The Cartell.ie Killarney International Rally of the Lakes marks the halfway point of the 2018 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and after the two rounds to date in West Cork and UAC Easter Stages a pattern is emerging. Josh Moffett & Andy Hayes lead the way with two maximum scores to date, including an outright win on the last round. However Josh didn’t compete on Killarney last year and crashed out in 2017 – in fact his last finish on the event was back in 2014 when he came third in a Mitsubishi Lancer. He currently holds a six point lead and knows he doesn’t need to take any unnecessary risks on May Bank Holiday weekend.
Sam Moffett & Karl Atkinson, the reigning Tarmac Champions, have begun their defence of the title in a somewhat steady fashion, although taking two second place points to date belies the fact they were only 9 and 4.5 seconds behind Josh by the end of the two rounds so far. Sam won this event last year which was his second victory on the rally in four years and he will be looking to make a statement and close the gap to Josh prior to Donegal. Robert Barrable & Damien Connolly have taken third placed points on both rounds to date to lie third in the championship, but Rob hasn’t yet matched the pace of the Moffett brothers on a consistent basis- will that change this weekend? His times were getting steadily closer on the UAC stages but will be looking to improve on that in Killarney where he has finished runner up twice in the past, including last year.
Daniel Cronin with Shane Buckley on the notes has been a revelation this year with the Ballylickey driver performing very well on both West Cork and the UAC Rally despite never having competed on either event before. The times in Antrim were particularly impressive on several stages and if the consistency y of those quick times were increased he could pose a threat to the drivers in front. The Rally of the Lakes is a home event for Daniel and it will be here that he will hope to move even closer to the top.
Jonny Greer & Kirsty Riddick are more usually found competing in a Citroen DS3, but with the Citroen converted to RHD and therefore ineligible for Tarmac points a decision was made to go with a Fiesta before West Cork until the new C3 R5 was homologated and ready. A good run in West Cork was spoiled by a late puncture but he then purchased the Fiesta that Desi Henry used in Clonakilty and scored ten championship points on the UAC Stages. The Killarney stages will be relatively unfamiliar territory for Jonny but on a long tough rally he is more than capable of getting a good result. Stephen Wright & Arthur Kierans have had a steady rather than spectacular season so far, but Killarney has been one of the kindest events for Stephen having finished third and fourth here over the past two years. He will be looking to use that experience to push himself more into the reckoning from his current sixth place.
Eugene Donnelly is the elder statesman and the multiple Tarmac champion has found the transition to an R5 car tough after a number of years away from the sport. The signs on the second day of the UAC Stages Rally were very encouraging for the Hyundai driver as the times really started to improve. Nobody will know the Rally of the Lakes stages better than Donnelly and if he gets the best of the car he could well pose problems for those in front. Desi Henry in eighth place is the only one of the contenders who has failed to score on one round which put him at a disadvantage. He took fourth place points in West Cork in a Fiesta, spoiled only by a late spin which dropped him down a place. A switch to a potent Skoda R5 on the UAC Stages ended in disappointment when he slid off the road and retired after setting some very impressive times. Killarney is an unknown quantity for Henry, but he won’t lack the courage to challenge and it will be interesting to see how he fares. The Group N championship is currently being led by William Mavitty after maximum scores on both rounds to date while David Guest had problems on his home rally in Clonakilty and didn’t make the trip to the second round which gives Mavitty a 20 point lead in the class heading into round 3.
Overall Driver Points after 2 Rounds 1 – Josh Moffett 34
- – Sam Moffett 28
- – Robert Barrable 24
- – Daniel Cronin 16
- – Jonny Greer 15
- – Stephen Wright 14
- – Eugene Donnelly 12
- – Desi Henry 10
The Treaty Plant Hire Modified Championship sees 2017 champion Kevin Eves once again in a very strong position. The Pettigo driver has taken full points on both rounds to date in his Toyota Corolla and looks to be in a very strong position. J.R. McDaid is another Donegal driver doing very well and after finishes on the West Cork and UAC events he lies in second place, fifteen points behind Eves. Jason McSweeney currently holds joint third having only competed on his home event, the West Cork Rally, to date, while Wicklow’s Jason Roche is also third after a good result in Antrim. Many of the registered crews didn’t take part in the UAC event so drivers like John Bonner, Eugene Meegan, Cormac & Ciaran Phelan, Eric Calnan & John O’Donnell have all some ground to make up. Wesley Patterson & Joe McQuillan who both finished in Round 2 albeit through Rally 2 are sixth and ninth overall respectively. Whoever decides to go in Killarney will need to be at their best to get ahead of Eves and if Eves does prevail it would be difficult to bet against him winning back to back Modified titles. The Historic Championship is currently being led by Owen Murphy in his beautifully prepared Talbot Sunbeam Lotus with Denis Cronin who won the International rally outright in 2010 in joint second with Duncan Williams. This is Denis first year attempting Historic rallying in championship terms and he has found it takes a bit of getting used to. Nevertheless on his home event he will be expected to do very well. Duncan Williams who shares second place with Cronin is a regular and welcome visitor to the Kingdom and he will be confident enough to take the fight to anyone as he is getting more familiar with the roads. Stanley Orr, last years Historic Champion Barry Jones, Alan Watkins and Martin Freestone are just some of the other names that could feature. Eight drivers registered for the Murray Motorsport Junior Championship but only three have scored points to date! Gary McNamee took full points in both West Cork where only he and Eamon McCarthy got to the finish, and it was a similar story on the UAC stages with McNamee led Gareth Deazley home. Six of the registered crews retired on West Cork while only two of them travelled to the Easter stages but it leaves McNamee in a very strong position even after two rounds. He will fancy his chances of making it three from three, but the Rally of the Lakes can be a difficult prospect and any victory will be hard won.
Images from Philip Fitzpatrick Photography