Killarney and District Motor Club launched its 40th anniversary Cartell.ie Rally of the Lakes to a packed Gleneagle Hotel on Sunday evening.
The rally, set for May 3rd to 5th will feature many new innovations including the reversal of stages like Ardgroom and Cod’s Head, running east to west for only the third time in the rally’s history. Sunday’s Sheen River, the full-length version of Gortnagne from Ballydaly to Headford and a new stage near Rathmore promises a challenging route for competitors.
Local councillor Donal Grady opened the presentation.
“I remember the first rally 40 years ago,” he said. “The rally means so much to the economy of Killarney and Kerry and I am very proud of the work being done by the club each year.”
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Cartell.ie’s sponsorship making it one of the longest serving rally sponsorship agreements in Irish motorsport.
“This makes so much commercial sense to us,” said Cartell.ie’s John Byrne. “But the real investment for us is the friendships and the relationships we have made with the people of Killarney over the last ten years.”
While the rally is celebrating its 40th anniversary, The Gleneagle Hotel has acted as event headquarters for 39 of them and group MD Patrick O’Donoghue is already looking forward to next year.
“We will have another reason to celebrate next year,” he said. “We have been here through thick and thin and through the good times and the bad times. We were happy to support the event in the tougher times to make it what it is today.”
The Rally of the Lakes has set standards other rallies could only follow when it comes to the publishing and distribution of stage rally maps to help officials, competitors and spectators. This is due to the rally’s support from Ordnance Survey Ireland which stretches back over 20 years.
“We are proud to be associated with the event,” said Brian McArdle, OSI’s channel manager. “I look forward to coming to Killarney every year and I have forged many friendships down here. To run an event like this, once, is hard, to run it 40 times is tremendous. Killarney and District Motor Club show their enthusiasm by doing it better every year.”
KC Print in Killarney is one of the rally’s associate sponsors and look after the printing of all event related paperwork including the comprehensive safety plan and the 40th anniversary rally programme.
Mike Marshal was the rally’s first ever clerk of the course in 1979.
“KC Print are bringing new standards to our paperwork,” he said. “I want to thank Cormac Casey from KC for the level of professionalism and expertise he has brought to our event. It is so good that I expect Motorsport Ireland will want to get hold of it and use this on every rally in the country. ”
KDMC chairman, Diarmuid Cronin said: “40 years is a long time. It is great to see many of the people who were involved 40 years ago still here today. It takes a large number of people from our own club and our neighbouring clubs, 240 volunteer marshals are required but we cannot do it without them so a huge thanks to them.”
The rally will get underway on Friday night with a rally festival in Killarney’s Fair Hill Car Park where each competing crew will get interviewed by former RTE Sunday Game host Michael Lyster. A static display of rally cars of historical importance will also take place before a rally interview forum is scheduled for Scott’s Hotel at 8pm where Lyster will engage leading competitors in a Q and A session on the eve of the rally.
“This year is our 40th year and it is important to put our best foot forward,” said the clerk of the course Dermot Healy. “This year we are going to pull out all the stops.”
Entries have already topped the 130 mark, with a more expected after this weekend’s Easter Stages. Front runners already entered include Sam Moffatt, a previous double winner of the rally, his brother Josh, both driving Ford Fiesta R5s, Robert Barrable who finished second last year returns in a Skoda R5 and rising Welsh star Meirion Evans in a Hyundai i20 R5 makes his first appearance. Craig Breen’s entry is expected to be lodged this week.
Locals on the entry list include Noel O’Sullivan who is starting his 37th Rally of the Lakes and Charlie Hickey who faces Moll’s Gap for the 34th time.
“The dream is to have the full entry of 170 cars,” added Dermot at Sunday’s launch.
Rally legend Phil Collins, who first came to Killarney in 1981 and has rarely missed a year since, returns in his famous Ford Escort.