How Irish rally competitors are flying the flag at the highest level
By Sean Moriarty
A record number of Irish competitors are set to contest this weekend’s Rally Spain, the penultimate round of the World Rally Championship.
Fifteen drivers or navigators from Ireland will tackle the Salou-based event and they will all set the scene for an even greater number of competitors in line to take part in next month’s Wales Rally GB, the final counter in the 2015 WRC campaign.
The Irish contingent will be lead, as usual by Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle in their factory supported Citroen DS4 World Rally Car. The Tyrone Kerry pairing will hoping they can consolidate the French firm’s grip on second place on the manufacturer’s championship that has already been won by the all conquering Volkswagen squad, which has Kerryman Richard Browne as one of its chief engineering.
Waterford’s Craig Breen will be hoping to put a difficult season behind in his works Peugeot 208 T16. Breen narrowly missed out on winning the European Rally Championship this year, a series of hard luck stories, including punctures and mechanical problems have marred is 2015 campaign and he has not enjoyed proper success since winning the Circuit of Ireland at Easter.
A host of Northern Ireland based co-drivers have been drafted into co-drive for a several top-seeded Middle Eastern drivers.
Antrim’s Chris Patterson will be on pacenote duty for Khalid Al Qasimmi in another factory backed Citroen while Bangor’s Michael Orr is alongside Yazeed Al Rajhi in a Ford Fiesta Regional Rally Car.
Marshall Clarke will be the third navigator from the province to start the event with Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari in a similar Ford.
The Mayo/ Galway combination , formally domiciled in Australia will bring their Fiesta RRC, a familiar sight on Irish stages to Salou.
New York-based Enda McCormick, a regular on the US rally scene, will his WRC debut in his Skoda Fabia S2000 with Corkman Liam Moynihan alongside.
Fermanagh’s Jon Armstrong and his Kerry co-driver Noel O’ Sullivan are another crew making their WRC debut in a Ford Fiesta R2.
Former British Championship frontrunners Robert Woodside and Allan Harryman will take their recently acquired Mitsubishi Lancer E10 to the rally.
Meanwhile a third Kerryman, Tony McCarthy and his Cork driver James Hall, will tackle the historic element of the rally in their Audi Quattro.
But this is only the tip of the iceberg and several other Irish drivers are in North Wales this weekend participating in the Cambrian as final preparations for Wales Rally GB in less than three weeks.
Brothers Sam and Josh Moffett are out in a pair of Fiesta World Rally Cars, while current Billy Coleman award winner Dean Raftery competes in a Citroen DS3, and Jonny Greer will field a R5 version of the Citroen.
All four drivers are using the final round of the British Trials and Rally Drivers’ Association’s championship as a high-speed test ahead of the final round of the World Rally Championship.
The November 13-15 event is shaping up to attract even more Irish crews that this week’s Spanish counter with the likes of Killarney’s Rob Duggan and Ger Conway already confirmed on foot of their class victory in the Northern Ireland Rally championship and their subsequent prize drive in a DGM run Citroen.
Meanwhile, London-based Kerryman Mick Smith, co-driven by Motoring World’s Sean Moriarty finished second in class on the Hemicuda Rally in Belgium two weeks ago at the wheel of a Talbot Sunbeam.