Some of the crews that are intending competing in 2016 are starting to announce their plans. Some are planning for championships, some selected events and others one off drives. The last few days has seen major announcements and excitement is building at a serious pace
World Rally Cars
Donagh Kelly, last year’s double champion, really came into his own last year. With a more relaxed demeanour resulting in fewer mistakes, the wins seemed to come more easily, increasing his confidence accordingly. This year the plans are scaled back, (He has no entry in for Galway) and about having some fun, but discount his competitiveness at your peril when he does make an appearence.
Declan Boyle has confirmed he intends to compete in both the Tarmac and National Championship events, and has to be regarded as favourite to win the majority of the events he’ll compete in. The Fiesta will have undergone further development and Declan will be growing evermore confident in the car.
Garry Jennings has an entry in for Galway and when everything clicks into place for him, he can be difficult to beat. How often we will see Garry over the year is anyones guess as he usually selects his rallies carefully.
Tim McNulty makes a very welcome return to rallying in the Mini WRC, in which he intends entering selected events, starting with Galway. If he gels with the car and gets his old speed back, he could well spring a few surprises.
Roy White in the Fiesta has put his name in the hat for Galway. As seen in Cork at end of last season, Roy took to his new mount like a duck to water and undoubtedly his confidence will grow as the season progresses.
Declan Gallagher has secured what appears to be a one off drive in a Subaru S8 in Galway. How much testing the Milkman gets before the event will tell how quickly he’ll settle in. It’s a big ask stepping from the Starlet into a four wheel drive turbocharged car, never mind active diffs, launch control etc.
R5 and S2000 Cars
Alastair Fisher & Keith Cronin are believed to be targeting the Irish Tarmac Championship this year. These two guys have proven their undoubted talents and pace beyond these shores. Every other driver will see them as the yardstick to compare their times with. Alastair will be out in the latest spec Dom Buckley prepped Fiesta and Keith in his DS3 R5.
Sam and Josh Moffett have both stepped out of their WRC Spec Fiestas into R5 versions. Both are committed drivers and will go hard as will fellow Monaghan man, Stephen Wright. Jonny Greer will be back in his DS3 R5, but will these crews have the pace to unsettle Cronin and Fisher?
Desi Henry has really put the cat among the pigeons as he has purchased a Skoda Fabia R5, and it will be very interesting to see how quickly Desi and MAC Sport get this car set up for Irish tar. The Fabia has been a class act since its launch in mid 2015 and is being continuously developed by the works teams and privateers throughout Europe and beyond
Joe McGonigle will be back in his Fabia S2000 to defend his 2015 R5 Tarmac Championship. He may struggle to get on the pace of the R5 cars this year, but he has a good setup and a year’s experience in the car. Aaron McHale, the 2015 GpN Tarmac champion, has upgraded to a Fabia S2000.
With all the chat about WRC and R5 the modified crews have been largely overlooked. Guys like Frank Kelly has rebuilt Baby Blue and is raring to go.Many others have re-prepped their cars in readiness for the coming season. Last year’s Champion Declan Gallagher may return for some events in the Starlet, but could there be a new champion at the end of the year? Wesley Patterson has entered Galway, he has the pace and good few of the events he likes to enter. Will we see guys like Jonathan Pringle, Chris Armstrong and others step up from the National Championship?
No doubt there’ll be drivers I have missed and others who will enter the fray as the season progresses. It will be an interesting year ahead. Can the R5 guys get in the battle or beat the WRCs? Whose name will be engraved on the winner’s trophy? All these questions and more will be discussed, and answers found as the year unfolds!!