Preview courtesy of Triton Showers – proud sponsors of the Irish National Rally Championship.
With five straight wins in the Triton Showers National Rally Championship, Monaghan’s Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta WRC) can clinch the title on Sunday’s sixth round, the FAAC Simply automatic/Sligo Park Hotel Rally that has attracted an entry of some 112 crews.
Moffett has won the events in Nenagh, Longford, Monaghan, Rathkeale and Waterford and has racked up all but one of the 105 available points. The series awards twenty points for a win plus an additional point for setting the fastest time on the Power Stage – the final stage of each event.
On Sunday’s nine-stage encounter, round six of the eight round campaign, he needs just nine points to claim the prestigious Vard Memorial Trophy and his first major rally championship title.
A former Billy Coleman award winner, Moffett has been virtually untouchable all season long, his only glitch came in the last round, the Raven’s Rock Rally in Waterford when he lost the lead for a few stages due to a broken driveshaft. However, that was replaced at the subsequent service and within two stages he was back in the lead and went on to claim another strong victory.
His closest rival is reigning Triton champion Clonmel’s Roy White, also in a Ford Fiesta WRC. Realistically, White is now the only driver that can deny him the title and even if he (White) were to claim the maximum scores on all three remaining rounds including Sligo, that nine-point haul will still be sufficient for Moffett.
Sunday’s entry also includes two former national champions – both of whom have won in Sligo – Donegal’s Declan Boyle and Monaghan’s Niall Maguire.
Boyle (Fiesta WRC) won two years ago when fellow Donegal driver Donagh Kelly clinched the Triton title in Sligo, Boyle’s quest to win this year’s series has been blighted with non-finishes in Longford and Rathkeale, previously he won the Sligo Rally in 2013 in a Subaru WRC en-route to the first of his two national titles.
Meanwhile, triple national champion Maguire (Subaru WRC) last won the Sligo Rally all of thirteen years ago, the national regular is currently equal third in the series.
Derry driver Desi Henry makes a rare appearance in the Triton series and should be a force in his Skoda Fabia R5. Another Skoda campaigner is Dundalk’s Brendan Cumiskey, he was fourth in the last round in Waterford and a similar result – given the quality of the entry – would be deemed impressive. Fellow Ulster driver Jonny Greer will compete in a Citroen DS3 R5.
One of the best-known drivers in the country, Kenny McKinstry from Banbridge will compete in a Subaru WRC and will occupy the number eight berth in Sligo.
A formidable top ten also includes Tyrone’s Martin Cairns in a Fiesta WRC and top two-wheel drive contender Cavan’s Gary Kiernan (Ford Escort).
The modified entry also features Roscommon’s Cormac Phelan (Honda Civic) and the Escorts of Davy Armstrong, Tom Flaherty, Connor Watters, Tim Enright and Mickey Conlon and Sean Liston (BMW E30).
Meanwhile, the Motorsport Safety Team Group N title is set to go down to the wire and the Sligo event could be a key event in deciding the destiny of the title. Principally, it involves former Sligo Rally winner, Monaghan’s Shane Maguire and Cork’s David Guest, both in Mitsubishi EvoIX’s.
Maguire has shown great consistency and an increased turn of speed on the last two rounds to move ahead of his Cork rival. Guest, the current Irish Tarmac Group N champion is well aware that he needs to finish ahead of Maguire on Sunday to keep his title hopes alive, like the overall Triton series, the Group N award is based on the best six results from eight events. Maynooth’s Paul Barrett (Subaru) and Dubliner Neil Tohill (Mitsubishi) could play a part in the destiny of the title especially if they were to split the leading duo. Others in the category are the Mitsubishi duo of reigning champion Tyrone’s Aidan Wray and Gary Cairns (Mitsubishi)
Tyrone’s Barry Morris (Escort) can extend his lead in the Mk. 2 Champions Trophy and also improve his position in the rally.ie series given the absence of current leader Adrian Hetherington (Escort).
Local drivers in action include UK based Coolaney native Anthony O’Brien (Mitsubishi), Enda Haran (Escort), Jason Currid (Escort) and the vastly experienced Dominic McLoughlin (Peugeot 205).