Irish rally legend Rosemary Smith was one of the guest speakers at an International Women’s Day celebration organised by Kerry Businesswomen’s Network at the Muckross Park Hotel last Friday. Smith, from Dublin, was one of Europe’s most successful drivers in the 1960s and 1970s, including winning the prestigious Tulip Rally and the 1969 Cork 20 Rally. Smith has won the ladies’ prize several times on the Scottish Rally and the Circuit of Ireland Rally.
This year’s Rose Hotel Circuit of Kerry has attracted overseas entries from England Scotland and Wales.
The Tralee-based event is scheduled for April 7 and will feature drivers from all over Ireland and beyond. They will tackle classic north Kerry roads like Mount Eagle in the of course of the nine-stage rally.
One of the leading overseas entries is Welshman Dai Roberts.
The Carmarthenshire-based competitor is no stranger to Ireland having contested many of the country’s rallies as a co-driver including the recent West Cork International Rally.
He also competes as a driver, in a Peugeot 205 GTi, mainly in club events in Wales, England and the Isle of Man but has chosen the Rose Hotel Circuit of Kerry to make his Irish driving debut.
“I am buzzing; I can’t wait,” he said. “I am coming purely for the craic and all going well I will be back in Kerry for the Killarney historic rally in November.”
Scottish driver Billy Cowe makes the long trip from Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, Scotland, to Tralee, a journey of over 800kms not including ferry crossings. He has competed in Mayo and Clare in the past, but this is his first trip to Kerry.
London Irish Motor Club will be well represented on the entry list which is due to be published before the end of the month.
Galway man John Reddington is the current Flanders International Rally Challenge champion. He is chasing his third Belgian title in a row this year and is using the Circuit of Kerry as a shakedown event ahead of round one of the FIRC in late April.
The Ealing-based driver said: “I always like to do one or two rallies in Ireland before heading to Belgium for the season and after finishing the West Cork Rally over St Patrick’s weekend, Kerry suits in terms of the calendar. I have been there before and really liked the rally.”
Cousins Aidan and Shane Buckley originally from Listry are currently based in Bristol and London respectively and are taking Aidan’s newly built Ford Escort for a run ahead of May’s Killarney Rally of the Lakes, their home event.
Hertfordshire-based Listowel man Ross Hilliard will make his rally debut on the Circuit of Kerry. His father Ray and uncle John are long-time supporters of the Circuit of Kerry. He will drive a Volkswagen Polo on the event, a car he recently purchased from fellow UK-based Kerry man Mick Smith.
London Irish Motor Club will put up a trophy for the best overseas competitor on the event.
Local man Sean Moriarty is a founding member of LIMC and a long-time member of Kerry Motor Club.
“One of the reasons London Irish exists is to encourage UK-based competitors to come to Ireland,” he said. “This new annual trophy will give them something to race for. “
The London Irish Motor Club trophy will be presented to the first competitor with an overseas address (either driver or co-driver and not necessarily a London Irish MC member) to cross the finish line at the Rose Hotel on April 7.
Kerry Motor Club members will provide garages and workshops in the Tralee locality so visitors can work on their cars before the event in secure and comfortable surroundings.
Entries remain open for the rally which is a counting round of both the Top Part West Coast Rally Championship and the Moriarty’s Centra Kingdom of Kerry Rally Championship.
Prospective competitors can find more details here: www.kerrymotorclub.com