Hot on the heels of the news that Donagh Kelly has acquired a Skoda R5, the British Championship organisers have announced that right hand drive R5 cars will be eligible in 2019 to compete on their events and to score points. The Irish Tarmac Championship organisers however have so far stuck to the rule that RHD R5s are not eligible. With West Cork, and the Ulster rallies being BRC as well as Tarmac counters, this could make for a mixed picture. Part of the equation is the criteria for the various International and National organiser permits.
Desi Henry has announced his intention to contest both BRC & Tarmac Championships in his Skoda R5, which is of course LHD. Indeed indications are that 2019 could see a ramping up of R5 activity, particularly so as new, or newish, WRC machinery is fairly well impossible to source.
No such worries though for the opening round of the Valvoline Forestry Championship, the 20th January Carrick on Suir Club’s Wm Loughman Rally. Although the rally is very early in the year this time, on top of which the new helmet regulations mean extra expenditure for the crews, entries are arriving with the organisers fairly well. The Carrick club is certainly under extra pressure to ready the stages, as logging contractors have been flat out busy in some of the forests the rally is using near Thomastown and Graiguenamanagh. The top entries are still to be confirmed, but Josh Moffett, Barry McKenna, Cathal McCourt, Marty McCormack and Desi Henry are all in the frame. Marty, who sticks with his Skoda R5, which he loves driving, but now needs new seats and he needs new helmets, commented about the Loughman, “Aye, sure we’ll have a whack at it!”. The event would be a great shakedown/warm up for the opening BRC rally, the Cambrian. Andrew Purcell told us, surprisingly, that, despite the fact that he has tested cars in these stages over the years, he won’t be doing the rally, as he is just too busy in his garage business. However, it may be a different story a couple of days before the event, when the rally fever takes hold!
There is some interesting speculation that Ray Breen may have a crack at this, his local forestry event, driving a Fiesta R5 that Eoin Doyle has recently acquired. The same speculation suggests that Craig Breen may drive the car on the 10th February Galway International. When contacted, Ray commented, “If I can get past all the obstacles put in front of a person of my age renewing a competition licence, well then yes the objective is to do the rally in Eoin’s car!!” We didn’t manage to contact Craig, whom we think is not back from a break in Australia yet.
Just some of the two wheel drive contenders committed to the Willie Loughman event include Shane McGirr and John Gordon. Billy Coleman Award winner James Wilson has entered, and has Arthur Kierans co-driving in his Peugeot. Keady man James wants more experience in the forests and is also heading for the BRC.
Rallies are thin enough on the ground at the moment, so it was not good news to hear that the UAC/500MRC New Year’s rally at Kirkistown will not happen. However it is encouraging that the 500MRC will use the date, 26th January, for a rally car test day. We mentioned above the Cambrian Rally, which is scheduled for the 16th February. Also on that day, the Fivemiletown Forestry is due to run, after an absence. The Maiden City Club are reportedly going to utilise their 6th April date to run a special stage rally, with a view to being a round of the McGrady Insurance NI Rally Championship.
Still looking ahead, to the 10th February Galway International, the opening round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, entries are arriving in well. R5 cars look to be dominating the top slots, with Donagh Kelly, Josh Moffett, Desi Henry, Brendan Cumiskey and Stephen Wright all entered. Bucking the trend is Garry Jennings, who has entered in his Subaru Impreza WRC.