LAST Saturday night at the Ballyroe Heights Hotel saw some of the best rally crews in Ireland been honoured at the Top Part West Coast Rally Championship awards night as the Ford Escort Crew of Tyrone's Frank Kelly and his Cork co-driver Liam Brennan were crowned the 2012 champions.
Kelly and Brennan had a fantastic season last year with their championship title been won on the final round the Banna Beach Kerry Mini Stages Rally as they edged out their rival's Corks Stephen Carey/Breda O'Driscoll and Newcastlewest's Frank Sweeney/Jane Cogan.
The championship, which is in its 19th year of sponsorship by the Top Part Group, began in 1993 and was founded by MD of the Top Part Group Abbeydourney's Donie Dillane, Tralee's Richard Talbot and Galway's David Hogan.
Speaking on the night Donie Dillane thanked all the competitors who have supported the championship over the years and also made his commitment to once again sponsor the series for the 20th year through his 15 shops nationwide making it the longest standing sponsorship of a championship in Irish rallying history and also Ireland's number 1 regional rally championship.
Tralee co-driver Tommy Commane made it a hat trick of championship titles as he again won the Historic category codriving for Abbeyfeale's Denis Collins in 2011/12 and with Tralee's Gerard McCarty in 2010. Collin's and Commane were previously crowned the Dunlop National Historic Champions in November of last year making it a memorial season for the Limerick/Kerry pairing.
Athea's Colm Murphy and codriver Don Montgomery were crowned the Group N champions whilst Listowel's Mike and Paddy Costello were winners of class 11.
Other Kerry driver and co-driver award winners on the night included Abbeydourney's Thomas Fitzmaurice and Tralee co-driver Fionn Foley, Ardfert's John Flaherty and Tralee's David O'Brien.
The 2013 Top Part West Coast Championship will again consist of 6 rounds, the Birr Stages (February 24) , Circuit of Kerry (April 7) , Circuit of Munster (June 2), Galway Summer Rally (September 1), Clare Stages (September 22) and the Banna Beach Kerry Mini Stages Rally on November 10.
The opening round of the 2013 Irish Tarmac Championship will take place this weekend as Galway Motor Club host the Galway International Rally on Sunday. The organisers have received 115 entries to date which includes 10 world rally cars.
Abbeydourney's Thomas Fitzmaurice, who recently acquired the ex-Darragh O'Riordan Subaru S12B world rally car, is seeded at number 7 and will be using the rally along with co-driver Fionn Foley as a shake down for the car over the 8 stage event.
Also entered is triple British Rally Champion West Cork's Keith Cronin who will be driving the ex Fitzmaurice Subaru S11 which the Kerry man won the Birr Stages and Circuit of Kerry Stage Rallies in 2012.
Castleisland's Alan Ring and co-driver Adrian Deasy will be one of the front runners in the Group N category in their Mitsubishi Evo 9 while in the modified section Kerry driver's and co-driver's Fergus O'Meara/Diarmuid Lynch, Vincent O'Shea/Brian Hickey, Billy Coogan/Dirmuid Falvey, Noel O'Sullivan/Nicky Burke and David Fleming/Kieran Doherty will all be vying for overall and class honours in their respective categories.
Action gets underway with a ceremonial start in Eyre Square at 8pm on Saturday while the rally proper will start on Sunday at 9am featuring 8 stages in the East Galway region with centralised service in Ballinasloe Mart. The crews return to the finish ramp in Ballinasloe at 5pm.