Round 2, McCauley Trailers National Forest Rally Championship Round 2 of the 2004 "McCauley Trailers" National Forest Rally Championship based in Mitchelstown this Sunday 28th March, has attracted a capacity entry. The event is also the...
Round 2, McCauley Trailers National Forest Rally Championship
Round 2 of the 2004 "McCauley Trailers" National Forest Rally Championship based in Mitchelstown this Sunday 28th March, has attracted a capacity entry. The event is also the opening round of the Ford of Ireland Ka Championship. Renowned COC Jim O'Brien has put together a compact event with 6 stages in the form of 3 done twice and service in the Galtee car park (Mitchelstown). The first competing cars will leave the start ramp from the Square in Mitchelstown at 10 O'clock before "Cambaun Wood" ss 1, this is a classic fast and flowing stage and is sure to set tone for the day.
Championship leaders, Kevin Lynch/ Francis Regan are at number 1 in their state of the art Impreza WRC. The Derry/ Antrim pairing are match fit, competing every weekend and seem to be on the crest of a wave after a convincing win on round 1, the Willie Loughman Memorial in Carrick on Suir and a coast to victory last on weekends Roscommon Moto Stages in poor wet conditions. At 2 Brian Murphy/ Joe Downey (Impreza 555) come to round 2 to settle the score with Lynch after they lost out on a day long battle in Carrick by just 5 seconds. James Murphy/ Con Mulcahy (Escort Cos) have their best seed yet at number 3. Murphy has shown his speed on recent events only to be dogged by continued blown turbos, given a trouble free run this local crew have the to potential to upset the newer WRC's that surround them.
Winners in '03 John McCarthy/ Dan Maguire have the number 4 slot with the ex McHale Corolla WRC. McCarthy was untouchable last season but failed to finish in Carrick and needs a big result on this event to keep his bid for the '04 Championship alive. Number 5 Dermot Kelly/ John Brennan (Escort WRC) an other to nonfinish Carrick are out for gold on Sunday. Kelly has probably done this event more than any of the others winning it in '99 and 2000, 2nd in '01 to Kenny McKinstry after a broken steering rack in Kilworth cost him 3 in a row. "Cambaun" is his favourite stage in Ireland and Kelly is one of the very few to have done the Ballyporeen stage back in the old days as a navigator!
Kevin O'Kane/ Mark Hanna at 6 (Impreza WRC), are an other crew that need a finish on Sunday after they crashed out on the last stage in Carrick while holding 3rd overall. Number 7, Gp N Champions John Shanahan/ Liam McLaughlin (Impreza) took a maximum score on every round last year but face stiff opposition this season with a host of new Gp N contenders. Shanahan is going against the clock to have his Subaru ready in time as he awaits the return of a newly built engine from the UK. Pat Norris/ Declan Timulty (Impreza 555) took 3rd in Carrick setting some fastest times along the way so they should be well on the pace. Top 2WD seed Dungarvan's Tommy Kiely/ Michael Cuddihy are at 9 in a seriously high-powered 2.0 16v mk2. Kiely has only done 2 events with this car finishing 10th overall in the Stone throwers and claimed victory on the Tipperary single stage. He did a few forest events last year with a 1600 car and put a lot of bigger machines to shame. Rounding off the top ten is Waterford/ Limerick pairing of Pete Willoughby/ Greg Shinnors in a hired Sierra 4x4. Pete last competed on the Sean Conlon in '02 with a hired Evo 6 and finished 4th overall.
Connie Smith is going to have a go at the woods with a Sierra 4x4, 206 Cup front-runners Rodney Wilton/ Derek Coleman come to Tipp as a shakedown for the Astra Stages. Clonmel crew Kieran Molloy/ Brian Boland debut a newly built Evo 7. Chair's Don Keating is out with a 2.0 Sunny. There are 12 Ka's entered with Clonmel duo John Doolan/ Alison Quinlan heading the field. Doolan now well used to gravel after a class win in Carrick. Some new young drivers in the series include Brian O'Mahony, Owen Murphy, Gordon Coleman and Kieran Daly.
After Cambaun the crews head towards Ballyporeen for a new 7mile stage through the Knockmealdown Mountains. This stage has not been used for over ten years so should be well rested and provide a level the playing field between regulars and newcomers alike. Stage 3, Kilworth is the toughest of all, running in reverse of last year this is a long (10 miles) hard stage with lots of junctions ideal for spectators, wide and varied conditions from smooth, fast and flowing to narrow tight and twisty. Service will be in the Galtee car park (Mitchelstown) around lunchtime before a repeat run over the loop of stages with the first cars due back at the square in Mitchelstown at 5 pm.