John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally – Irish Tarmac Rally Championship Rd 5 Preview
The 2018 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship resumes this coming weekend with the John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally which is also the penultimate round of the series. 2017 champion Sam Moffett is currently leads the championship, but is forced to miss this round due to work commitments. His lead of a single point over his brother Josh who was the early championship pace setter, is unlikely to last the weekend as Josh will be looking to take advantage of his brothers dropped round. This would leave him in a very strong position going into the final round in Cork. A troubled Killarney where constant brake problems dropped him back was the only black spot for Josh in an excellent season so far.
Robert Barrable in third place is sixteen points off the lead following his unfortunate Donegal accident and is also forced to miss the Ulster having suffered a leg injury in Donegal, but he plans to be back in action in Cork. His chances of winning the championship are very much diminished, but he could still have a big say in the ultimate destination of the title. Jonny Greer in fourth place has used a Ford Fiesta R5 this season and is still getting used to it, but has shown flashes of speed at times. The John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally could be classed as a home event for Jonny so he will be hoping to use this to his advantage, having taken full championship points on this event last year.
Desi Henry who will be on home territory on the Ulster has shown how quick he is in the Skoda Fabia R5. A good performance in West Cork was followed by an early retirement on the Easter stages after setting the pace over the opening tests. Killarney saw another high with a fine third place overall after a brilliant drive, but fuel problems forced him out of contention in Donegal. Despite this roller coaster of fortunes, Desi will certainly be one to watch on the Antrim stages and will fancy his chances of being in the frame for overall victory.
The Treaty Plant Hire Modified Championship is proving to be much closer than people thought with the current champion Kevin Eves leading by just three points. After maximum scores on the opening two rounds it looked like business as usual for Eves, but a non-finish in Killarney where John Bonner took full points saw the gap close. It got even closed after Donegal when Bonner finished ahead of Eves and now with two rounds to go it’s all to play for. JR McDaid is only ten points behind making it an all Donegal top three and nicely placed if either of the front two hit trouble. Jason Roche, Stephen Bawn and Wesley Patterson complete the top six overall in the Modified Championship.
Owen Murphy & Anthony Nestor still lead the way in the Historic Championship despite not competing in Donegal. Three maximum scores from the opening three rounds have given them a thirteen point’s advantage over English driver Duncan Williams. Martin Freestone moved into third place after Donegal while Andy Johnson in fourth place will be buoyed by taking full points on the last round. Denis Cronin & David Goose, both in Ford Escort Mk2’s complete the top six championship places.
Despite not competing since round two on the Easter Stages, Oldcastle’s Gary McNamee still leads the Murray Motorsport Junior Championship in his Honda Civic. The two maximum scores on the opening rounds stood him in good stead, although his lead is now only six points from Cork driver Derry Long who has closed the gap following good results in Killarney and Donegal. Shay Delaney and Jordan Hone share third place despite only starting one round each so far, but in both cases they scored full points which still gives them a chance of challenging for the title. Gareth Deazley & Eamon McCarthy completes the top six championship places.
The action begins with the opening stage at Glendun at 14:03 on Friday 17th August and there are five stages in all on the opening day before a final service and Parc Ferme just after 21.00. The six Saturday stages begin at 07:52 with the first test at Langford Lodge and the finish ramp is scheduled for Antrim at 18:00 by which time the destination of this year’s championships should be a lot clearer.