Motorsport: Decision over Lakes Rally date heaps pressure on fixture list
In a decision that's sure to lead to debate, the Tarmac Rally Organisers Association (TROA) have placed the Rally of the Lakes within a week of the Circuit of Ireland Rally on next year's championship calendar.
After prolonged negotiations between the two organising clubs failed to produce a compromise, the TROA were forced to place the Rally of the Lakes on the following weekend after Easter's Circuit of Ireland, which is likely to put severe pressure on crews and budgets.
The moveable Easter date means that the Circuit -- traditionally an Easter Rally -- will fall on the weekend of April 23-24, while the Rally of the Lakes is scheduled for the following weekend.
Killarney were unwilling to move their rally from its traditional and economically beneficial May Bank Holiday weekend slot, so the TROA have decided that competitors will only have to count five of the seven rounds in next year's series, one fewer than this year.
But the quality of the entry of both rallies will surely be diluted and, given that there is almost a two-month gap from the first round, the Galway International in early February, to the Easter's second round, it's a little disappointing that the next two come right on top of each other.
Meanwhile, newly crowned Dunlop National Rally champion Mel Evans is chasing a sixth victory of the season in the final event, the West Cork Hotel Fastnet Rally this Sunday.
Welshman Evans, the first overseas winner of the Dunlop National series, faces strong opposition from top seed Denis Cronin, who is chasing a third successive victory in the event to equal the record total of wins, shared by fellow Corkmen Frank O'Mahony and Liam McCarthy.
However, much attention on Sunday will focus on the battles for title honours in Patterson's Rally News Group N and the rally.ie titles. The Patterson's RallyNews award rests between the Subarus of Monaghan's Shane Maguire and Meath's Sean Flanagan.
Maguire has scored points in all nine rounds and with dropped scores taken into account, holds a narrow four-point lead over Flanagan as he bids to win the title in his first full season in the showroom category.
Donegal ace Declan Boyle (Escort) carries a three-point lead over Wicklow's Lloyd Hutchinson (Mini) in the race for the rally.ie award for the top two-wheel-drive competitor in the overall standings. The Donegal driver cannot afford any mishap in Skibbereen -- especially against the consistent Hutchinson.
Reigning champion Mike Quinn (Ford Escort) is a late entry -- he's eight points adrift of Boyle, but still in the reckoning.
And finally, Dunlop Young Racing Driver of the Year Patrick McKenna has confirmed that his first test in a Star Mazda car will be with Andersen Racing at Sebring on October 29.