A brand new season of the Dunlop National Rally Championship opens with an excellent entry for the Hotel Ballina/Kennedy Motors Mayo Rally on Sunday.
Reigning champion Declan Boyle (Subaru WRC) heads the entry with no fewer than seven World Rally Cars in the line-up.
It is the first time since 2008 that the Mayo club host the opening round of the popular series. Last year, although not a round of the Dunlop series, the rally returned for the first time since 2003 when it was won by Ulsterman Eugene Donnelly (Subaru).
Five wins in last year’s Dunlop campaign saw Boyle take the title on round six in Tipperary.
Looking back he said: “There were no easy rounds last year and when the weather was changing, it made it tough but Niall Maguire was there all the time and has loads of experience and is hard to beat.”
My toughest event was Sligo as the tar was melting and was very slippery”
Boyle admitted he knows little about Hugh Hunter who was an impressive winner of the recent Abbeyleix Manor Hotel Rally.
He won last year’s Dunlop round in Galway and then led the final round in Bantry until transmission problems put an end to his rally. There is little doubt that he is a serious title contender, how he fares against Boyle is just one of the many fascinating aspects of the opening round of the series.
It has been ten years since Niall Maguire (Subaru WRC) won the national series, the three time champion is undoubtedly one of the most ardent supporters of the Dunlop series and he would really like to add that unprecedented fourth title.
Roy White (MG ZR) occupies the number four spot after a superb season last year where he took third overall, he also led the recent Abbeyleix Rally after the opening stage but an encounter with a chicane bale brought a hasty exit.
Another Dunlop regular, Kevin Barrett will drive his S14 Subaru WRC, he won in Mayo in 2011, and his last victory in a round of the Dunlop series was the Galway Summer Rally in 2009.
Tyrone’s Paddy McVeigh (Subaru WRC) will tackle the Dunlop series and also used the recent Abbeyleix Rally as a shakedown - finishing third overall.
Meanwhile, the chase for the Dunlop Mk. 2 Ford Escort Champions Trophy begins in Mayo where the main protagonists are Camillus Bradley, Russell Woods, Fergus O’Meara, Brian Brogan, Jack Maguire and Vivian Hamill.
Circuit of Ireland Rally organisers have confirmed that this year’s startline will include high profile FIA WRC 2 competitor Robert Barrable who is set to contest the Circuit’s International rally, the fourth round of the 2014 European Rally Championship.
Paris based FIA have officially signed off the Circuit’s entry regulations allowing organisers to forge ahead and accept entries in both the International and National events.