Stages Rally 2014 : DUNLOP SEASON BEGINS IN BALLINA
A brand new season of the Dunlop National Rally Championship opens with a vibrant entry for the Hotel Ballina/Kennedy Motors Mayo Rally on Sunday next.Reigning champion and last year’s winner in Mayo, Declan Boyle (Subaru WRC) heads an impressive entry with no fewer than seven World Rally Cars in the line-up for the nine stage event.
It is the first time since 2008 that the Mayo club host the opening round of the popular series.Last year, although not a round of the Dunlop series, the rally returned to Ballina for the first time since 2003 when it was won by Eugene Donnelly (Subaru).In the intervening years, the rally was based in Castlebar and Claremorris.
Not since Patrick Elliott in the 2008/2009 seasons has a driver won back to back Dunlop titles.Boyle will have a tough task in trying to emulate the Cavan driver and the quartet of Jer Buckley (1979/1980), Bertie Law (1983/1984), Stephen Murphy (1995/1986) and John Gilleece (1997/1998).
Five victories in six outings in last year’s Dunlop campaign saw Boyle take the title on round six in Tipperary.As he begins his title defence on Sunday, Boyle reflected on his 2013 campaign, “There were no easy rounds last year.When the weather was changing, it made it tough but Niall Maguire was there all the time and has loads of experience and is hard to beat.My toughest event was Sligo as the tar was melting and was very slippy”.
The Donegal driver admitted he knows little about Hugh Hunter, “I don’t know how quick he is, we never competed against him, but from what I hear he is not going to be easy.”
Welsh ace Hugh Hunter (Subaru WRC) was an impressive winner of the recent Abbeyleix Manor Hotel Rally.He won last year’s Dunlop round in Galway and then led the final round in Bantry until transmission problems put an end to his rally.There is little doubt that he is a serious title contender, how he fares against Boyle is just one of the many fascinating aspects of the Hotel Ballina/Kennedy Motors Mayor Rally.
It’s been ten years since Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) won the national series, the three time champion is undoubtedly one of the most ardent supporters of the Dunlop series and he would really like to add that unprecedented fourth title.
Clonmel’s Roy White (MG ZR) occupies the number four berth in Mayo. superb season last year where he took third overall, he also led the recent Abbeyleix Rally after the opening stage but an encounter with a chicane bale brought a hasty exit.
Another Dunlop regular, Kevin Barrett will drive his S14 Subaru WRC, the Maynooth driver won in Mayo in 2011, his last victory in a round of the Dunlop series was the Galway Summer Rally in 2009.
Like Hugh Hunter, Tyrone’s Paddy McVeigh (Subaru WRC) will tackle the Dunlop series and also used the recent Abbeyleix Rally as a shakedown – finishing third overall.
Wexford’s James Stafford on board the nimble Darrian T90 returns to Dunlop action, he was another driver that competed in Abbeyleix as preparation for Mayo, he was second to Hugh Hunter.
The top ten is completed by the Mitsubishi trio of Sam Moffett, Josh Moffett and Daniel Barry.Former Billy Coleman award winner, Sam reverts to his Group N car for Mayo.The Monaghan driver won his home round of the Dunlop series last year.Opposition from his younger brother Josh will, as usual, be frenetic.Daniel Barry’s performance will be watched with interest.Monaghan’s Shane Maguire has acquired the ex-Stephen Wright Mitsubishi EvoIX, he knows that it will take a few events before he comes to terms with his new acquisition.The showroom category also features Trevor Bustard, former Dunlop champion Aaron MacHale and Pat Kirk, all in Mitsubishi EvoIX’s.
Current Irish Forest rally champion London based Cork driver Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC) has decided to make the Dunlop series his number one priority this year as former winner of the popular “Drive of the Day” award, British driver Steve Wood steps up from a Citroen C2R2 to the ex-Darren Gass Subaru WRC.
Meanwhile, the chase for the Dunlop Mk. 2 Ford Escort Champions Trophy begins in Mayo where the main protagonists are Camillus Bradley, Russell Woods, Fergus O’Meara, Brian Brogan, Jack Maguire and Vivian Hamill.
Popular Longford driver Tommy Doyle competes in his Renault Clio R3 that has undergone a number of changes to the suspension and transmission systems.
From a local perspective, the 140 car entry includes Westport’s David Carney (Citroen DS3 R3T), Ballinrobe’s John Warren (Toyota Corolla), Hollymount’s Colin Loughney (Ford Escort) along with Shane Buckley (Honda Civic) from Ballyhaunis, Derek Bolton (Subaru) from Ballaghdereen and Knockmore’s Kenneth McHale, also in a Subaru.
Elsewhere, Clare’s Niall O’Sullivan (Citroen C2) and Cavan’s Damian O’Reilly (Ford Escort) head the Junior entry list.
Chairman of the Dunlop National Rally Championship Committee, Richard Talbot remarked, “We are delighted to have Dunlop on board for the season ahead and we are looking forward to having another quality field of competitors in all categories contesting the 2014 series.It is fantastic to see over 140 crews in Mayo, I think it proves the popularity of the Dunlop championship.It is hugely encouraging to see that our Dunlop champions, Declan and Brian Boyle are making a defence of their title.”
Organising Club: Mayo & District Motorsport Club.
Clerk of the Course: Padraic Roche.
Rally Headquarters: Hotel Ballina. Tel: 096 23600
First Car Away: Hotel Ballina. 9.30am.
S.S. 1, 4& 7: Cloonta (9.14km.) 10.17, 12.54 & 14.29.
S.S. 2, 5 & 8: Lough Brohly (17.30km.) 10.37, 13.14 & 115.51.
S.S. 3, 6 & 9: Ballymore Lough (10.48km.) 11.14, 13.51 & 16.28.
Service: Ballina Mart. 9.40, 11.52 & 14.29.
Finish Ramp: Hotel Ballina. 16.58.
Top 10 Starters:
1. Declan Boyle/Brian Boyle (Subaru WRC S12B)
2. Hugh Hunter/Andy Marchbank (Subaru WRC S11)
3. Niall Maguire/Enda Sherry (Subaru WRC S11)
4. Roy White/James O’Brien (MG ZR S2400)
5. Kevin Barrett/Sean Mullally (Subaru WRC S14)
6. Paddy McVeigh/Gary McElhinney (Subaru WRC)
7. James Stafford/Amy Ryan (Darrian T90)
8. Sam Moffett/James O Reilly (Mitsubishi EvoIX)
9. Josh Moffett/John Rowan (Mitsubishi EvoIX)
10. Daniel Barry/Gordon Noble (Mitsubishi EvoX)
The 2014 Dunlop National Rally Championship will consist of the following events:
1.Mayo Rally (Ballina) March 9.
2.Circuit of Kerry (Tralee) April 6.
3.Carlow Rally, May 11.
4.Circuit of Munster June 1.
5.Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally, August 10.
6.Galway Summer Rally, August 31.
7.Clare Rally, September 21.
8.Donegal Harvest Rally, October 11th.
Competitors will be able select the best six scores from the eight events and the Historic and Junior competitors can utilise the best four scores from eight events.