The much-anticpated 2012 Safety Direct Galway International Rally takes place in the city and county on Saturday and Sunday .
The popular rally, first run in 1971, has attracted an oversubscribed entry this year, with 170 applicants for the 141 available entries.
Clerk of the Course Victor Farrell is delighted with this year’s entry, saying it is the best for many years.
With 50 per cent bonus points towards the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the Galway event has been assured a competitive field of top class cars and drivers fighting it out for the overall honours.
This includes the number one seed and double rally champion Tim McNulty from Meath, who with Sligo co-driver Paul Kiely, starts in a Subaru World Rally car. McNulty is no stranger to Galway, having taken victories in both the International rally and the Galway Summer rally last year.
The 2010 winner Gareth MacHale from Dublin returns, and with co driver Brian Murphy, starts in his Focus WRC. The number three seed is another Tarmac rally champion, Derek McGarrity from Antrim in another Focus WRC. However the car and driver combination that is attracting most interest is the number four seed Eugene Donnelly from Maghera. The five-times champion will drive the latest Mini John Cooper Works WRC - the same vehicle driven by Spaniard Dani Sordo in the 2011 World Rally Championship. The car is entered by Colm Quinn Car Sales of Athlone.
Darragh O’Riordan from Cork makes up the top five seeds. O’Riordan drives a Subaru WRC and was the winner of the Cork 20 rally last October.
More than 40 local drivers will battle it out for the coveted Brian Thornton Memorial Trophy, including Tom Flaherty at 15 and Oranmore’s Richard Burke in a Subaru at 18. Pat Kelly, with his son Jonathan, drives another Subaru at number 25, while event sponsor Safety Direct is also entering two Honda Civics - Loughrea’s Neil Pierce and Enda O Leary at 32 and Galway’s Alan Fair and Shane Reidy at 52.
A number of Galway people, now resident in Australia, have returned to take part in the event, including James Brett from Clarinbridge with Loughrea’s Michelle Crowley co-driving in a Honda Civic.
The battle for the Group N (production ) cars will also be intense with Enniskillen’s Gary Jennings, Munster Joinery team driver Alan Ring, Airtricity’s Donagh Kelly, and Sam Moffett from Monaghan all driving Mitsubishi Evos. The top modified entrants are Daniel McKenna and Gary McPhillips, two of Ireland’s best clubman drivers, in highly modified Escort Mk 2s.
The Galway Historic Rally takes place in conjunction with the International rally. For 2012 the historic cars will run ahead of the main rally. This will give the thousands of spectators who line the route the opportunity to see cars from the 1960s and 1970s while they wait for the top drivers to arrive.
The historic entry includes multiple champion Ray Cunningham from Oranmore in the Galway Mini Centre Mini Cooper S and also European historic championship regular Ernie Graham in an Escort Mk2.
Galway Motor Club has nominated ACT for Meningitis as the charity for this year’s rally