All the major contenders in the Triton Showers National Rally Championship along with many of the other top names in Irish rallying are amongst a strong entry for Sunday’s third round of the series, the Hotel Kilmore Cavan Rally. The top ten is a lock-out of World Rally Cars and competition over the nine stages should be very intense.
Last year’s Cavan winner and current leader of the Triton series, Donegal’s Declan Boyle in his Ford Fiesta WRC is the top seed. With his new co-driver Monaghan’s James O’Reilly, Boyle, who has won the national series on two previous occasions, is one of the pre-event favourites. Having made a winning start on the opening round on Achill Island and second place in the last round in Kerry, Boyle will be hoping to maintain that level of consistency in Cavan. Five years ago the Lettermacaward driver won the Cavan Rally en-route to claiming the first of his back-to-back national wins.
One of his main rivals is fellow countyman Donagh Kelly, who will campaign a Ford Fiesta WRC as opposed to his usual Ford Focus WRC that is not fully prepared for this event. Aside form their national championship bids, both Donegal drivers will also utilise the rally as a shakedown for next month Donegal International Rally where Kelly has yet to claim that seemingly elusive first win. Right now, Kelly is in a fine vein of form too – last March he won the West Cork Rally for an unprecedented fifth year in succession while he’s also won the Circuit of Kerry last month to boost his Triton bid.
Although he missed the last round in Kerry, Monaghan’s Josh Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC) will be keen to get back amongst the title contenders this weekend, on the opening Triton round on Achill Island he finished second to Boyle.
Meanwhile, former triple national champion Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) has won in Cavan three times in the past decade – 2008, 2009 and 2014. Although the popular Monaghan driver admits he finds it difficult at times to match the pace of the likes of Boyle and Kelly, he still really enjoys the sport and indeed, is one of the great supporters of Irish rallying.
Ulster drivers Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings and Armagh’s Darren Gass, both on board Subaru WRC’s, are competing as a shakedown for the Donegal International Rally. Incidentally, both are also former Irish Tarmac champions thus illustrating the high calibre of the entry of this event.
Another driver that will be expected to challenge is Warrenpoint’s Peadar Hurson (Ford Fiesta WRC), it’s hard to credit that he won the National campaign back in 1992 in an Opel Ascona 400. He remains ultra competitive and this weekend will mark the first occasion in quite some time that he’s up against all the regulars.
Clonmel’s Roy White (Fiesta WRC) a national champion two seasons ago, is still awaiting victory in a national round, certainly, this Cavan Rally will not make that quest any easier. Donegal’s Joe McGonigle (Mini WRC) continues to acclimatise to his new car.
Title sponsor Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC), who is seeded at ten, came agonisingly close to winning in Cavan back in 2009 when he was edged out on the final stage as Niall Maguire won by five seconds. Elsewhere, Tyrone’s Paddy McVeigh (Subaru WRC) in the car that gave Patrick Elliott a title win in 2009, may take time to get to the speed of the championship regulars and a top five finish is a more realistic target on this occasion.
Meanwhile, this season, the quest for the rally.ie two-wheel drive award is already shaping up to be a great battle between Virginia’s Chris Armstrong (Ford Escort) and Donegal’s Stuart Darcy (Darrian T90). Ironically, on both rounds to date Armstrong has lost the lead on the closing stages with Darcy going on to take the two-wheel drive award. They should have another intriguing battle this time around while Bailieboro’s Gary Kiernan (Escort) adds a very competitive strand to the line-up. Add Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington and Ryan Loughran and Donegal’s Brian Brogan and Mark Alcorn, all in Escorts and Monaghan’s Raymond Conlon (Toyota Corolla) to the mix and it’s easy to see how the outcome is hard to predict.
In Group N, former Motorsport Safety champion Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi EvoIX) is likely to set the pace, the showroom category entry also features the Mitsubishi’s of Donegal’s Trevor Bustard and Mark Boyle and Maynooth’s Paul Barrett.
In the Junior category, Armagh’s Jason Black (Toyota Starlet) has opposition from Donegal’s David Kelly, also in a Toyota Starlet and Claudy’s Jordan Hone (Opel Adam R2).
Top 10 Starters:
1. Declan Boyle/James O'Reilly (Ford Fiesta WRC)
2. Roy White/ James O'Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC)
3. Garry Jennings/ Rory Kennedy (Subaru WRC)
4. Josh Moffett/ Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta WRC)
5. Donagh Kelly/ Conor Foley (Ford Fiesta WRC)
6. Peadar Hurson/Damien Connolly (Ford Fiesta WRC)
7. Joe McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney (Mini WRC)
8. Niall Maguire/Arthur Kierans (Subaru WRC)
9. Darren Gass/Enda Sherry (Subaru WRC)
10. Kevin Barrett/ Sean Mullally (Subaru WRC)