A new season of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship gets underway this Sunday, March 8 with the TF Royal Hotel/Casey’s and Mulroy’s Londis Mayo Rally that bridges an eleven-year gap since the event was last based in Castlebar.
No fewer than five national rally champions are amongst the entry list including current incumbent Monaghan’s Josh Moffett, who clinched the Vard Memorial Trophy on the Galway Summer Rally last August.
Although he is listed to drive the Ford Fiesta WRC that he took to five wins in last year’s series, it is highly likely he will switch to his Hyundai i20 R5 that he drove to victory in the recent Abbeyleix Manor Hotel Rally.
Speaking ahead of the rally he said: "I think I will take the Hyundai i20 R5 to Mayo, I just feel I need a bit more time in the car and refine a few things.” Should that arise it will be interesting to see how he will fare against the World Rally Cars of drivers like Roy White and Peadar Hurson. It’s going to be tough, I suppose if the stages are tight and technical it (R5 car ) should have the legs.” As for defending his Triton title, he responded, “Yes, for sure, that’s the plan."
Unlike his rivals, Clonmel’s Roy White (Ford Fiesta WRC ) will be on his first outing of the season, he won the title in 2016 and while he has proved to be ultra consistent, victory in an actual round of the series has eluded him thus far. No doubt, he will be hoping to put an end to that statistic, if not in Castlebar, but somewhere else along the way before the Triton series concludes in Donegal next October.
Donegal’s Donagh Kelly, who won the Triton series in 2015, will pilot the VW Polo GTi R5 he campaigned to victory in the Fastnet Rally, the final round of the 2019 Triton series that took place in Bantry in West Cork.
It’s remarkable that it’s all of twenty-eight years since Warrenpoint driver Peadar Hurson won the national series in an Opel Ascona 400. He remains ultra competitive but doesn’t always enjoy the best of luck in his Ford Fiesta WRC.
The two-wheel drive entry is headed by Cavan’s Gary Kiernan (Ford Escort ) with Scotland’s David Bogie, who competed in Abbeyleix last year in a Skoda Fabia R5, driving a Ford Escort this time around.
Armagh’s Damian Toner (Ford Escort ) will certainly crank up the competition. Monaghan’s Niall Maguire (Subaru S12B ), who became the first driver to win the national series on three occasions is also in the top ten along with former Mayo Rally winner Maynooth’s Kevin Barrett (Subaru S14 WRC ).
This year is the sixth season that the series will be underpinned by Triton Showers. M.D. Kevin Barrett, who finished third overall that last time the rally was held in Castlebar and actually won the rally in 2011 remarked: "It doesn’t seem that long ago since we decided to continue our sponsorship of the National Rally Championship.
"Now, we are just days away from the first round, the TF Royal Hotel Mayo Rally, that returns to Castlebar after a lapse of eleven years. With five different champions in the past five years it will be interesting to see if we will have another new name on the Vard Memorial Trophy in 2020.
"Of course, the series is also about the competitors in the various classes as well and while there is also great rivalry there too, the camaraderie within the whole Triton Showers National Rally Championship is one of most endearing features. We look forward to our journey throughout all four provinces as the series will also bring a boost to the local economy of each of the seven locations of the Triton series."
Another link with Triton Showers this weekend is the participation of Maynooth’s Paul Barrett (Kevin’s son ) in his Triton liveried Ford Fiesta R5. The Group N category features Donegal’s Trevor Bustard and Tyrone’s Niall Devine both in Mitsubishi EvoVIII’s. In the R2 class Down’s William Creighton and Dublin’s Eamonn Kelly in Ford Fiesta R2’s should have an interesting battle over the nine stages.
Meanwhile, the Modified category also features the Escort of Monaghan’s Mickey Conlon and Armagh’s Jason Black (Toyota Starlet ), both of whom will be aiming for a top ten finish.
Local interest includes Breaffy’s Gerry Casey and his Foxford co-driver Jared Gill, Gerry has more than a passing interest in the event as Casey’s Londis are one of the co-sponsors.
Gerry only returned to rallying last year (for two events - the Galway Summer Rally and the Killarney Historic Rally ) after a nine-year sojourn. Castlebar’s father and daughter pairing Keith and Sara McFadden (Renault Clio ) and Gordon Nimmo (Ford Fiesta ) are also on the entry list as are Ballinrobe’s John Warren (Toyota Corolla ), Crossmolina’s John Duffy (Honda Integra ) and Westport’s David Healy.
Clerk of the course David Breen outlined how the planning of the rally evolved saying: "We began the process over six months ago. I began with a core of about five people but that has grown to about twenty now.
"I’m from the Ballina side of the county but the lads that wanted to run the rally in Castlebar picked the route. The event rotates around the county, previously we were in Achill. The stages are certainly a good challenge and there is a good diversity. The “PR” is always the biggest issue in terms of planning but I have to say that all the residents along the route were very receptive to the rally returning to the area. Indeed, the town is delighted, as are the Chamber of Commerce, who are providing great assistance."