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Round 2 Preview: Carrick Forest

There is real excitement building as the Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship roars back into life with a bumper field ready to take on the Carrick-on-Suir Motorclub’s Willie Loughman Forest Rally, the second round of the 2024 series.

To be contested over six high sped Forest stages north of the event’s Waterford docks base, this year event has attracted a massive entry which is testament to the appetite for loose-surface rallying in Ireland and the real buzz surrounding the 2024 Championship.

Leading the field away are Jordan Hone & Paul Hone, the due brought their Ford Fiesta R5 to a well-deserved victory on the season opening Killarney Forest Rally, the first time the pair ever reached the top of the podium and fine reward for what was a commanding drive that saw them take maximum points. With some title rivals electing to skip this weekend’s event, Hone will have an eye firmly on building his Championship tally.

Following the Hones on the entry list are a trio of similar Ford Fiesta R5’s with Derek Mackarel & Eamonn Creedon aiming to make a real statement from number 2, former Forest Champion Pat O’Connell & Mark Wiley start at 3 while the ever hard-charging Stephn McCann & John McCabe will be aiming to build on a fourth-place finish on the season opener.

Home crowds will be cheering for local star and former Willie Loughman Rally winner Andrew Purcell who will have Liam Brennan alongside in a VW Polo GTi R5 as they make amends for a disappointing Killarney where they retired from third place, while fellow local crew David Condell & Michael Coady will look forward to stages they excelled on last year to claim a fine podium finish.

In the 2WD section, minds may be cast back to the 2023 Willie Loughman Carrick Forest when a trio of front-wheel-drive machines claimed the podium spots in the hands of a new breed of young rally stars, and this year its Ryan McHugh & Karl Egan who lead the charge in a Ford Fiesta Rally4 off the back of some great results on tarmac.

Behind McHugh is last years 2WD winners Keelan Grogan & Ayrton Sherlock, the pair had a frustrating day in their Peugeot 208 Rally4 in Killarney but will be out to kickstart their season, while Cian Caldwell & Liam Egan will have a similar machine beneath them before we see a host of young stars in Fords with Craig Rahill & Conor Smith, Dylan Eves & Ryan Farrell, Mossie Costello & Megan Costello and Tommy Moffett & Domhnall Lennon all in similar Rally4 Fiesta’s.

While the young stars will be aiming to make their mark, the 2WD field is led away by the hugely experienced trio of Shane McGirr & Denver Rafferty, Mickey Conlon & James McEneaney and Hugh McQuaid & Declan Casey, but eyes will also be firmly on the real rising star of rear-wheel-drive once more as Sam Stewart & Alan Johnston continue to set remarkable times in their Ford Escort.

The largest single class battle of the event once more will be in J1000, with twenty-five crews set to leave the Rhu Glenn Hote on Sunday morning to tackle the 65.98km route that lies in store over the six special stages. Leading the monster field away are Danny Brady & Darren O’Brien, winners last timeout in Killarney in their VW Up, but right on their heels will be the experienced pair of Tommy Cronin & Derek Butler and Ryan Caldwell & Darren Caldwell who will be aiming to add valuable Championship points.

The times in Killarney were looking really strong for David Travers & Andy Purser before they retired late on, while Oisin McShane & Fabian McShanes remarkable performance winning five stages in Killarney sees them seeded right behind Ross Ryan & Peter Keohane.

The action kicks off early Sunday morning, with the first of the J1000 crews leaving Waterford at 8.30am, with the prize presentations scheduled for 5pm outside the Rhu Glenn, so make sure and get to the South East this weekend for what’s set to be another enthralling stop for the 2024 Sligo Pallets Forest Rally Championship.

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