Irish tarmac rally season blasts off in Galway

Gary Jennings will be aiming to make amends this season
Gary Jennings will be aiming to make amends this season

The Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship gets into gear on Saturday with the Colm Quinn BMW Galway International Rally.

Throughout the years Galway has been the curtain raiser to the championship and with unpredictable weather, drivers debuting new cars, and drivers who have never competed on the International before it rarely fails to disappoint.

The good news for Irish rally fans is that this year’s event promises more of the same.

Current Tarmac Champion Declan Boyle is top seed in his Subaru Impreza WRC S12 and he returns to the scene of his first ever international victory 12 months ago which acted as a springboard towards his championship success.

Fermanagh’s Garry Jennings at two in a similar car was champion in 2013 but suffered a troubled year in 2014 and will be keen to make amends.

A costly excursion denied him victory in Galway, a heavy accident on the Circuit of Ireland which also ruled him out of Killarney, and a subdued drive in Donegal where he was third overall, a long way behind the leading duo.

Jennings eventually finished a distant second in the championship in 2014 and will be hoping for much better luck in Galway than he has had in the past.

Multiple Irish Tarmac Champion Eugene Donnelly starts at three in the first of the Colm Quinn BMW sponsored Mini WRCs and he is another driver who will want to move quickly on from the past year.

Donagh Kelly is at number four in his Ford Focus WRC, he had a fine third place in Galway last year followed by second on the Circuit of Ireland. Having also won the non-championship West Cork Rally, hopes were high for a breakthrough in winning an international event.

However an accident late on the Rally of the Lakes when he was poised for victory set him back and another non finish in Donegal saw his season peter out disappointingly.

Sam Moffett at number five has had a full season in his Fiesta WRC behind him and has shown he can be a serious contender for championship honours having won in Killarney last year and finishing second in Donegal.

Dean Rafferty starts at six in the second Colm Quinn BMW sponsored Mini WRC and if he adapts to the new car the Billy Coleman Award winner could be in line to gain one of the best results ever by a Galway driver on his home event.

Josh Moffett the current Group N champion and Billy Coleman Award finalist is at seven in a newly acquired Fiesta WRC.

Jonny Greer from Carryduff who recently finished third at Kirkistown in the Winter Stages will be driving a Citroen DS3 R5. Greer has not been seen on Irish Tarmac too often in recent times even though he had a good result in Galway in 2008.

Two days of rallying lie ahead for the crews and the winner will be crowned on Sunday afternoon.