NFRC: Carrick Forest Rally preview

The 2005 McCauley Trailers National Forest Rally Championship begins this Sunday March 6th with the Carrick on Suir based Willie Loughman Memorial Forest Rally. COC, Terence Kearney has formulated a very challenging event: 8 stages, 4 done...

The 2005 McCauley Trailers National Forest Rally Championship begins this Sunday March 6th with the Carrick on Suir based Willie Loughman Memorial Forest Rally. COC, Terence Kearney has formulated a very challenging event: 8 stages, 4 done twice, 60 stage miles including a 16 mile version of the vast Gurteen Forest complex. The first car leaves parc ferme at 9:30 Sunday morning for the opening stage close to Carrick, a short 3-mile tyre warmer. Then moving onto the mammoth ss2, 16 miles of Gurteen forest, followed by first service along the main Waterford road outside Clonmel (11:00).

After service the event heads north for the Anner and Slievenamon forests. Stage 3, Anner famous for the fast jumps at the end is being run identical to last year, while stage 4 is a new version of Slievenamon. After Slievenamon the cars return to service at lunchtime before the repeat run of the opening 2 stages. Final service, at 15:20 is followed by the last loop of stages, Anner and Slievenamon with the first competing cars due back at Rally HQ, The Carrick Hotel at 17:30.

Top seed Tyrone's Kevin O'Kane/ Martin Hanna plan a full championship assault with their '99 spec Impreza WRC. O'Kane is a very loyal supporter of the series winning the title twice as well as being runner-up in '03 and '04. At number 2, Glenn Allen/ Damien Connolly (Escort WRC) make their first trip to the Suir Valley but are sure to be on the pace. Pat Norris/ Declan Timulty are at 3. Having finished third last year setting some FTD's along the way Norris will be a hard charger. At number 4, Cork man John McCarthy returns to the woods. McCarthy plans a full campaign now with his Corolla WRC in RHD and Liam McLoughlin on the notes the agri sales man will be hard to beat.

Former Champions Dermot Kelly/ Greg Shinnors (Escort WRC) are at 5 followed by James Murphy/ Anthony Nestor also in an Escort WRC. Number 7, Gareth McHale/ Paul Nagle turned in a stunning drive on the Galway International and now switch to gravel. McHale finished 10th overall here in '03 with a 206 Cup car so he too will be a serious contender. Stephen Moore/ Tony McHugh are the first GpN at 8, Moore has acquired the ex McShea Impreza N10. Pete Willoughby/ Greg McCarthy at 9 will use a Derek Jobb hired Evo 8. Rounding off the top ten, Monaghan's Adrian McElvaney (Impreza 555) switched to gravel last year, setting very impressive times, really enjoying it and plans to tackle the full championship this season.

The event has a capacity entry with a serious line up in every category. Group N has become the strongest class with almost 20 entries, including Moore, Willoughby, Patrick Elliott, Richie Curran, Johnny McKenna, Andy Mackeral, Pete McCullagh and Donie Keating jnr to mention a few. Trevor Harding is just outside the top ten in a Gp A Impreza, followed by a foray of high-powered 2WD Escorts. Brian Lawlor, Paul Barrett, Paul Staunton, John Reid and Frank Kelly are some of the 2WD front-runners. Local crew Paul Mulcahy/ Karl Baumann are at 18 having finished 6th overall last year with their rapid 1600 Starlet. The new junior class looks good with young Owen Murphy out in a LHD mini, Billy O'Keeffe (Corsa), Johnny Kenneally (mk2), Richard Nugent (CRX), James John Wall (106), Conor Kelly (Corsa) and Gemma Kerley (Nova).

Following enquiries from competitors regarding a team award the Committee have decided to introduce a "Team Award" this year on a trial basis. This is a new award, which every driver can register for. Competitors pick their own teams of 3 any drivers and points will be awarded based on overall results. The winning team will be awarded at the Championship Prizegiving in November. More details regarding the "Team Award" will be available on the official notice board at Rally HQ, the Carrick Hotel on Saturday evening.

-gs-

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Series RALLY