One of the more popular events among nationwide rallying enthusiasts, The Safety Direct Galway International Rally, takes place this weekend.
The first major motorsport event annually in Ireland, the Galway rally attracts entrants from England, Scotland, Wales, Isle of Man, Czech Republic, France, America, Gambia, Belgium, Arabia, Norway, and Finland.
This year’s event is even more significant because it is the final competition prior to the World Rally Championship opening round which takes place in Sligo at the end of this month.
A ceremony to mark the opening will take place at 8pm on Friday night in Eyre Square, providing an opportunity to see the top 20 cars and teams before they hit the stages on Saturday.
The administrative headquarters will be based at the Clayton Hotel, Ballybrit, for the duration of the rally activities.
Gary Leonard, clerk of the course, says this year’s event is unique because it will showcase some exclusive cars and drivers ahead of the Irish round of the World Rally Championship.
“ We are very excited to have two of the top WRC Rally drivers, Conrad Rautenbach and Aaron Burkhart, in the number 1 and 2 positions. Following in the number 3 position will be Eamonn Boland, winner of the Irish Tarmac Championship 2008.
“ We can expect some thrilling competition as professional drivers test run their motors and amateur drivers contend their positions.”
Forty local crews from the Galway Motor Club will also be battling for the coveted Brian Thornton Trophy including Ross Forde, winner of last year’s acclaimed Billy Coleman Award.
Confirmed Irish contenders include former champions Eugene Donnelly, Derek McGarrity, and Aaron and Gareth MacHale.
Alan Fair of title sponsor Safety Direct advises: “To ensure utmost safety, we ask spectators to remain on full alert, listen for approaching cars, keep children under supervision, and follow instructions from the marshals.”
This year’s rally boasts 300 volunteers helping out over the weekend. The first of 17 demanding stages over two days begins near Abbeyknockmoy on Saturday morning. The Saturday stages will run in the north Galway area, while the stages on Sunday will move to south Galway. Concluding the weekend’s event, all competing cars will return to Eyre Square at 5pm on Sunday.
A new feature for the rally in 2009 will be a single centralised service and re-fuelling area at Oran Pre-Cast at the Deerpark Industrial Estate, Oranmore on both days. The premises will also be used as the location for mechanical scrutiny and parc ferme. The organisers are confident that a single Service Park will help to reduce traffic movements over the three days.
The prize giving ceremony, hosted by the Galway Motor Club and with MC Michael Lyster, takes place in the Clayton Hotel on Sunday evening and is open to the public.
Further information is available on www.galwayinternationalrally.com