The Killarney Rally of the Lakes gets under way on Friday and it has attracted an unprecedented entry of 170 cars across sections, International, Modified, Historic and Junior.
There is a ceremonial start in Killarney’s town centre with the real action getting under way on Saturday.
Heading the international Entry list is last year’s winner, the current Clonakilty Black Pudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship leader Declan Boyle.
The Donegal driver arrives in Kerry on the back of four outright victories this year including the recent Fel’s Point Hotel Circuit of Kerry and the two opening rounds of the ITRC, The Galway International and the Circuit of Ireland Rally.
Last year’s winner, Fermanagh’s Gary Jennings, looks certain to field a Subaru Impreza S14 from the Derek McGarrity stable.
He crashed out while leading the Circuit of Ireland on the final stage and his own Impreza suffered substantial damage and makes it unlikely to be readied in time for Killarney.
This leaves the Derek McGarrity entry up in the air but it looks certain he will use the Mini World Rally Car he is drove on the Circuit instead of the Impreza, he will now hand over to Jennings. If this materialises it could mark the first of two Mini WRCs on the entry list as former Lakes winner and multiple Tarmac Champion Eugene Donnelly has been in touch with the organisers and expressed an interest in placing a late entry.
West Cork Rally winner Donagh Kelly will be seeking his first Killarney win in his Ford Focus WRC, while the 2012 Billy Coleman award winner, Sam Moffett, in his Fiesta WRC, will be anxious to make his mark on the International Rally scene and add to his Donegal International Rally victory last June.
Add in former two-time Lakes winner Darragh O’Riordan who led last year’s rally until early in the second day in his Fiesta and Roy White, who appears to have sorted the reliability problems in his Rover MG. Alan Ring has reverted to his Group N Subaru for this season but has endured a tough season as from four starts so far this year he has yet to make the finish and he will trying to reverse this run of bad luck. He faces opposition from drivers such as Josh Moffett (Mitsubishi Evo) and former National Group N Champion Colm Murphy.
Making a welcome return to the rally scene is Aaron McHale, who will be seeking to continue in the winning ways which made his father, Austin, a multiple Tarmac Rally Champion.
Last year’s FIA Historic Rally of the Lakes winner Lisburn’s Wesley Patterson has abandoned his Appendix K Car to revert to his more familiar Modified machine and will also be a strong contender, as will the legendary Phil Collins who makes the trip from Herefordshire to the stages he loves so well and where he has enjoyed considerable success over the past 32 years.
The FIA Historic Rally will run ahead of the International rally and will be headed by Mark Falvey, the start to finish winner of the Rentokill Historic Rally last December and also of the Historic section of the 2013 Cork 20 International.