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Galway International Rally
RALLY NEWS No.1 - Galway - Saturday @ 17:33:51

RALLY NEWS NO.1 Rally HQ Clayton Hotel/Saturday evening

This weekend’s Safety Direct Galway International Rally once again marks the beginning of the Tarmac Championship season. Whereas a year ago the rally struggled a bit for entries, this year with its more compact, economical format, the rally has attracted a bumper entry. A mouth-watering collection of World Rally Cars, GpN machines, Mk2 Escorts, Civics, Historic cars, you name it and it’s here this weekend on this Galway Rally.

Indeed it is the Historic cars that will run first on the road over the stages, beginning with a spectator stage in Galway City, before the main action around Headford. Former Historic Champion Mervyn Johnston, with Wendy Blackledge co-driving, will lead off the contingent of around 16 Historic cars, tackling the spectator stage at 09.40, with No.1 seed in the main rally, last year’s winner Tim McNulty, in his Subaru tackling the same stage at 10.10.

From then on it will be all stations go. McNulty, who has Paul Kiely co-driving once again, is the current Tarmac Champion. Immediately behind him he has three former Champions – Gareth MacHale, Derek McGarrity and Eugene Donnelly. Tim McNulty looked super-fit when he was checking in to the Clayton Hotel before the rally and commented. “I didn’t come here to get beaten! It is some line-up”

Gareth MacHale took a rest from the sport last season and it is great to see him back tackling stages. Unfortunately any euphoria Gareth may have felt to be back has been subjugated by the sad news that the MacHale’s former rally engineer Mickey Eiffe died on Friday morning. ‘Wee Mick’ as he was affectionately known, was a genius of an engineer, a real star and a very special man in every way. Ratoath man Mick was Austin MacHale’s right hand rally man and good friend for many years. Our deepest condolences go to all Mick’s family and friends.

Derek McGarrity will start at No.3 in one of the latest Impreza WRCs, an S14, and it is certainly a very special car. Eugene Donnelly is at 4 driving the new Mini WRC. Eugene’s 5 Tarmac Championship titles leave no doubt as to his prowess behind the wheel. The question is how will the new Mini, sponsored this weekend by Colm Quinn BMW, do against the Subaru and Focus WRC’s. The new generation WRC cars have smaller engines, less outright power, but do have tremendous driveability.

Behind the top four there are still many drivers who could make an impact. Darren Gass, Daragh O’Riordan and Thomas Fitzmaurice in their Subaru WRC’s are just three. The GpN category has been in somewhat of a decline in the last couple of years. On this Galway Rally that trend is being bucked – Garry Jennings, Alan Ring, Donagh Kelly, Sam and Josh Moffett, Danny Barry, Mark Nangle, Willie Mavitty, Stephen Wright, Tom Cahill – these are just some of the drivers who could take GpN honours. Similarly, in the Modified/National category, there are many ‘Mk2’ drivers who will be lightning fast over these Galway stages. The two seeded in the top ten – Daniel McKenna and Gary McPhillips, they should be the benchmark.

All in all then, a mouth-watering prospect. Non-starters include numbers 17, 46, 70, 99 & 115. Several drivers come in from the reserves, including Eugene O’Donnell/Sean Harris in their Civic (No.116). There will be just over 120 cars in the main field. More news on Sunday morning: BRIAN & LIZ PATTERSON www.rallynews.net

2018 Patterson Agencies

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