Photo by Mark McCullagh…
WITH an entry list full to bursting with over 140 top drivers, the 2014 Todds Leap Ulster Rally promises to provide plenty of excitement when it kicks off in Fermanagh and South Tyrone on August 15 and 16.
The battle for the Ulster Rally crown is expected to be hotly contested with current Irish Tarmac Championship leader Declan Boyle, last year’s Ulster winner Garry Jennings and the always quick Donagh Kelly vying for overall victory. Also making a return to the Ulster stages is three times winner Eugene Donnelly who secured a last minute place in a Subaru Impreza S14. The Group N challenge is led by the in-form Josh Moffitt in his Mitsubishi Lancer and Irish Championship category leader Stephen McCann.
The main runners in the British Rally Championship, including series leader Daniel McKenna, last year’s Rally NI winner Osian Pryce and local ace Timothy Cathcart, lead the Citroen assault ahead of a gang of young Irish talent including Jon Armstrong, Stephen Wright and Dean Raftery.
An exciting addition to the top ten is the Porsche 997 RGT of Richard Tuthill. The Banbury driver will give the German supercar its UK and Irish competition debut on the Ulster Rally. Built to comply with FIA WRC rules for GT cars in rallying, the Porsche 997 was recently tested in public, running as a course car on the tricky Harry Flatters Rally across the military training grounds of Epynt in Brecon, Mid Wales.
The Ulster Historic section always provides motorsport fans with a feast for the eyes and the ears, with a host of classic vehicles and their drivers rolling back the years. In 2014, the Ford Escorts of Will Onions, Stanley Orr, Denis Moynihan and David Stokes will do battle with locals Raymond Johnston and Seamus O’Connell for the category honours. Rally legend Jimmy McRae in the Vauxhall Firenza and British Historic Championship frontrunner Dessie Nutt in the Porsche 911 will be trying hard to break the Ford strangle hold.
The Ulster National Rally has attracted another bumper entry and spectators will be in for a treat with the array of machinery on show. Heading the National charge is NI Championship leader Derek McGarrity in his Mini WRC. McGarrity is joined by Alan Carmichael in another Mini WRC and Paddy McVeigh in a Subaru Impreza WRC. The fans’ favourite, Moy’s Frank Kelly is back to catch the eye in his spectacular ‘Baby Blue’ Mk II Escort, which he piloted to victory in 2012, and he can expect stiff competition from Wesley Patterson, Alistair Cochrane, Declan Gallagher and Shane McGirr to name just a few.
Spectators will have the chance to get up close and personal with the drivers, the cars and the action again this year as organisers have designed the Lakeland Tyres Spectator Special Stage at St Angelo Airfield, just outside Enniskillen, which will provide drivers with the chance to impress their fans at close quarters.
Backed by title sponsor Todds Leap, Fermanagh District Council, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, the Fisher Foundation and a number of local businesses, the award winning two day event caters for all the premier British and Irish Rally Championships, including the MSA British Rally Championship, the Irish Tarmac, MSA British and Irish Historic and the Northern Ireland Rally Championships, and it is sure to provide a thrilling weekend of rally action when it gets underway with a ceremonial start on Friday, August 15 at 1pm.
To keep up-to-date with the build-up to and updates from the event, visit the event website – www.ulsterrally.com – ‘Like’ the Facebook page (Ulster Rally), follow it on Twitter and receive live reports on the iRally app – details of how to access this are available via www.irallylive.com.