The Abbey Court Hotel Nenagh Rally kicks starts the Triton Showers National Rally Championship season on Sunday next with former champion Donegal’s Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) heading a competitive entry for eight-stage event in north Tipperary.
Commenting ahead of the new season, M.D. of Triton Showers Kevin Barrett said, “This is our third season of involvement with the national series. Irish rallying is in a difficult place right now with competitors finding it extremely hard to find the budget for a full season. An entry of 90 crews is now seen as a good entry compared to over 130 we had a number of years ago. It is very different times. That said, it is great to see a good start to the series in Nenagh and we in Triton Showers are looking forward to our involvement with the series as it winds its was around Ireland between now and the end of October when it concludes in Bantry in west Cork.”
Top seed Kelly, who is chasing his third straight win in the Birr Motor Club promoted event has signalled his intentions to compete in the series that he last won in 2015. Although he only had sporadic outings last season he will still be expected to set a strong pace and a hat-trick of wins is a strong possibility. “It’s been a while since I have been in the car (Donegal International Rally, June 2016). I’m a bit apprehensive but that said I don’t see why I won’t be competitive. The plan is to compete in the Triton series, we will take it event by event and see how it goes.”
Reigning champion Clonmel’s Roy White (Ford Fiesta WRC) begins the defence of his title and the Vard Memorial Trophy in his native county. “It looks like a very competitive top ten. Donagh’s car (Ford Focus WRC) is the ultimate and he will go hard as will Declan, no matter what, he is always very quick and then there is Sam Moffett, another very quick driver while Niall (Maguire) can never be discounted. I can’t wait to get stuck in, I’m really chomping at the bit for this season.”
Former double National champion Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC) has set his sights on a third title, despite winning five of last year’s events, the Lettermacaward native missed out on the title and had to be content with runner-up spot. He will be hoping that the early season glitches in his Ford Fiesta WRC have all been sorted as he ventures into another Triton season.
With three titles already under his belt, the last in 2004, Monaghan’s Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) has been seeking that elusive fourth crown but with such a strong level of competition this time around, his task will be even more difficult.
An entry from fellow Monaghan man Sam Moffett has spiced up proceedings, he will drive a Ford Fiesta WRC as opposed to his usual Ford Fiesta R5 and outright victory is well within his compass. The top six is completed by Omagh’s Mark Donnelly in his Ford Fiesta WRC, who has stated his intention to contest the Triton Showers series.
West Cork driver Daniel Cronin competes in a Mitsubishi EvoIX, on his last outing on tarmac surface he won the Kerry Winter Rally in Banna where he beat Cavan’s Stephen McCann, who debuted a Ford Fiesta S2000 on the same event, the latter is seeded behind Cronin as they renew rivalry in County Tipperary.
Meanwhile, another Cavan driver Gary McPhillips (Ford Escort) is also amongst the top ten, he heads the two-wheel drive entry and will be the barometer for Kildare’s Ian Barrett in his Darrian T90, the low projectile will certainly be exciting to watch around the Nenagh roads.
Meath’s Trevor Mulligan, the defending rally.ie champion (top two-wheel drive in overall standings) and the Triton Showers Mk. 2 Ford Escort Challenge champion will start from the number eleven berth. Others in the two-wheel drive category are Tyrone pair Adrian Hetherington and Viv Hamill, Killarney’s Ed Murphy and Donegal’s Mark Alcorn (Toyota Corolla).
In Group N, reigning Motorsport Safety Triton Showers champion Tyrone’s Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi EvoX) heads a strong contingent in the showroom category as he seeks a hat-trick of titles.
Dunmanway’s David Guest (Mitsubishi EvoIX) will certainly pose a threat while Monaghan’s Shane Maguire in a similar car and Maynooth’s Paul Barrett (Subaru) will also be aiming to put the pressure on Wray. Barrett’s car will again carry the Vado (a sister company of Triton Showers) livery, Vado are underpinning the television coverage of the Triton series that will be captured by On the Limit Sports and beamed to over 50 countries around the world.
Elsewhere, the entry also features Cahir’s Andrew Fanning (Ford Fiesta), overseas driver Washington James in the ex-Roy White MG ZR, Limerick’s Eamonn Daly (Mitsubishi), New York based Martin Donnelly (Toyota Corolla WRC), Galwegian Richard Whelan (BMW 1M), Wexford’s Richard Moore (Ford Escort), Limerick’s Sean Moran (Ford Escort), Kerry’s Tim Enright (Ford Escort), Clare’s Alan O’Callaghan (Subaru) and another New York based driver, Paul Rowley (Citroen DS3R5).
In the Junior category, Donegal’s Michael Boyle (Honda Civic) is the leading entry with opposition emanating from Cavan’s Darren O’Brien, Meath duo Brian Brady and Tom Holton and Kerry’s Kieran Reen, all in Honda Civics.
From a local (north Tipperary) perspective the entry features Nenagh’s Andrew Slattery (Peugeot 208 R2), Templemore’s Paul O’Brien (Honda Civic) and brothers David and Shaun Forde from Nenagh. David competes in a Subaru and while Shaun (Vauxhall Nova) will be making his first competitive outing on a tarmac surface rally.
Slattery’s Garage, Puckane with support from Peugeot Ireland are co-sponsors of the rally.
Due to business commitments former National champion Peadar Hurson (Ford Fiesta WRC) is not competing in Nenagh but will be amongst the entry for the second round, the Midland Rally in Longford at the end of March where Donegal’s Manus Kelly (Subaru WRC) will also begin his tilt for the Triton title.