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Sean Conlon Memorial Rally
RALLY NEWS No.1 - Pre Start - Sunday @ 09:16:24
RALLY NEWS NO.1 Mitchelstown/Sunday morning. Pre-start

Today’s Sean Conlon Memorial Rally marks a critical phase in the Valvoline MI Forestry Championship. It is round four of six in the series, with just four rounds to count. So, with three rounds completed Mick O’Brien in his Focus WRC is top of the tree as regards points, with Phillip Morrow 2nd in his Lancer, 17 points in arrears. Shane McGirr in his 2wd Starlet is next up and then its former Forestry Champion Owen Murphy, a full 26 points behind O’Brien.

That looks on the surface to be fairly clear cut, but there is a real twist to the situation in that O’Brien has already played his joker, whereby he could nominate a round to score double points. South of England based Cork man O’Brien nominated the Carrick on Suir event, but his Focus suffered a transmission problem on that one, so he could only finish 3rd. First round winner Morrow has still to nominate a ‘double points joker’ round, as has Owen Murphy. Indeed the latter didn’t score any points on round 2, as his Lancer suffered transmission trouble. So, the situation is as clear as a frosted window with the blinds drawn.

Perhaps today’s rally will provide a clearer picture. It certainly won’t be an easy rally for the drivers. Clerk of the Course Noel Reynolds has laid out a fairly tough route. There are three stages - Combaun, Kilcoran and Kilworth. Each one has to be traversed twice, with service in Mitchelstown. Mick O’Brien is No.1 seed and at scrutineering on the Old Cork Road he told us that he had one some testing with Tom Gahan yesterday and they think they have found the cause of the launch control problems that have plagued the car on the last couple of events. Naturally he is hoping for a top result here today. His co-driver Greg Shinnors summed up the situation as “It is really level pegging between the top three or four. Today is critical”.

There are several other drivers who could figure strongly of course. Martin Cairns for example has had his Impreza WRC in McKinstry Motorsport for a thorough rebuild. Vincent McAree, Josh & Sam Moffett and Ger Lucey could all go well here. The only non-starter amongst the 4 wheel drive contenders is Kevin Barrett. Kevin’s son Paul is still on course in his Lancer. As well as the rally being a round of the Valvoline series it is of course a counter in the South East Championship that Kevin Barrett sponsors through his Triton Showers business.

As well as the battle for overall honours, there is much interest in the race for two-wheel drive and also the Junior section in the Valvoline series. Shane McGirr tops the 2wd points from John Reid, with Mickey Conlon 3rd. However both McGirr and Conlon have played their jokers, and Conlon has also had a non-finish, so the 2wd category is pretty wide open as well. McGirr blew his Starlet engine in Loughgall last week and has Adrian Hetherington’s Escort engine fitted for here. There are many more drivers who could make an impression in the 2-wheel drive section. Desi Henry for example has rebuilt his Citroen DS3 R3 since its accident on the Jim Clark Rally and with Barry McNulty co-driving Desi could go well here. Paul Fitzgerald, Jimmy Deane, Andrew Fanning in his Puma and Niall Donnelly (Escort) will all be battling for Class 3 honours. It was touch and go if Donnelly would make the start as he pulled a hamstring last week playing hurling. But he is here in Mitchelstown for better or for worse!

In the Junior section, last year’s winner Dean Raftery seems to have a clear edge over Kevin O’Connor and the tying Daniel Cronin/Conor McCarthy. Raftery was nominated for the €50,000 Billy Coleman Award last season, and has been nominated again this year, which increases his desire to impress.
More news later: BRIAN & LIZ PATTERSON www.rallynews.net *Follow RallyNews on Twitter @Pacenotes or @Real_RallyNews

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