The excitement will be at fever pitch as Eugene Donnelly and Gareth Mc Hale go head to head on this weekends Cork 20, the final round of the 2009 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. Donnelly leads Mc Hale by 18 points, and a seventh place or higher will suffice for Donnelly to lift the Tarmac crown once again, even if Mc Hale wins in Cork .
The Cork 20 is a two day event traversing 150 stage miles. It is hosted by the Munster Car Club, with rally HQ in the Rochestown Park Hotel, Douglas. The Cork Marts complex in Rathcormac is the location of rally service on Saturday and Sunday.
Eugene Donnelly had an excellent year at the wheel of Skoda Fabia WRC with wins in Galway Circuit Jim Clark and Ulster under his belt. The Derryman finished second in Donegal, crashed out of the Lakes and he non started the Manx to have a total yield of 76 points.
By peculiar coincidence Mc Hale got his scores on the exactly the same events as Donnelly. He too non-started the Manx and crashed out in Killarney. The Dubliner’s year started with his Ford Focus WRC finishing second in Galway, third in the Circuit and fourth in the Jim Clark. Then came his maiden international victory in Donegal which gave a huge fillip to his chances, and with increased confidence he went very close to winning the Ulster as well. Leading the rally by two seconds on the penultimate stage an overshoot on the final test cost him a famous victory. However second place gives the Dubliner a total of 58 points.
With 16 points for a win and a 50% bonus on the final round, the winner of the Cork 20 can claim 24 points. Mc Hale must win and hope that Donnelly scores fewer than six points. Mc Hale will be very determined to lift his first Tarmac crown and emulate his father Austin who has won the championship a five-a record Donnelly hopes to equal on Sunday night
There is also unfinished business in Group N. Fermanagh’s Alastair Fisher leads the class with 51 points with Alan Carmichael second with 47 and Ger O’ Donovan third with 44 points. With Carmichael non staring it will be a straight fight between Fisher and O’Donovan. For O’Donovan to win he must win Group N and hope that Fisher will be lower than second.
Class A7 has also to be resolved-Tommy Doyle has a fifteen point advantage over Eugene Meegan. If Meegan wins the class in Cork and Doyle non finishes there will be a tie. While Joseph Mc Gonigle (N2) and Daragh O’Riordan (A6a) have already won their respective classes, O’Riordan can improve on his excellent sixth position in the championship tables with his Renault Clio.
Spectators will be delighted to watch Wesley Patterson in his fabulous Escort Mk 2. Patterson won the modified challenge in Galway, Circuit, Lakes and Donegal enabling him to become the winner of the inaugural modified challenge.
Irish Tarmac rally Championship points after Round 7 (Ulster Rally)
Eugene Donnelly (Skoda Fabia WRC) 76,
Gareth Mc Hale (Ford Focus WRC) 58,
Alastair Fisher (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) 41
Tim Mc Nulty (Subaru Impreza WRC) 36,
Eamon Boland (Subaru ImprezaWRC) 34
Group N Class
Alastair Fisher (Mitsubishi Evo) 51
Alan Carmichael (Mitsubishi Evo) 47
Ger O’Donovan (Subaru Impreza)44
Keith Cronin (Mitsubishi Evo) 30.
Rory Byrne (Mitsubishi Evo) 19.