The Dunlop National Rally Championship concludes on Saturday next with the Downings Bay Hotel Donegal Harvest Rally, round eight of the series.
Reigning Dunlop champion Donegal’s Declan Boyle (Subaru WRC) is one of four drivers on the capacity entry list that can win the magnificent Vard Memorial Trophy. The other title protagonists are current leader Roy White (MG ZR) and Welsh duo Steve Wood and Hugh Hunter, both in Subaru WRC’s. Another of the title contenders Paddy McVeigh, who led earlier in the season, isn’t on the Donegal entry, apparently, he has sold his Subaru WRC.
Clonmel’s Roy White (MG ZR) moved into the lead on the last round in Clare and can win the series if he takes the maximum twenty Dunlop points in Donegal. He’s scored in all but one of the seven rounds to date and with the best six scores from the eight rounds to count, he is certainly a threat to the WRC brigade of Boyle, Hunter and Wood. Maximum points would put White on a total of 101 points, a tally that cannot be surpassed by any of his rivals.
On home ground Boyle will have a slight advantage given that the Atlantic Drive stage is part of the itinerary and he will be favourite to clinch back to back Dunlop titles, a feat last achieved in 2008/2009 seasons by Cavan’s Patrick Elliott (Subaru WRC).
Last season Boyle wrapped up the title on the sixth round but this season it’s a different scenario. He’s recorded two non-finishes - in the Circuit of Munster and the Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally - and he also missed the Carlow Rally as his Subaru wasn’t re-fettled in time. He has won four rounds and should he secure maximum points in Donegal, his tally of 100 points will be enough to achieve back to back Dunlop titles.
Given the overall quality of the entry Boyle remarked, “Yes, I’m going to concentrate on finishing and try to stay ahead of Roy (White), who certainly doesn’t hang around. He has been steady all year, it’s not all about the fastest, you must be there at the end of the round collecting the points, Roy would be a dangerous man in a WR car.” He added, “I also need to keep an eye on Hugh (Hunter), I cannot let him get too far ahead of me either because there is a chance he could beat me in points. The car has all been checked after Clare, got all the little problems sorted and hopefully it will not let us down.”
Welsh aces Steve Wood and Hugh Hunter both know that the Dunlop title is not within their own control and they will be hoping that their rivals hit trouble, their maximum points total, based on securing twenty points in Donegal, are 95 and 94 respectively.
In the Motorsport Safety Group N category within the Dunlop series Monaghan’s Shane Maguire (Mitsubishi) has won the title in the absence of fellow county title Josh Moffett (Mitsubishi), who contests the penultimate round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Championship in Carrick on Suir on Sunday.
In the Dunlop Mk2 Champions Trophy, Frank Kelly (Ford Escort) is on the cusp of victory with Kevin Bradley (Ford Escort) his only rival, Kelly has actually won the rally.ie award for the top two-wheel drive finisher in overall classification.
Meanwhile, last year’s Donegal Harvest Rally winner Gary McPhillips (Ford Escort) is the top seed. Boyle occupies the number two berth followed by Garry Jennings (Subaru WRC), Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC) and Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC).
Dunlop protagonists Hugh Hunter, Roy White and Steve Wood are next off the start ramp in a top ten that is completed by Derek McGarrity (Mini WRC) and Seamus Leonard (TBA). Others on the entry are Dunlop regular Kevin Barrett (Subaru WRC) and former triple winner Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC).
Former Billy Coleman award winner Stuart Darcy will campaign a Subaru WRC and last season’s rally.ie award winner Declan Gallagher will drive a Group N Mitsubishi.
Elsewhere, the Modified category includes Wesley Patterson, Brian Brogan, Damien Gallagher, Jonathan Pringle, Camillus Bradley, Adrian Hetherington, Martin McGee and Robbie Peoples, all in Ford Escorts. Meanwhile, some seven classes within the Dunlop series are down for decision in Donegal.
Organising Club: Donegal Motor Club.
Clerk of the Course: Tony Boyle
Rally Headquarters: Downings Bay Hotel, Tel: 074 91 55586
First Car Away: 09.00 (Saturday morning)
S.S. 1, 4 & 7 (13.62km) Bunlin Bridge - 09.47, 12.33 & 15.19.
S.S. 2, 5 & 8 (15.59km) Port Lake - 10.29, 13.15 & 16.01.
S.S. 3, 6 & 9 (11.88km) Atlantic Drive – 11.16, 14.02 & 16.48.
Service: Cranfort Stone Quarry. 09.00, 11.47 & 14.33.
Finish Ramp: Downings Bay Hotel 17.10.
Top 10 Starters:
1. Gary McPhillips/James McNulty (Ford Escort)
2. Declan Boyle/Brian Boyle (Subaru WRC)
3. Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Subaru WRC)
4. Sam Moffett/James O Reilly (Ford Fiesta WRC)
5. Donagh Kelly/Kevin Flanagan (Ford Focus WRC)
6. Hugh Hunter/Andy Marchbank (Subaru WRC)
7. Roy White/James O’Brien (MG ZR)
8. Steve Wood/Keith Moriarty (Subaru WRC)
9. Derek McGarrity/James McKee (Mini WRC)
10. Seamus Leonard/TBA (TBA)
Dunlop National Rally Championship (Provisional Positions after Round 7): 1. R. White 88pts; 2. S. Wood 87pts; 3. D. Boyle 80pts; =4. H. Hunter & P. McVeigh 74pts; 6. K. Barrett 52pts; 7. S. Maguire 51pts; 8. F. Kelly 46pts; 9. M. O’Brien 37pts & 10. S. Moffett 36pts.