RALLYING returns to Kerry for the first time this year with the annual Circuit of Kerry Rally, based in Tralee on Sunday.
The Rose Hotel-sponsored rally is the first of four major rallies set to take place in The Kingdom this year and organiser, Kerry Motor Club, has set a high standard in terms of entry and stage location.
Although lacking in overall numbers, the entry list has strength in depth with several high-quality World Rally cars, state-of-the-art R5 machines and high-powered modified cars on the list and the fact the it is round two of the locally sponsored Top Part West Coast Rally Championship.
Leading the field away on Sunday morning from the Rose Hotel will be former winner Derek McGarrity who will have Beaufort’s Diarmud Falvey on pace note duty in their Ford Fiesta World Rally Car.
Falvey is aiming to become the fourth Kerry navigator to win the rally, following in the footsteps of John Crone, Paul Nagle and Fionn Foley, in the 40 years of the event.
Maintaining the strong local interest, Kevin Barrett is also on the entry in his Subaru Impreza. Barrett is a long time resident of Maynooth, County Kildare but his family have strong ties to Ballyduff in the north of the county and both he and his Limerick-based co-driver Sean Mullaly are members of Kerry Motor Club and will be hoping to win the James O’Rourke Memorial Trophy at the finish.
Daniel Cronin, last year’s Kerry Winter Rally winner is another sure to be at the top end of time sheets on Sunday, as a late entry is expected from the West Cork man later this week. The Mitsubishi Lancer E9 driver will have his usual co-driver, Shane Buckley, from Faha, alongside.
Welsh visitor Steve Wood, a former Circuit of Munster winner is another regular visitor to Tralee and he has Abbeyfeale’s Keith Moriarty in the hot seat. Moriarty always maintains that the Circuit of Kerry is his home rally and will be hoping to displace the other crews in front and add to his previous Circuit of Munster success.
Two contenders in this year’s Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. Brendan Cumiskey and Arron MacHale bring their respective Skoda Fabia R5 and Citroen DS3 R5 rally cars to the event ahead of the next round of that series, the Cartell.ie Rally of the Lakes.
The two Leinster-based drivers will be hoping to make the most of their time in the Kingdom this weekend ahead of the county’s second rally at the end of April.
Local hero Mick Quinn is facing a race against time to have his Escort ready in time for the event.
The former winner of the Kerry Winter Rally was forced to retire from the recent West Cork Rally after his car suffered a serious engine failure. One of Sunday’s stages passes within a whisker of Quinn’s home place, so he will be pulling out all the stops over the next few days to ensure he is on the start-line Sunday morning.
Quinn’s former navigator Sean Enright is another Escort driver on the entry list the nine-stage rally.
Limerick driver Ed O’Callaghan, a former winner of the Clare Stages and on occasion in the past a leader of the Kerry Winter Rally will be another contender for overall honours.
Ed Murphy and John McCarthy, from Aghadoe are another crew hoping for a top ten result and will field yet another variation of the ever-popular Ford Escort, as does Timmy Enright from Baenmore.and Tommy Mason from Tarbert who are also likely top ten runners.
Tom Relihan and Maurice McElligott are another local crew likely to feature in the top ten in their Ford Escort. Pat Barry and Kerry Motor Club secretary Stephen O’Connell have entered their Ford Sierra Cosworth as part of car’s 30th anniversary that will be celebrated on the event.
Ger O’Brien form Abbeydorney returns in his Escort, while the Honda Civic line-up will be headed by tralee natives, Darren Young and Sean Walsh
The rally gets underway at 0920hrs on Sunday morning before the crews face nine demanding stages in the North Kerry area. Centralised service after each loop is in the main car park of the Rose Hotel with the first pit-stop scheduled for 1155hrs. The first car is due back at the finish ramp at 1715hrs Sunday evening.
Late entries are still be accepted and can be directed to clerk of the course Richard Talbot on 00353 87 2680732.
Full details of the rally route and entry list will be published in the comprehensive official programme which will go on sale in the following locations.
Nolan’s Garage, North Circular Road Tralee
Rose Hotel, Tralee
Kellihers Garage, Tralee
Topaz Rathass, Tralee
Topaz Mounthawk, Tralee
Gala Mounthawk, Tralee
Joe O’Connor’s Filling Station, Tralee
Foley’s Spar, Castlemaine Road, Tralee
Apple Green filling Station, Manor, Tralee
O Shea’s Texaco, Blennerville
Anne Mac’s Castleisland
Whyte’s Centra, Castleisland
Moriarty’s Centra Farranfore
The Rock Filling Station Killarney
The Reeks Filling Station, Killarney
Daly’s SuperValue Killarney
Fitzgerald’s Filling Station Listowel
Dominic Kelly’s Six Crosses
Maloney’s Maxol Abbeyfeale
Sheehy’s Londis, Ballyduff
Cronin’s Filling Station Castlemaine