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by Brian & Liz Patterson

There was little in the way of Irish rallying last weekend, although Dungannon Motor Club did run the Donnelly Group backed ‘Spring Fling’ Targa Rally. Christopher Evans/Kevin Fagan in their Mazda MX-5 won the event, with Eamonn Byrne/Joanna Lenehan (Toyota Starlet) 2nd and Steven Cromie/Keilin Webb 3rd in the most popular car for ‘the Lanes’, the MX-5.

This weekend the rallying spotlight switches to the Maiden City MC Lark in the Park on Saturday and the Monaghan Stages on Sunday. The Maiden City event consists of three times over a closed road special stage near Grannian, and three times over the short St. Columb’s Park spectator test. The entry is restricted to 60 cars and top seed is last year’s winner Joe McGonigle, this time in his Skoda R5. Joe will surely be keeping an eye on his rear view mirror as Donagh Kelly is listed at No.2 in his Focus WRC. Frank Wray (Subaru WRC), Adrian Hetherington (Escort), John Bonner and Brendan McDaid, also in Escorts, make up the top six.

Meanwhile, on the Sunday, the Monaghan Stages has switched to the Four Seasons Hotel as HQ, and once again the rally sports an ultra competitive entry, at many levels. Being a round of the Triton Showers National series, as well as the Sligo Pallets Border Championship, competition should be hot. At the sharp end, there is little to choose between the top drivers.

The stages, under the direction of CoC Thomas Treanor, are hilly, tight and twisty, with a lot of driving required, and will provide a real test. Josh Moffett leads the pack in a Fiesta R5, with his brother Sam, the current National Championship points leader at 2 in a Fiesta WRC. Former double National Champion Declan Boyle is at 3 in his Fiesta WRC. Scanning on down the top ten, Roy White and Donagh Kelly could both be vying for the lead. Niall Maguire, on his home patch, can’t be discounted, and then making a welcome return is Peadar Hurson, followed by Stephen Wright, Kevin Barrett and Brendan Cumiskey, none of whom will be far away.

The Group N category should feature Tarmac Production Champion David Guest, who will be challenged by the likes of Shane Maguire, Aidan Wray and Neil Tohill all in Lancers, as well as Paul Barrett in his Impreza.

In 2wd, there is a fabulous line-up of Escorts, with drivers such as Gary McPhillips, Jonathan Pringle, Gary Kiernan, Brian Brogan, Adrian Hetherington, Damien Toner, Damien Gallagher and Mickey Conlon. Two-wheel drive isn’t all about Escorts of course – think for example of David Moffett in his Starlet or young Gary McNamee in his Civic. All in all, the rally looks really good, a breath of fresh air to dispel the current slight atmosphere of rallying gloom and falling entry numbers, supposedly mainly due to the insurance surcharge.

Also this weekend the reconnaissance starts for the Cartell.ie Rally of the Lakes. The event is round three of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Tarmac Championship, as well as being a counter in the Plasticbags.ie Southern 4 series. As such the event has attracted the top ‘Tarmac’ R5 regulars such as the two Moffett brothers, Alastair Fisher, Robert Barrable and so on. Roy White has entered, as has Fergus O’Meara. Roy White’s priority is still the National Championship, but he enjoys these Killarney stages so much, plus he wants more seat time in his Fiesta WRC, he couldn’t resist having a go.

Long time Escort afficiendo Fergus O’Meara is moving to a 4WD Fiesta for this event, an ex Craig Breen car revamped by M-Sport and now fitted with a 2.4 litre Millington engine.

The rally has received a bulging list of Junior drivers and the decision has been made to run them on the Saturday leg rather than the Sunday. This means that the Junior competitors will get a crack at such fabulous stages as Tim Healy, Ardgroom, Cods Head, Kilmackillogue, as well as the classic Molls Gap (which they would have been doing on the Sunday run anyway.)

Lakes Clerk of the Course Anthony O’Connor has told us that there are still Junior spaces available, which sounds like a superb opportunity, possibly a chance that may never present itself again, to drive these superb roads competitively.


2018 Patterson Agencies

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