A new season of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship begins under the umbrella of next Sunday’s Hotel Ballina/Kennedy Motors Mayo Rally that is based in Ballina.
The first of the eight round series has attracted in excess of 130 crews and together with service teams and spectators will provide a significant boost to the local economy at the beginning of the tourist season. Equally, a three stage loop repeated in triplicate provide a stern test for the competitors.
Winner of last year’s event and former triple National Rally champion Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) heads the entry. The Monaghan driver won the series in 1999, 2002 and 2004 and while he has finished runner-up on several occasions, a fourth title has, so far, proved elusive.
Donegal’s Declan and Brian Boyle, who won the series in 2015, occupy the number two slot in a top ten that is a lockout of World Rally Cars.
It’s been a race against the clock to have his Ford Fiesta WRC re-fettled after he crashed out of the Galway Rally at the beginning of February. Last July, Boyle gave the Fiesta WRC car its national debut and victory on the Sligo Rally and he will be hoping that his appearance further up the Atlantic Coastline will also pay dividends.
Meanwhile, Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC) - the first driver to win a Power Stage in the Triton series will provide superb opposition in Ballina. A former Tarmac champion, Jennings is regarded as one of the quickest drivers in Irish rallying and will have the highly experience Rory Kennedy on-board calling the notes.
The crew come to Mayo off the back of their victory in Galway four weeks ago.
Paddy McVeigh has expressed satisfaction with recent changes to the set-up of his Subaru WRC, Donegal's Gary McElhinney will be alongside the Tyrone man for Sunday's run.
The quality of the opposition continues at a high level with former Tarmac champion Derek McGarrity set to compete in a recently acquired Ford Fiesta WRC.
Having finished within the top three of the National series for the past three seasons Clonmel’s Roy White (Ford Fiesta WRC) embarks on another national bid in Ballina. On his first Triton Showers National Rally Championship outing with the car – Roy was second overall in last year’s Fastnet Rally in Bantry, like the opposition, he will be keen to secure strong points in the west of Ireland.
It’s been 24 years since Warrenpoint driver Peadar Hurson drove his Opel Ascona to victory in the National Rally Championship. He will begin his Triton Showers bid behind the wheel of the Subaru WRC that he powered to victory in last season’s Galway Summer Rally. He is expected to be at the cutting edge through the nine stages outside Ballina.
Welsh ace Steve Wood (Subaru WRC) has earmarked the Triton series for his exploits across the Irish Sea, in 2014 he was one of a number of drivers to lead the series during the season.
Title sponsor Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC) – another driver to use Abbeyleix as a shakedown – is seeded at number nine in the Triton Showers liveried Subaru WRC. One of the most popular drivers in the series he will be aiming to make a positive start to the 2016 campaign. The top ten is completed by the Subaru WRC of Tyrone’s Frank Wray.
There is also a cracking entry in the two-wheel drive category. Gary McPhillips, Jonathan Pringle, Frank Kelly, Chris Armstrong, Damien Toner, Ed O’Callaghan and Trevor Mulligan, all in Ford Escorts, should have a classic confrontation.
Also on the entry are British drivers Simon Chapman (Proton Satria) and Nigel Feeney (Subaru Impreza).
The Group N category should also prove interesting with the Mitsubishi’s of Donegal’s Trevor Bustard, Monaghan’s Shane Maguire, reigning Triton Showers Group N champion Tyrone’s Aidan Wray, fellow countyman Pat Kirk, Dubliner Neil Tohill, Maynooth’s Paul Barrett in his Vado liveried Subaru and former Irish Forest champion Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi) all in the mix.
Top 10 Starters:
1. Niall Maguire/Enda Sherry (Subaru WRC)
2. Declan Boyle/Brian Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC)
3. Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Subaru WRC)
4. Paddy McVeigh/Gary McElhinney (Subaru WRC)
5. Derek McGarrity/Diarmuid Falvey (Ford Fiesta WRC)
6. Roy White/James O’Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC)
7. Peadar Hurson/Damien Connolly (Subaru WRC)
8. Steve Wood/Keith Moriarty (Subaru WRC)
9. Kevin Barrett/Sean Mullally (Subaru WRC)
10. Frank Wray/Joe McNulty (Subaru WRC)