The 2016 Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship is about to pass the midway point with the forthcoming Cartell.ie International Rally of the Lakes, with the Killarney based event the fourth of the seven round series.
Championship leader Josh Moffett in a Fiesta R5 will be hoping his recent fine run of form will continue after an excellent drive to fourth on the Circuit of Ireland as well as winning his home Monaghan event last weekend.
He will certainly have to be at his best as his closest rivals in the championship, Keith Cronin and Alastair Fisher who are second and third in the series, will be pushing very hard from the word go.
Cronin who is almost on home territory on this event led the series after the opening two rounds in his Citroen DS3 R5, but a first stage retirement on the Circuit of Ireland sees him in second, albeit only four points behind.
The battle between these three drivers is expected to be intense and with Sam Moffett & Stephen Wright waiting in the wings in joint fourth place it would be a brave person to predict the outcome of this event.
Sam Moffett is of course a previous winner of the Rally of the Lake and that experience could well bear fruit over the weekend.
There are several Skoda S2000s on the list as well and Joe McGonigle in seventh overall in the championship has had a very good start to the year with three solid finishes.
The Donegal driver won the Lark in the Park last weekend and confidence will be high going into an event he has competed on several times in the past.
Owen Murphy had a troubled run in his Skoda on its West Cork debut with a faulty intercom and then a clutch problem eventually forcing him into Rally 2. He will be hoping for better luck in Killarney and with his undoubted speed could very well be on the pace of the top runners.
Aaron MacHale is another to move to a Skoda since last year and has competed on two of the three rounds to date and has admitted to finding it a steep learning curve, but is growing more confident in the car with each event. John Mulholland (Skoda) and Joe Connolly (Fiesta) will also be hoping to gain more championship points over the weekend as they also adjust to Class 5 cars for 2016.
Group N is still being led by Clonakilty driver David Guest despite not taking part in the third round, the Circuit of Ireland.
The Mitsubishi driver took two maximum scores on the opening rounds to open up a gap, but the Kearney brothers, Gus & Pat both scored well on the Circuit to move into second and fourth overall in the category while Peter O’Kane holds third place. Brian O’Keeffe only competed on one round to date, a retirement in West Cork, but is familiar with Killarney and could get back into the running with a good result.
The Front Wheel drive category is as competitive as ever with Callum Devine and William Creighton neck and neck after the three rounds to date, while Mary Gallagher and Fraser Mulholland have increased their pace with each round and are still very much in the hunt. David Carney in his Citroen DS3 R3 Max has scored on only one round to date and will be looking to improve on that.
The Modified championship sees Scottish crew Ross Marshall & Dave Robson arrive in Killarney with a two point lead in the series. With second placed Wesley Patterson not doing Killarney it’s a chance for Marshall to extend his lead while Davy Armstrong in third place can’t be discounted either. Jason O’Mahony who was second after the opening round is back in his Mitsubishi Lancer while Eugene Meegan and John Bonner will be fancied to perform strongly as well.
The Historic championship is being led by Frank Cunningham who has had an improvement in fortunes since switching from a Sierra to an Escort. Frank faces some strong competition in Killarney though with James O’Mahony, Philip Wylie and David Goose all capable of a strong result while Alan Watkins and Luke McCarthy are also very quick. Richard Hall has entered in his Sierra Cosworth and is another who is capable of a very good result if the car proves to be reliable.
The Junior championship is into its third round (the Circuit of Ireland wasn’t a counting round), and Justin Ryan has got off to the perfect start with two maximum scores to date. Noel Murphy has also performed consistently to lie in second place ahead of John O’Flaherty and Christy McCarthy who are tied for third place. Kevin Horgan is in fifth place after a good result in Galway was spoiled somewhat by having car problems just before the start of West Cork. Kieran O’Donoghue and Diarmuid Hallahan have yet to score, but O’Donoghue was extremely quick in Galway and could take maximum points here.
The sixteen stage event begins at 9.30am on Saturday morning with the classic Gortnagane stage and there are eight stages on the first day with the first car due back in Parc Ferme just after 6pm.
The second day begins with the classic Molls Gap test and again there are eight stages in total before the first car arrives back at the finish ramp just after 5.30pm.