|Mayo Stages Rally takes place in Claremorris area this weekend|
The stage is set for a week-end of high-octane motorsport action, as the McWilliam Park Hotel and Fleet Transport Magazine Mayo Stages Rally arrives into town this Friday. 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 brand 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.
Successful Official Launch kick-starts Rally
At a well attended official launch for the rally at the McWilliam Park Hotel on Wednesday last, Mayo & District Motorsport Club Chairman Sean McHugh thanked the residents and business people of Claremorris and the surrounding area for the wonderful support they had offered to the rally over the past two years, and said he looked forward to another successful event in 2012. He also thanked those who have supported the rally including this year’s title sponsors The McWilliam Park Hotel and Fleet Transport Magazine. President of the Claremorris Chamber of Commerce Eugene Waldron highlighted the Ceremonial Start, noting that it sells the rally to the community, and has proved to be a very popular event for families and children young and old. Independent County Councillor, Richard Finn, a self-confessed lifelong motorsport enthusiast said the presence of the rally in Claremorris in the past two years had brought a lot of progress and business to the town, and was a weekend very much looked forward to every year.
Rally Countdown – all go from Friday evening
With competitors arriving from Friday afternoon on, the first task for the drivers and co-drivers after signing-on to the event is on Saturday morning March 10th, when they drive the rally stages in their road cars making pacenotes to use the following day. Later in the day, the rally cars will be presented for scrutineering where they have to pass stringent road and rally safety requirements before being allowed to take part in the rally. After that the cars are locked away securely in Parc Feirme ahead of the start of the rally.
For the public, the rally gets underway 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.
When the flag drops….
The serious competition starts on Sunday morning, with the leading cars leaving Parc Feirme at 8.50 am to tackle the nine challenging special stages. The first stage Craggagh Hill between Balla and Kiltimagh runs for the first time at 9.30 am. Stage two, Thorn Hill in the Bohola area gets underway at 10 am, and stage three, Eden, which is near Knock runs at 10.45 am. The cars then return to service adjacent to the McWilliam Park Hotel before tacking the loop of three stages two more times. The leading cars are due back at the rally finish in Claremorris shortly after 5 pm. Full details of maps and times will be available in the rally programmes which will be on sale in shops and garages around the area from Friday evening. Online users can follow Mayo & District Motorsport Club’s Twitter (http://twitter.com/MayoMotorClub) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/mayostagesrally) accounts which will be continually updated during the week-end with all the latest news, times and competitor quotes, or can check into the club website (www.mayomotorsportclub.com).
A small army of people is needed to run an event like the Mayo Stages Rally, and Mayo & District Motorsport Club is looking for people who would like to assist by marshaling on the day. Anyone interested should contact either David Doherty on 087 232 3113 or Garret Hannigan on 087 055 9207.
Top Quality Entry Field
A near capacity entry list promises an intriguing battle for victory on the Mayo Stages, with two Mayo & District Motorsport Club members among those with a genuine chance of tasting victory champagne. Leading the field away are last year’s winners Kevin Barrett and Sean Mullally. The Maynooth / Limerick duo will need to repeat the serious pace that brought them victory last year to once again top the podium. At two are the winners of the opening round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship a fortnight ago, Thomas Fitzmaurice and Fionn Foley from Kerry, while at three, Brian O’Mahony from Cork will be hoping the local knowledge of his co-driver John Higgins from Kiltimagh will be enough to put them atop the winner’s circle on Sunday evening. Championship regulars Niall Maguire and Enda Sherry from Monaghan are followed by Omagh’s Seamus Leonard and John McCafferty. With all the top five seeds in Subaru World Rally Cars, local club member Aaron McHale with co-driver Brian Daniels will be hoping his Ford Focus WRC will be up to the challenge of repeating the Kilcullen man’s victory here a few years ago.
Away from the World Rally Cars, a serious battle is in prospect between competitors in the ever-popular Escort Mark 2’s, for whom a special competition has been established this year as part of the Dunlop National Rally Championship. Drivers like Daniel McKenna, Frank Kelly and Declan Boyle will be pushing the World Rally Cars for pace, particularly if conditions are dry, with a plethora of others hot on their heels. An interesting battle is in prospect in Group N also, with young guns Shane Maguire and Josh Moffett among the favourites in this category.
Locals Line Up For Battle
Perhaps inevitably the current difficult economic environment has meant fewer local competitors taking part on the Mayo Stages Rally compared to recent years, but nonetheless 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 & District Motorsport Club members are Andrew Mullen and Elaine Doherty from Ballisodare in car 21, who are also the title sponsors of the Border Rally Championship through their company Sligo Pallets. 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 in a class 12 Escort, the brothers having set some impressive times on this event last year. 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, a class 2 Honda Civic, while the class 7 Honda Integra of Crossmolina’s John Duffy with John Egan co-driving is at 86. In car 91, Justin Ryan from Headford and Andy Walsh from Ballinrobe will be hoping to repeat their recent fine form on the Galway International Rally in their class 2 Honda Civic.
Barry Cuffe from Belcarra and Marcus Molloy from Crossmolina start at 93 in their class 13 Escort just one place ahead of the class 12 version 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.
With contenders for European silverware set to emerge from another tension-packed conclusion...