The John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally, which takes place this weekend, is the penultimate round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship and has the makings of a classic event. With the Derry based event also a part of the BRC, the battles are sure to be intense. Only six points separate the top five drivers and it’s still all to play for, with Sam Moffett and Alastair Fisher sharing the lead on 54 points in their respective Fiesta R5s. Next up is Keith Cronin from Cork in his Citroen DS3 who has taken maximum points on three rounds to date but has little scope for error following his Circuit of Ireland retirement and mechanical problems in Killarney.
Josh Moffett and Stephen Wright share fifth place, both also in Fiestas with the younger Moffett sibling increasing his pace as the year has progressed. Stephen Wright is the only one of the quintet to have scored on all rounds so far, and will have to feature on the podium in order to make any significant gains from here on. However Wright has got quicker as the season has moved on and is capable of achieving such a result.
Jonny Greer & Joe McGonigle have also shown a good turn of pace this year and Greer was in line for a very good result in Donegal until he went off on the final day. McGonigle has been wringing the neck of the S2000 Skoda but hasn’t been getting the results his commitment has deserved and has failed to finish the last two rounds in Donegal and Killarney. Aaron McHale lies in eighth overall in another S2000 Skoda and has increased his pace as the year has progress after initially finding the transition very tough. Event sponsor John Mulholland is completes the trio of championship S2000 Skodas on the event while Desi Henry’s R5 version will be hoping for better luck having retired on all three rounds he has competed on to date.
David Guest currently leads Group N in his Mitsubishi Lancer and the Clonakilty driver makes the long trip north to tighten his grip on the category. The Kearney brothers from Tipperary, Gus & Pat, are currently second and fourth overall respectively and will be looking to take advantage of any potential slip up by the championship leader. Class 2 will be as hotly contested as always with Callum Devine looking to extend his already solid lead over William Creighton. Fraser Mulholland and Marty Gallagher also have faint hopes of winning the category, but Devine is in a very strong position at the moment.
The Modified championship sees several of the top runners competing, with championship leader Davy Armstrong holding a four point lead over Scotland’s Ross Marshall, both drivers in Escorts. John O’Sullivan in third place had campaigned a Honda Civic early in the season but has now moved to a Fiesta R2 and is only 13 points off the lead. Wesley Patterson in fourth place led the championship early in the year but missed the last two rounds and will be looking to make up some ground here. Other potentially quick drivers include John Bonner and Eugene Meegan both of whom have had mixed fortune this year.
The Historic Championship has Frank Cunningham in a comfortable lead and with second placed David Goose not competing on Ulster, Brendan McAree will be looking to take advantage and move up from third place. Other registered drivers who could take advantage include Dessie Nutt, Niall Creighton, Richard Hall, Andy Johnson and Philip McKibbin. Only one registered Junior is competing on the Ulster Rally, and that is third placed Kevin Horgan who could move into a share of the lead with Justin Ryan provided he finishes the event which would leave both drivers and current second placed Noel Murphy all in with a chance to win the title in Cork.
The action gets underway at 1pm on Friday 19th and six stages will be tackled on the first day before the cars head to Parc Ferme at approximately 8.30pm. The second day has eight more stages with the opening test scheduled to take place at 7:37am and first car is due at the finish ramp at 6pm on Saturday evening. You can keep up to date with all the championship happenings on www.irish tarmac.com, Facebook (Irish Tarmac Rally Championship), Twitter (@Irishtarmactroa) and Instagram (irish_tarmac_championship). Other sources include Rally Radio at http://rawcastmedia.com/website/UlsterRallyRadio.html and Patterson’s Rally News on www.rallynews.net.