton (eight-round) championship. “Yes, I am going to do the full series again, the format really suits me and it’s not that time consuming.”
Boyle identified Moffett along with Dubliner Robert Barrable, who will drive a Melvyn Evans Motorsport VW Polo GTi R5, as the main threats.
Barrable hasn’t competed for a few years but he is naturally quick and should justify Boyle’s assertion, the Dubliner also intends to contest the Triton series even though he will miss the next round in Birr due to other commitments.
Thirty years ago, Warrenpoint’s Peadar Hurson won the national series in an Opel Ascona 400, in preparation for another title bid in 2022, he will drive his completely re-built Ford Fiesta WRC and testament to his talents, is very likely to be amongst the pacesetters. Monaghan’s Stephen Wright in his Ford Fiesta R5, who was fourth in the recent Kirkistown Rally, will occupy the number five berth where is followed by Armagh’s Darren Gass in his state of the art Citroen C3 R5. Gass is another driver that will have eyes on a Mayo victory as he too sets out on a Triton title bid.
Championship regulars Donegal’s Joe McGonigle (Ford Fiesta R5) and Tyrone’s Aidan Wray, in a similar car, are next on the entry, the latter is a former Group N winner of the national series.
Omagh’s Seamus Leonard is also in a Fiesta R5 and former national champion Tim McNulty will pilot a right hand drive Fiesta R5, the Meath man was the first driver to annex both National Rally Championship and the Irish Tarmac Championships in the same year (2011) on board a Subaru S12B WRC. A few weeks ago on the Galway International Rally, he made his return to the sport following a lengthy absence.
Yet another former champion, Monaghan’s Niall Maguire is just outside the top ten as he debuts a Ford Fiesta R5, it’s over a quarter of a century since he rallied a car other than a Subaru. “ I will see how it goes, I still have my Subaru, but I want to try the R5’s and see how I get on.”
Donegal’s Eamonn Kelly is also in R5 debutant mode – he will steer the VW Polo GTi R5 normally driven by his father Donagh, who is a former Triton champion. It certainly will be very interesting to see how both will fare over the eight stage event. Louth’s Brendan Cumiskey is also competing in a VW Polo GTi R5.
The modified category is also extremely competitive with Cavan’s Gary Kiernan, Monaghan’s Gary McPhillips, both in Escorts, Armagh’s Jason Black (Toyota Starlet) along with the Escorts of Limerick duo Ed O’Callaghan and Chris O’Callaghan, all amongst the leading entries that also features former Triton champion Sam Moffett, who will compete in a rear wheel drive Toyota Starlet.
Cork’s Kevin Kelleher makes a rally return in a McKinstry Motorsport hired S14 Subaru WRC, he completes the top twenty where he is followed by the Ford Fiesta R5’s of Limerick’s Keith Lyons and Maynooth’s Paul Barrett in the Triton Showers liveried car.
From a local perspective, Westport’s David Carney (Ford Fiesta R5) and Ballinrobe’s John Warren (Toyota Corolla) spearhead the Mayo challenge. In the 2020 event, they finished a respective ninth and tenth overall, a repeat performance by both would be extremely satisfactory. At the beginning of February, Warren finished sixth overall in the national category of the Galway International Rally.
Other local entries include Crossmolina’s Brian Moore (Honda Civic); Bekan’s Gerry Ronan (Mitsubishi EvoIX); Belcar’s Barry Cuffe (Ford Escort) and Westport’s David Healy (Honda Civic).
In the Junior category, that marks the first tarmac round of the Motorsport Ireland Junior Rally Championship, the top quartet features the Honda Civics of Donegal’s Dylan Eves, Monaghan’s Jack McKenna, Cavan’s Jack Brunton and Cork’s Darragh O’Donovan.
The ceremonial start takes place in Claremorris town centre on Saturday evening at 7.30pm. The stages are located in the Ballindine and Cloonfad regions.
Seeded Top 10:
1. Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarty (Hyundai i20 R5)
2. Declan Boyle/James O’Reilly (Ford Fiesta WRC)
3. Robert Barrable/Paddy Robinson (VW Polo GTi R5)
4. Peadar Hurson/Damien Connolly (Ford Fiesta WRC)
5. Stephen Wright/Ger Conway (Ford Fiesta R5)
6. Darren Gass/Noel O’Sullivan (Citroen C3 R5)
7. Joseph McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney (Ford Fiesta R5)
8. Aidan Wray/Niall Burns (Ford Fiesta R5)
9. Seamus Leonard/John McCafferty (Ford Fiesta R5)
10. Tim McNulty/Paul Kiely (Ford Fiesta R5)
Claremorris Town Hall.
S.S. 1, 3 & 6 (Woodstock – 16.12km ): 08.49; 11.20 & 14.30
S.S. 2, 4 & 6 (Logboy – 9.70km): 09.28; 11.59 & 14.30
S.S. 7 (Woodstock – 13.13km ): 16.17
S.S. 8. (Logboy – 6.22km): 16.52
Service (Claremorris) 10.16; 12.47 & 15.18.
Finish Ramp (Claremorris): 17.25
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