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The build-up is finally coming to an end as the International Rally of the Lakes takes place in Killarney this coming weekend.
The rally, in its 41st edition, is set to attract 10’s of thousands of spectators to the town for what is sure to be a festival-like atmosphere over the May bank holiday weekend. The rally returns for the first time in three years, as the 2020 and 2021 events had to be put on hold due to the pandemic.
The rally has a range of title sponsors for the 2022 event, including: Rentokil Initial; Aherns.ie Motorgroup; The Gleneagle Hotel; and OSI.
Up on 200 cars and crews are set to tackle Killarneys iconic stages, some of which are on every rally competitor’s bucket list to complete.
The rally kicks off on Friday evening, with a ceremonial start ramp on Main Street. The first car is due over the ramp at 19:00, and with a large crowd expected, rally organisers advice is to get there early to avoid any disappointment.
The rally then starts Saturday morning, with runs over Kilsarcon, Banard and Gortnagane, before a trip to service in Liebherr Container Cranes. Crews will once again tackle those three stages in the afternoon. Rally traffic can be expected in Kilcummin, Scartaglin, Gneeveguilla, Rathmore and Barraduff on Saturday.
After an overnight halt in Killarney, competitors will have the daunting task of Molls Gap and Ballaghbeama to negotiate in the morning, each stage being run twice. The afternoon will see the crews fight for the rally win on ‘Shanera’ and ‘Caragh Lake’, where overall and class winners will be crowned Killarney’s champions. Sunday traffic will be in the Muckross, Glencar, Beaufort and the Killorglin areas.
The crews will then make their way to Rally HQ, The Gleneagle Hotel for a champagne celebration on the finish ramp before a trophy presentation later on that evening at a function that evening.
Commenting on the final week of preparations, the main rally organiser and COC Darren McCormick said: “Preparations for the rally are now at the advanced stage and we cannot wait to welcome crews and spectators to the town next weekend.
“We are mindful of the residents of the town so we ask everyone who comes to Killarney next weekend to leave the town the way you found it, bring your litter home and ‘Keep the Race in its Place'”.
Last week, president of the Killarney Chamber of Commerce, Niall Kelleher, welcomed the return of the rally, stating that the rally is worth upwards of €10 million to the local economy and that the international rally is “right up there” in major events for the town. He added that local businesses can be expecting a major windfall from the event and hotel rooms are at a premium for the “must attend” event.
There is a top-quality entry received for the event, which is a counting round to the ‘Acesigns’ Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, The IPS Packaging Southern 4 Championship, and Moriarty’s Centra Kingdom of Kerry Championship.
First on the road will be Josh Moffett. The Monaghan man, who won his home event just on Sunday last, will be looking to extend his lead at the top of the championship.
Alastair Fisher, who is fresh from victory on the last counting round of the championship in West Cork is also a free event favourite, as is Callum Devine.
2019 winners Craig Breen and Paul Nagle won’t be in a position to defend their title, as the Waterford/Kerry pair now have a full-time drive with M-Sport Ford in the sports top level, the World Rally Championship.
It’s a similar story in the Modified section, as Chris Armstrong is unable to compete in the weekend’s action. But, there is sure to be stiff competition for rally honours from the likes of Gary Kiernan, James Stafford, Daniel McKenna and local competitors Rob Duggan and Colin O Donoghue.
First Historic on the road is Alan Ring, who finished second at the Killarney & District Motor Club ran Historic rally in November, while the junior category has multiple Kerry names of interest, none more so than Jason Farrell, who leads the Junior Irish Tarmac Rally Championship coming into his home event.