The 2012 Irish Motorsport season kicks off in earnest this weekend with the running of the opening round of the Irish Tarmac Championship, the Safety Direct Galway International Rally. In a new departure for the traditional two-day event, the 2012 rally will take place over one day only, with 10 stages scheduled for Sunday February 5. A special spectator stage on the Dyke Road in Galway city will open proceedings, with competitors then heading north to the Headford region for three additional tests, each run three times, before returning to Galway for the finish in Eyre Square on Sunday evening.
The new format has certainly proved popular with competitors, with a capacity entry list featuring one of the most competitive line-ups of recent years. Much interest is certain to focus on former multiple Tarmac Champion, Eugene Donnelly. After a few years out of the sport, the Derry man is tackling the championship in one of the latest generation World Rally Cars, a MINI John Cooper Works WRC. He will be up against the reigning Tarmac and National Rally champion Tim McNulty in his familiar Subaru, while two other former champions will also be challenging for victory - Dubliner Gareth MacHale and Antrim’s Derek McGarrity, both competing in Focus World Rally Cars. The likes of Subaru drivers Daragh O’Riordan and Darren Gass cannot be discounted for victory either, while equally competitive entries in the Group N and modified categories will ensure plenty of action throughout the field.
Mayo interest is represented by Bekan’s Sean McHugh and his Achill co-driver Liam Healy who start at number 63 in a class 14 BMW M3 Compact. Shrule brothers Matthew and Noel Murphy are seeded 84 in a class 11 Toyota Corolla twin-cam, while former Mayo Autocross Young Driver Champion Justin Ryan from Headford is at 96 in his class 16 Honda Civic, with Andy Walsh from Ballinrobe co-driving.
Countdown to 2012 Mayo Stages Rally
Preparations for the 2012 Mayo Stages Rally are in full flow, with this year’s event taking place on Sunday March 11. A counting round of both the Dunlop National Rally Championship and the Sligo Pallets Border Rally Championship, the rally returns to Claremorris for a third year, with the McWilliam Park Hotel once again the main sponsor as well as rally headquarters. Experienced competitor and rally official Padraic Roche from Killala has been appointed clerk of the course for the 2012 event and has selected three new stages that will provide a challenging test to competitors. The rally will again be launched with a ceremonial start in Claremorris town centre on Saturday evening before the action gets under way in earnest on Sunday morning. Regulations for competitors wishing to enter the 2012 Mayo Stages Rally are now available and can be downloaded via Mayo and District Motorsport Club’s website www.mayomotorsportclub.com