FINAL preparations were put in place earlier this week for this Sunday’s Auburn Lodge Clare Stages Rally. Drivers and navigators will arrive on Saturday morning at rally headquarters, the Auburn Lodge Hotel, where they will sign on, get their road books and pace notes and will then be allowed a maximum of three passes over the stages at normal road speed, where they make or check their pace notes.
The Clare Motor Club organising committee, under clerk of the course Dermot Kelleher from Clarecastle, have given the event a new look this year. In addition to the new headquarters, there is a new service park at the industrial estate on the Gort Road and a state-of-the-art scrutiny area and an accident repair centre, also on the Gort Road. “The fact that all the rally facilities are based in one location makes for easy management of the event,” said Kelleher.
A rally village will also be incorporated, which will allow spectators to avail of the latest in rally teamwear.
The organising team has set out three challenging stages that will be repeated three times in the north Clare area.
All rally cars have to be presented for scrutiny, where a team of scrutinisers from Motorsport Ireland will check all the safety aspects of each car, bodywork, brakes, engine, suspension and so on. They also do a complete check on all the safety features, seats, roll cages driver/navigator helmets and race suits.
This all takes place on Saturday afternoon between 3-9pm and rally enthusiasts will have an opportunity to see the top rally cars in the country and meet with the drivers.
After scrutiny, all the rally cars will proceed to Parc Ferme at the rear of the Auburn Lodge Hotel, where they will remain overnight. The first car will be flagged away from the start ramp at the hotel on Sunday morning at 8.30am and after a quick service in the industrial estate will head for the first loop of stages in North Clare.
The cars will return to the service park after the three stages at 11.15am and again after the second loop of stages at 2.10pm. After completing the third loop of stages the winning car will finish back at the finish ramp at rally HQ at approximately 5.07pm.
The Clare Stages Rally is not a round of the Dunlop National Championship this year as each club has to drop out of the championship every five years.
Instead, the rally is round 5 of the Top Part West Coast Rally Championship, which consists of rallies run in Offaly, Kerry, Limerick, Galway and Clare.
The Galway Motor Club hosted round 4 in wet conditions and it was Maynooth man Kevin Barrett who scored maximum championship points to break Monaghan’s Niall Maguire’s run of three maximum scores on the opening three rounds. Maguire and Barrett, both driving Subaru world rally cars, had an excellent battle in Galway but on the final stage it was Barrett who set the fastest time to score his first outright rally victory. In the overall driver championship standings it’s still Niall Maguire who holds the overall lead, with Kerry’s Thomas Fitzmaurice (Mitsubishi Evo 9) retaining his second place after a fine performance in Galway, where he finished fourth overall. Kevin Barrett moves up two places into third while Kerryman Mick Quinn, with Ennis Lady Gráinne McEnery, dropping down one place to fourth.
In the co-driver overall championship standings Monaghan’s Enda Sherry moves closer to winning his second championship title after claiming maximum points on round 4. Tralee’s Fionn holds second overall. Having won the top two-wheel drive co-driver award in Galway with her driver Mick Quinn, Gráinne McEnery is in third place.