As the Triton Showers National Rally Championship reaches the halfway mark with the Rathkeale Hotel Circuit of Munster Rally on Sunday, the main question is who can stop the Moffett march to the national title for the Vard Memorial Trophy? There’s a fascinating entry for the nine-stage event that will be contested over a three-stage loop just off the N21 around Newcastle West and Abbeyfeale.
Monaghan ace Sam Moffett has virtually been invincible in the current series. On-board his Ford Fiesta WRC, he has won all three rounds to date – taking 62 of the 63 Triton points that were available. Last time out – on what was his home event - he won by a margin of 26.8 seconds, the smallest margin of all three rounds with former Triton champion Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) his nearest rival. Moffett, who won the Circuit of Munster three years ago – is in a rich vein of form at the moment and his rivals will need to be at their very best to break his dominance. However, a fourth win for Moffett will put him in a very strong position to land the series.
Former national champions Kelly (2015) and Declan Boyle, who won the series in 2014 and 2013, know what’s needed and they must break Moffett’s dominance to have any chance of success.
In addition to his Triton title bid, Kelly, who won the Circuit of Munster two years ago, will also be using the rally as a shakedown for his home event, the Donegal International in a few weeks time. Indeed, many of the others in the top ten are on a similar mission including fellow Donegal driver Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC) and Monaghan’s Josh Moffett, who will be on his first event since crashing on the last Triton round in Monaghan.
Boyle, who won last week’s Cavan Rally, will be in buoyant form as he too tries to stop the Moffett express and secure his own third national title.
The top quality entry also features Fermanagh’s Alastair Fisher (Ford Fiesta R5), who is also on a test ahead of Donegal while Cork’s Keith Cronin will use his own Ford Fiesta R5 as he gets in some tarmac experience ahead of his BRC outing in the Ypres Rally.
Meanwhile, reigning Triton champion Roy White (Ford Fiesta WRC) occupies the number seven berth as he concentrates on the national campaign where he is second overall – 17 points behind Sam Moffett. Donegal’s Manus Kelly (Subaru WRC), who was third on the Midland Rally returns to the series, he too is on a Donegal shakedown while its unlikely he can make up ground on his Triton rivals.
The top ten also features BRC regular Derry driver Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) and former triple Irish national champion Monaghan’s Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC), who is third in the current Triton campaign.
Elsewhere, there are places for Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC) and two-wheel drive exponents, Frank Kelly, Ed O'Callaghan, Ed Synan, Colin Byrne, Tom Flaherty and Tim Enright, all in Ford Escorts - local driver O’Callaghan will fancy his chances on home ground.
While the leader of the Triton Mk. 2 Escort Trophy series, Adrian Hetherington is not amongst the seeded list, his closest rivals, Roscommon’s Vincent Collins and Tyrone’s Barry Morris are set to gain.
Motorsport Safety Group N leader, Cork’s David Guest (Mitsubishi) heads the Group N contingent that also includes Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi), Paul Barrett (Subaru) and Neil Tohill (Mitsubishi). Last time out in Monaghan, Maguire denied Guest of a third major score, the battle in Limerick could also see Tohill come into the frame as Barrett continues to build his confidence after crashing on the non-championship Circuit of Kerry Rally.
A late entry is that of former national champion and local driver Colm Murphy in a Subaru, he hasn’t competed in some three years. Five years ago he won the Circuit of Munster - driving the same Subaru he will use on Sunday, he finished eleven seconds ahead of Donagh Kelly (Subaru WRC) with Roy White (MG ZR) 49 seconds further behind in third.
Aside from Ed O’Callaghan, Ed Synan and Colm Murphy other local drivers looking to impress include Frank Sweeny, Sean Moran, Stephen Bawn, John Danagher and Kenneth Ryan all in Escorts and Eamonn Daly (Mitsubishi).
In the Junior category, Donegal’s Michael Boyle (Honda Civic) is the top seed with opposition emanating from fellow Honda Civic drivers Brian Brady (Meath), Jonny Treanor (Monaghan), Tom Holton (Meath), Shane Norris (Tipperary) and Patrick Naughton (Limerick).