Declan Boyle with Brian Boyle in conversation with Damien McGettigan ahead of last year's Donegal Rally.
The Triton Showers National Rally Championship zooms in on Longford this Sunday for the Midland Moto Rally.
The nine-stage event in association with The Longford Arms Hotel, A Plus Skip Hire & Admore Air Conditioning Corp has just over 100 entries for what is the second round of the national series.
Opening round winner in Nenagh, Sam Moffett is the top seed in his Ford Fiesta WRC. The Monaghan driver is certainly a real threat to the more established stars of the national series and has the ability to win the prestigious Vard Memorial Trophy. On the last round, Moffett - a former winner of the Billy Coleman award - led from the start and finished almost a minute ahead of the Fiesta WRC of former double national champion Donegal driver Declan Boyle.
The terrain around Longford will certainly provide a tough challenge for all concerned with the organising Midland Motor Club, under the baton of clerk of the course Sean Cahill, who has laid out a very demanding route of three stages that will be repeated three times.
Boyle, who won back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, is hoping to be ultra competitive on Sunday, however, it will be a tough task especially with Moffett in such good form.
Winner of last week’s West Cork Rally in Clonakilty and the 2015 Triton Showers champion Donegal’s Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) will also have designs on outright victory and his battle with Moffett and Boyle should be intense.
Reigning champion Clonmel’s Roy White (Ford Fiesta WRC) is still searching for his inaugural win in the series and that will continue to be a difficult task given the quality of the entry.
First outing for Manus Kelly
The rally will also mark the first outing of the season for Donegal’s Manus Kelly, who will campaign a Subaru WRC. Last year he made a stunning debut in a Subaru World Car winning the Carlow round of the Triton series, however on Sunday he may take time to acclimatise to the pace. Tyrone’s Mark Donnelly (Ford Fiesta WRC) is in his debut Triton season and will be aiming to improve on his fifth place finish in Nenagh.
Former triple champion Monaghan’s Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) occupies the number seven berth in Longford in a top ten that also features Australian based Pauric Duffy (Ford Fiesta R5), Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington and Meath’s Pat Donegan, both in Ford Escorts.
The top local driver is Keenagh’s Tommy Doyle, who will campaign a Mk. 2 Ford Escort, how he compares with the likes of Hetherington and Donegan will be watched with interest. Maynooth’s Ian Barrett in his nimble Darrian T90 is also competing in the two-wheel drive category. Other entries are Blackburn driver John Stone in a Ford Fiesta, Kerry’s Ed Murphy (Escort) and Donegal’s Martin Doherty also in a Ford Escort.
In Group N, Cork’s David Guest (Mitsubishi) took maximum points in Nenagh and in Longford he will renew rivalry Monaghan’s Shane Maguire in a similar car, Maynooth’s Paul Barrett (Subaru) and Dubliner Neil Tohill (Mitsubishi) as they chase top spot in the Motorsport Safety category of the Triton Showers series. Carrick on Shannon’s Sean Gallagher (Mitsubishi EvoIX) is also in the Group N frame. Meanwhile, the entry also features Meath’s Paul McCann (Skoda Fabia), Scottish ace Lee Hastings (Subaru) and Roscommon’s Cormac Phelan (Honda Civic).
In the Junior category, Donegal’s Michael Boyle (Honda Civic) is the leading entry. Reigning champion Gary McNamee (Honda Civic) will provide strong opposition that also includes Monaghan’s Jonny Treanor, Cavan’s John McCabe along with Kerry pair Mark Murphy and Kieran O'Donoghue, all in Honda Civics.
Local drivers amongst the entry list include Roscommon’s Colin Flanagan (Mitsubishi), Vincent Collins (Ford Escort) and Longford duo, Sam Johnston (Honda Civic) and Michael Shaw (Mitsubishi). Elsewhere, Carrick on Shannon’s Gavin Gallagher (Mitsubishi), Pauric Sheridan from Prunty in a Ford Fiesta and the Lanesboro pair, Stephen Healy (Toyota Corolla) and Shane Healy (Peugeot 205) will all be aiming to make an impression.
Organising Club: Midland Motor Club
Clerk of the Course: Sean Cahill.
Rally Headquarters: Longford Arms Hotel & Spa.
First Car Away: 08. 40
S.S. 1, 4 & 7: Killashee (9.50 km) 9.39, 12.18 & 15.03.
S.S. 2, 5 & 8: Newtowncashel (9.90 km) 10.13, 12.55 & 15.37.
S.S. 3, 6 & 9: Keenagh (18.70 km) 10.48, 13.30 & 16.12.
Service: Mastertech Business Park, Longford. 11.38 & 14.20
Finish Ramp: Longford Arms Hotel & Spa. 16.54
Top 10 Starters:
1. Sam Moffett/Karl Atkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC)
2. Declan Boyle/Brian Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC)
3. Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley (Ford Focus WRC)
4. Roy White/James O'Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC)
5. Manus Kelly/Gareth Doherty (Subaru WRC)
6. Mark Donnelly/Barry McNulty (Ford Fiesta WRC)
7. Niall Maguire/Enda Sherry (Subaru WRC)
8. Pauric Duffy/Kevin Glynn (Ford Fiesta R5)
9. Adrian Hetherington/Andrew Grennan (Ford Escort)
10. Pat Donegan/Alan Keena (Ford Escort)
Provisional Championship Positions after Round 1: S. Moffett 20pts; 2. D. Boyle 18 pts; 3. D. Kelly 17pts; 4. R. White 14pts; 5. M. Donnelly 13pts & 6. N. Maguire 12pts.
2017 Triton Showers National Rally Championship Diary Dates:
1. Abbey Court Hotel Nenagh Rally S. Moffett/J. Fulton (Fiesta WRC)
2. Midland Rally (Longford) March 26
3. Monaghan Rally April 23
4. Circuit of Munster (Rathkeale) June 4
5. Raven’s Rock Rally (Waterford) June 25
6. Sligo Rally July 9
7. Galway Summer Rally (Gort) August 27
8. Fastnet Rally (Bantry) October 29