Sunday 25 June 2017

Motorsport: Title hopeful McHale bidding to sink 'Lakes' rivals

Declan Quigley

Citroen Tarmac Rally Championship leader Gareth McHale continues his quest to stamp his name on every major international rally winners trophy in Killarney this weekend, where a win on the Cartell.ie International Rally of the Lakes would further enhance his bid for a maiden Tarmac title.

McHale Junior followed up his round-one victory in Galway with a strong second to Derek McGarrity in the Circuit of Ireland at Easter, and knows that he has the experience and equipment at his disposal to break his Killarney duck and further extend his championship lead.

However, he'll have to get past Tim McNulty, twice a winner in Killarney and No 1 seed this weekend as well as up-and-coming stars Craig Breen and Alastair Fisher if he's to record the first McHale family win in Killarney since his father Austin last took victory there in 1997.

Breen took a very impressive second overall in Galway and Fisher led the Circuit of Ireland for several stages before he had to give way to the great power of the WRCs of McGarrity and McHale.

Fisher, who starts as No 4 seed, has come to Killarney just a few points behind McHale in the Citroen Tarmac Championship and with bonus points for the top non-WRC finishers, a good result in Kerry could put him right on the pace with McHale in the championship points.

Both Breen, who finished third, and Fisher, who retired with transmission trouble, showed fine form in the Pirelli International Rally in Cumbria last weekend and represent a new wave of youth talent ready to take over from the established heroes.

Citroen Junior driver Robert Barrable heads to Killarney fresh from his class win in Cumbria. The Dubliner will challenge current Citroen Irish Junior series leader Martin McCormack and 11 other crews.

Further afield, Kris Meeke says he is very happy with the set-up of his Peugeot 207 as he attempts to get his Intercontinental Rally Challenge title defence back on track in Gran Canaria this week.

Defending IRC champion Meeke completed 10 runs on a 2.75 mile test stage yesterday as he and co-driver Paul Nangle fine-tuned their Kronos Racing-run machine to the tarmac challenges of the fourth round of the IRC series running from tomorrow to Saturday.

Meeke and Nagle languish fifth in the points standings after posting their second retirement of the season in Argentina last month, so will be hoping for better fortune on the return to tarmac roads where the Dungannon driver normally does well.

After his South American disappointment, Meeke has sought advice from his friend and World Rally Championship front-runner, Dani Sordo, a former Canarias regular, about the particular characteristics of the island's roads.

Meeke will face a stiff challenge from the Skoda-equipped trio of championship leader Juho Hanninen, Guy Wilks and Jan Kopecky, while Spaniard Sergio Vallejo (Ford Fiesta S2000) and Alberto Hevia (Skoda) are being tipped to upset the regular championship contenders.

Enniskerry driver Daniel Barry and Meath co-driver Martin Brady are also making the trip to the North African coastal island with their Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 and will be looking forward to the event after a promising showing in Monte Carlo in January.

Irish Independent

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