The action continues hot and heavy for the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship as the Circuit of Ireland draws closer. Next weekend’s event is the third round in the series and also sees crews from the BRC and ERC arrive on these shores in what is sure to be a fantastic battle. Championship leaders Keith Cronin & Mikie Galvin have two maximum scores to date in their Citroen DS3 and will be favourites to extend that sequence in the north east despite their challengers getting stronger on each event.
Sam and Josh Moffett currently hold second and third overall in the championship respectively with Sam having the edge over Josh in both Galway and West Cork to date. The West Cork battle was particularly intense with just three and a half seconds separating the pair after 150 competitive miles. The siblings have had a lot of recent experience of the Circuit of Ireland and despite low seedings due to not being registered for the ERC; they will certainly be at the sharp end of the action.
Steady would be the word to describe both Joe McGonigle and Stephen Wright on their outings to date, although Wright in particular had a very good run on the second day in West Cork after a disappointing opening round in Galway. McGonigle suffered some time loss in the previous round with a wrong tyre choice on the second day, but both he and Wright have also seen their pace increase on the events so far and a further increase could see them pressure the Moffett brothers. Alastair
Fisher and Jonny Greer are currently joint fifth, with Fisher very unfortunate to crash out in Cork while giving Cronin a serious challenge.
He will need to get some points on the board on the Circuit in order to get his championship hopes back on track, and with his undoubted pace will see this event as an opportunity to move up the leader board. Desi Henry has been unfortunate to non-finish both events to date, but has shown flashes of his undoubted talent, and a good result on last weekend’s Circuit of Kerry rally which he used as a warm up will certainly help his confidence.
David Guest in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 is tied with Aaron McHale and Brendan Cumiskey in joint eighth, but leads the Group N category after taking two maximum scores to date. He is not competing on the Circuit of Ireland so this opens the door for some of his rivals to close the gap. Drivers such as Gus and Pat Kearney, Peter O’Kane and William Mavitty who was second in the category in Galway will all be looking to increase their points and take advantage of Guests absence.
The R2 category has been fiercely competitive so far and this event should be no exception. Callum Devine in his Opel Adam has taken maximum points on both events so far but was pushed very hard in West Cork by William Creighton in a Peugeot 208 and the battle was only decided on the final loop of stages. Expect another close battle between this pairing in the Circuit of Ireland while Fraser Mulholland and Marty Gallagher in their Fiestas will also be there or thereabouts in this closely fought class.
The Modified championship has also been very closely fought to date with Ross Marshall & Dave Robson leading after two rounds in their Escort Mk2. They have a four point advantage over Wesley Patterson / Johnny Baird who took maximum points in Galway but were forced out with ECU problems on West Cork. Brian Brogan and Damien McGettigan took maximum points on West Cork and are also four points behind the Marshall / Robson pairing but are not entered for the Circuit.
The Escort dominance is broken by the current Irish Tarmac Junior Champion John O’Sullivan in his Honda Civic who is fourth, but he is not doing the Circuit either. Davy Armstrong is in sixth place just behind Jason McSweeney and will look to move up the leader board with another strong performance. Two drivers who have yet to score are Frank Kelly and Eugene Meegan and both will need a good showing to get themselves back into contention. Meegan retired after an accident in Galway and mechanical problems in Cork, while Kelly was forced out of the Cork event close to the end while strongly placed.
The Historic Championship sees a number of very strong contenders out although none of the top six have entered. The lead is currently shared by Philip Wylie and David Goose, both in Escorts, with Luke McCarthy and John Coyne sharing third place. Fifth is shared by Alan Watkins and Alex Schmieder on twelve points. Only three other drivers have points on the board, and all three are entered on the Circuit of Ireland. Brendan McAree took fourth in Galway while Frank Cunningham was fourth in West Cork having swapped his Sierra for a Ford Escort RS1800. Donal O’Connor scored eight points in Cork and is also well positioned to move up the leader board with a good result.
The Junior Championship is not back in action again until the Rally of the Lakes, but Justin Ryan currently holds a ten point lead after taking two maximum scores on the opening rounds while Noel Murphy is currently in second place. John O’Flaherty and Christy McCarthy are tied for third place while Kevin Horgans retirement on West Cork drops him to fifth overall.
The Circuit of Ireland begins on Thursday 7th April with a qualifying stage at Tardree with the first special stage, Cairncastle due to start at 9.51am on Friday morning.
Six stages will be tackled in total on the first day with the first car due back at Parc Ferme at 8.30pm. The second day consists of eight stages including the infamous Hamiltons Folly and the first car is due at the finish ramp just after 6pm on Saturday evening.