May 09, 2015
Welsh driver James Belton and co-driver Jamie Edwards will lead away a capacity field this weekend on the Seven Oaks Hotel Carlow Stages Rally. Belton, a regular competitor on Irish tarmac in recent seasons, has recently switched to a Ford Fiesta S2000 but he will face stiff competition from a number World Rally Car mounted drivers. National Championship Steve Wood starts at number 2 in his Subaru followed by Paddy McVeigh in his slightly newer version. McVeigh’s pace has been increasing in recent weeks as he acclimatises to his new mount. Local diver Stephen Cullen is also Subaru WRC mounted for this event while current Valvoline Irish Forestry Championship leader Michael O’Brien has entered in his Ford Focus.
The Group N entry is headed by Dublin siblings, Neil and Gerard Tohill in their Mitsubishi Lancer but behind them is the talking point of the rally where a plethora of Mark 2 Ford Escorts are entered to scoop the coveted Gusclad Mark 2 Challenge trophy. The Escort entry is headed by last year’s champion, Wesley Patterson, however the Lisburn driver will have to work hard to retain his crown. European Championship frontrunner and recent Circuit of Ireland winner Craig Breen will drive a Mark 2 Escort for the second time this year after a sparkling drive in Birr a few months ago. Breen will be partnered by Andy Hayes and the recent Circuit winner is sure to draw even more spectators to the already popular Carlow event. Other Mark 2 challengers include former champion, Frank Kelly, former national Mark 2 champion Jonathan Pringle and local driver, David Condell. In the junior category James Bradley is the top seed in his Honda Civic.
The rally will consist of a 3 x 3 loop of stages with over 115km of competitive driving in the day’s event and a centralised service area based in Gowran Race Course. This year’s event is also a counting round of the South East Stages Rally Championship and more information can be found on www.carlowcarclub.ie
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