Monday 18 December 2017

Motorsport: McHale puts Focus on following father's glory trail

Declan Quigley

Gareth McHale heads the entry list for this weekend's UTV Drive Circuit of Ireland rally, round two of the 2010 Citroen Tarmac Rally Series.

Having won the Donegal, Cork and Galway events in the last six months, 29-year-old McHale will be hoping to make another contribution to his family's extraordinary rally history by adding his name to a trophy that his father Austin won in 1993 and '98.

McHale's trusty 06 Ford Focus will be pressed into action again and he will face considerable opposition from three-time event winner Derek McGarrity, who has been limbering up with appearances in the Northern Ireland and Dunlop National series in his Subaru WRC.

At No 3 in another S12 Subaru is Tim McNulty, who finalised his Circuit preparations by winning the West Cork Rally last weekend.

They are followed by Aaron McHale, Gareth's elder brother, in another Ford Focus, with Irish National Championship front-runner Kevin Barrett at No 5 in his S11 Subaru.

The spotlight will also be on Craig Breen and his Super 2000 Ford Fiesta at No 6. The 20-year-old from Waterford was second behind Gareth McHale on his debut in the car in Galway and has gone on to take third place on the Mayo National Rally as he gears up for Easter and round two of the Citroen Irish Tarmac Championship.

The entry list also contains one of Ulster's brightest young rising stars, 21-year-old Alistair Fisher, who was third in the British championship last year and heads up the entry list in the Group N production category.

Elsewhere, the final chapter in the long-running Rallies Committee dispute at Motorsport Ireland was played out quietly last week with the announcement that Alex Sinclair has reversed his decision to resign as CEO.

Sinclair announced before Christmas that he was stepping down because of the dispute between rebel Rallies Committee members and the outgoing MSI president John Naylor, but had agreed to stay on to facilitate a smooth handover to his successor.

Now Joe Corcoran, the new president of MSI, has convinced Sinclair that he should reconsider his decision and the long-time MSI CEO has agreed, subject to correct procedures being followed in any subsequent dispute.

Meanwhile, Patrick McKenna began his reign as Dunlop Young Racing Driver of the Year with two strong podium finishes in the first event of the USF2000 season in Florida last weekend.

McKenna finished second and third in the two races on the St Petersburg street track, on his debut in the series, which has been reconstituted as the first step on the ladder to the Indy 500.

The former Ireland and UK Formula Ford star from Swords qualified third on Friday, his first on a street track, and led the Cape Motorsports challenge behind double race winner Sage Karam of Andretti Motorsports on Saturday.

Third on Sunday translated into second in the early points standings in the race for the top series prize of a paid drive in next year's Star Mazda series. McKenna's next outing is at Indianapolis the day before the Indy 500 on May 29.

At home, the first event in the Mondello racing season takes place on Sunday, with Formula Libre topping the bill. Formula Vees, the revived Irish Touring Car Series, Punto/Uno, Historic and Global classes also feature.

Irish Independent

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