The stage is set for a weekend of high-octane motorsport action, as the McWilliam Park Hotel and Fleet Transport magazine Mayo Stages Rally arrives into town today. With many of the best rally drivers and state-of-the-art rally cars set to do battle over 120 kilometres of special stages to the north of Claremorris, there promises to be spills and thrills aplenty before the action concludes back at rally headquarters The McWilliam Park Hotel on Sunday evening.
One of the biggest annual sporting events in Mayo, the 2012 edition of the Mayo Stages Rally is based for the third year in Claremorris, though with three new stages in the Balla/Kiltimagh/Knock areas on offer, this year’s event will offer a fresh challenge for competitors. With a near capacity entry expected to start the rally, thousands of visitors are expected to visit the Claremorris area over the course of the weekend. The rally is the second round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship, and the opening round of the Sligo Pallets Border Rally Championship.
For the public, the rally gets under way in earnest on Saturday when the leading competitors as well as all the local drivers gather in Claremorris town centre for the ceremonial start. Now in its third year, this is a great opportunity to see the rally cars and stars up close, and is especially suitable for families with small children. The town centre will be closed to traffic from 6pm with diversions in place. The rally cars will start arriving from 7pm with the cars passing over the starting ramp where the drivers will be interviewed at 9pm.
Locals line up for battle
A sizeable number are all set for the challenge of tackling their local rally. Aside from John Higgins and Aaron MacHale, the top seeded Mayo and District Motorsport Club members are Andrew Mullen and Elaine Doherty from Ballisodare. At 28 is Mervyn Deane from Williamstown who faces a tough challenge against the top competitors in class 13 in his Escort. At 46 are Colin and Michael Loughney. Ballaghadereen’s Derek Bolton has Sean Hassett from Headford co-driving in car 68, a Subaru Impreza. Club chairman Sean McHugh from Bekan starts at 73 in his class 14 BMW M3 compact, while Ballinrobe father and son team Adrian and Aidan Fahy are at 77 in their class 13 Escort.
Belmullet’s Ciaran Kennedy and co-driver Patrick O’Hora make their return to rallying in car 83, while Crossmolina’s John Duffy with John Egan co-driving is at 86. In car 91 will be Justin Ryan from Headford and Andy Walsh from Ballinrobe. Barry Cuffe from Belcarra and Marcus Molloy from Crossmolina start at 93 just one place ahead of Niall Morley and Cormac Lyons from Knock. Ballina’s Derek McCarthy co-drives the Ford Puma of car 99, Eamonn McCafferty, with another Ballina crew at 100, the class 2 Honda Civic pairing of Tony Langdon and David Loughney. Just behind them at number 101 is the similar car of Knock’s David and Simon McGuinness. At 109, Mayo Young Driver Autocross Champion Alan Moran from Foxford makes his stage rallying debut in his class 9 Opel Kadett, while competing in the same class are Killala’s Gavin and Raymond Carroll in a Vauxhall Nova in number 113.