ITRC: Round three Rally of the Lakes preview

Ordnance Survey Ireland Rally of the Lakes 2004 Round 3 Pirelli Irish Tarmac Rally Championship Who Will Tame Killarney Tarmac? With two rounds now completed in the seven-event 2004 Pirelli Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the attention of the...

Ordnance Survey Ireland Rally of the Lakes 2004
Round 3 Pirelli Irish Tarmac Rally Championship

Who Will Tame Killarney Tarmac?

With two rounds now completed in the seven-event 2004 Pirelli Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the attention of the contenders and their supporters now turns to Killarney for the Ordnance Survey Ireland Rally of the Lakes, which will take place on the May Bank Holiday Weekend. The Rally of the Lakes, celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year, is well established as a firm favourite among Irish and overseas competitors and fans, annually attracting both in large numbers to the south-west.

Eugene Donnelly took victory on the 2003 Rally of the Lakes, and later secured the National Rally Championship and the Northern Ireland Championship in what was an ultra-successful year for the Maghera man. Donnelly drove a Subaru Impreza WRC in 2003, but he and co-driver, Paul Kiely, have switched to a Toyota Corolla WRC for 2004. Having recorded second place finishes on the Circuit of Ireland at Easter and on the opening round in Galway in February, Donnelly currently heads the 2004 Pirelli Tarmac standings, and his consistent pace should ensure that he will be in the shake up for the title at the end of the season.

Derek McGarrity, the reigning Tarmac Champion, trails Donnelly by just a single point in the 2004 Pirelli series, and comes to Killarney on the back of a second Circuit of Ireland win in a row. The Glengormley driver led for a time in Killarney last year, before contact with the scenery resulted in the loss of two minutes, and he will be eager to make amends this time around. Having sold the Subaru Impreza S9 in which he triumphed on the Circuit of Ireland, it remains to be seen what car McGarrity will bring to Killarney, but it will most likely be another Imporeza of similar specification.

Another driver with memories of 2003 to erase is Austin McHale. The Dubliner, three times previous a winner in Killarney, took the lead on the third last stage of the Rally of the Lakes, but then crashed out on the penultimate test. He now has a Ford Focus WRC03, perhaps the most advanced rally car in the country, at his disposal, and it would be a foolish man who would bet against him on any of the remaining Tarmac rounds. He currently lies third in the title race.

The Galway International Rally winner, Tapio Laukkanen, is next in the points table. The Andorran-domiciled Finn beat the 'home' team in the West, but failed to add to his tally on the Circuit when an under-bonnet fire on the opening stage forced him to retire. A good points haul in Killarney is essential if he is to add the 2004 Irish Tarmac Championship to the British title he won in 1999.

Donie O'Sullivan and Paul Nagle were the 2003 Rally of the Lakes runners-up, and, one year on, they have a massive opportunity to become the first Kerry crew to win the event outright. Donie purchased a Ford Focus WRC 01+ (a 2001 version with some 2002 parts added) during the winter, and he and Paul took their first ever overall victory on the West Cork Rally in March. This was followed by another victory on the Circuit of Kerry earlier this month, and a third place finish on the Circuit of Ireland. The 'match-practise' will certainly not do them any harm in the run up to their home rally, and no doubt a local success would be celebrated with great enthusiasm by their fellow Killarney & District Motor Club members.

In addition to the various Fords, Subarus and Toyotas currently being used by the top drivers in the Pirelli Tarmac Championship, two extra World Rally Cars are to be debuted at the Rally of the Lakes. Eamonn Boland will give the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC2 its first run in Ireland, while George Tracey has entered a Peugeot 206WRC, another supercar which has not previously seen action in this country.

In the Group N category for Production-based cars, Dessie Keenan heads the table from fellow Mitsubishi drivers, James Foley and Aaron McHale, while in the Pirelli Historic Tarmac Championship, Mervyn Johnston and Richard Hyland (Mini Cooper S) lead by virtue of second place finishes on the first two rounds.

<pre> Ordnance Survey Ireland Rally of the Lakes 2004

Top Ten Seeds 1 Tapio Laukkanen Harri Kaapro Subaru Impreza WRC S7 2 Derek McGarrity Dermot O'Gorman Subaru Impreza WRC S9 3 Eugene Donnelly Paul Kiely Toyota Corolla WRC 4 Austin McHale Brian Murphy Ford Focus WRC03 5 Donie O'Sullivan Paul Nagle Ford Focus WRC01+ 6 Eamonn Boland Damien Morrissey Mitsubishi Lancer WRC2 7 George Tracey Jakes Kelly Peugeot 206WRC 8 Peadar Hurson TBA Subaru Impreza WRC P2000 9 Tim McNulty Anthony Nestor Subaru Impreza WRC S7 10 Liam McCarthy Kieran Murphy Toyota Corolla WRC

Pirelli Irish Tarmac Rally Championship 2004

Positions after two of seven rounds*: 1: Eugene Donnelly Paul Kiely Toyota Corolla WRC 24 2: Derek McGarrity Dermot O'Gorman Subaru Impreza WRC S9 23 3: Austin McHale Brian Murphy Ford Focus WRC03 18 4: Tapio Laukkanen Harri Kaapro Subaru Impreza WRC S7 15 5: Donie O'Sullivan Paul Nagle Ford Focus WRC01/02 11 (* Subject to official confirmation).

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Austin McHale , Brian Murphy , Paul Nagle