This year’s Rose Hotel Circuit of Kerry Rally is shaping up to be one of the most-keenly contested and best supported in years.
Kerry Motor Club launched the April 8 event with a photo-shoot at the Top Part Motor Factors headquarters and a press conference at the Rose Hotel on Saturday evening.
Clerk of the course Richard Talbot confirmed over 120 crews had entered the rally with entries coming from all corners of Ireland and a far afield as Scotland, England and Wales.
With the rally forming rounds of three different championships, even more crews are expected to sign up before this weekend’s deadline and although Kerry Motor Club will continue to accept entries right up to the eve of event, late entrants will not be published in the official programme.
So far this year, there has been three Tarmac rallies in Ireland, all won by different drivers and the trio are set to appear in Tralee on the second weekend in April and all three are former national champions.
Already confirmed is the current leader of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship, Declan Boyle from Donegal. Boyle won the opening national round in Mayo in early March in his Ford Fiesta World Rally. His county man, Donagh Kelly won the traditional St Patrick’s weekend West Cork Rally driving his Ford Focus World Rally Car.
The leader of the Top Part West Series, Roy White from Tipperary is also on the Kerry entry list, the Ford Fiesta driver, like Kelly is a former national champion but after having a bad run in Mayo he will be keen to get back to championship winning ways. Local firm, Top Part celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and has been the title sponsor of the West Coast Championship since its inception in 1993.
New for 2018 is the Moriarty’s Centra Kingdom of Kerry Rally Championship, open to members of Kerry and Killarney and District Motor Club, with Mike Quinn, a former Kerry Winter Rally winner, likely to feature amongst the frontrunners of the new series but as it’s a class-based competition there are a host of other local drivers on the entry list who could take the spoils. Darren Young (Honda Civic); Tadgh O’Sullivan (Ford Escort); John Daly (Honda Type R) and Timmy Enright (Escort) are just a few possibilities of Kingdom of Kerry success.
Mr Talbot congratulated the organising team and thanked everyone who has entered the rally. He said “everyone was aware of the poor entry last year and despite all this, Mark from the Rose Hotel came up trumps and we are delighted this year that we are back on track, we have 120 cars entered to date”.
The Circuit of Kerry is unique in that the rally will be run over 11 classic stages using many roads on the nationally publicised Wild Atlantic Way, and on some roads that have not seen rally action for over 20 years. It is the only rally in Ireland that offer as many tests in a one-day format. A detailed route map will be published in the full-colour official programme which will be on sale in Tralee and surrounding areas a few days after the Easter break.
The Rally brings a welcome early season boost to Tralee and the surrounding towns with spectators and fans expected to travel from all corners of the country to see the action.
The efforts of Kerry Motor Club in attracting visitors to the Kingdom did not go unnoticed by town mayor Norma Foley.
Speaking at Saturday’s press conference she said: “on behalf of the people of Tralee how very pleased we are that you have chosen Tralee to be the host town for this event”. She also stated that the spin off for the town is exceptional, in terms of the business for the local shops, hotels and we are very grateful for that”.