“R5s have made ITRC ul­tra­com­pet­i­tive”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - BRIAN PAT­TER­SON

This time last year as the Ir­ish Tar­mac Cham­pi­onship was ap­proach­ing the fi­nal round in Cork, there were, to say the least, mixed feel­ings about the de­ci­sion by the series or­gan­is­ers to con­cen­trate the 2016 Clon­akilty Black­pud­ding­backed Cham­pi­onship on R5 and S2000 cars.

There was con­ster­na­tion from the men who owned the World Rally Cars, as well as dis­quiet from the fans who loved the sight and sounds of WRC ma­chin­ery in full at­tack down Ir­ish roads.

That fi­nal Cork ‘20’ round last year was won by Don­agh Kelly in his Fo­cus WRC, which also clinched the Tar­mac ti­tle for Kelly. How­ever, this was no ‘wham bang’ clas­sic swan song af­fair. There were no clutches of WRC ma­chines breath­ing down the Done­gal man’s neck. In­stead, the in­ter­est was on how close sec­ond­placed Keith Cronin could get in his Citroen R5.

Here we are 12 months on and the Tar­mac series has had an ex­cit­ing and in­ter­est­ing a year as any in re­cent times. Yes, we have had driv­ers in World Rally Cars win in­di­vid­ual ral­lies, but at times it has been a lonely af­fair for them. With­out the im­pe­tus of over­all points their en­thu­si­asm has waned.

Keith Cronin, Alas­tair Fisher, the Mof­fett brothers – Sam and Josh – Stephen Wright, Jonny Greer and sev­eral more have made it an ul­tra-com­pet­i­tive sea­son in their R5 cars. They have re­ally at­tracted the fans at­ten­tion. It would be great to see WRCS bat­tling it out, but there sim­ply aren’t enough of them.

A side is­sue is that such is the level of com­pe­ti­tion, along with the R5 up­grades that have been in­tro­duced dur­ing the year, is that the best S2000 cars can no longer match the R5s.

Joe Mc­go­nigle is a case in point. He has won ral­lies such as Shack­le­ton out­right in his Skoda S2000, and fin­ished well into the top six in Cork last year. How­ever on events such as the re­cent Ul­ster Rally he had to bat­tle very hard just to get into the top ten.

World Rally Cars still dom­i­nate in the Tri­ton Show­ers Ir­ish Na­tional Cham­pi­onship of course, and are great to watch. How­ever the right young driver in an R5 could at least shake that regime, even some­one for ex­am­ple as fast as De­clan Boyle in his Fi­esta WRC.

Group N ma­chin­ery, not so long ago a fas­ci­nat­ing sec­ondary fea­ture, is slip­ping down the re­sult lists. Ford Es­cort Mk2s have of course their own spe­cial place in Ir­ish Ral­ly­ing. Re­ally though it is the ‘young tiger’ driv­ers in the R5 cars who are hog­ging the spot­light now. In­ter­est­ing times, and the stop watches don’t lie.

Ir­ish ral­ly­ing has passed a wa­ter­shed of moder­nity with barely a hic­cup!

Fisher is among im­pres­sive R5 run­ners in ’16

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