The Galway Summer Rally will play host to yet another incredible battle between the fastest rising talents in Irish rallying. The leading contenders for the Junior National Rally Championship, Brian Brady and Jonny Treanor, will be joined by the current Junior Border Rally Championship leader, Jason Black.
This weekend’s event, which is based in Gort, is the penultimate round of both championships and all three drivers know that a win on Sunday is essential to maintain the upper-hand on their own title ambitions.
The pace of the Junior runners has been taken up a notch in 2017 with the last round in Sligo showing just how fast the crews are driving their modified rally cars. Galway’s added importance could lead to never-seen-before stage times in the Junior class as driving talent and car performance both reach new levels.
Co. Meath’s Brady heads the standings, nine points ahead of second-placed Michael Boyle. Unfortunately, Boyle has had to withdraw his entry for Galway due to work commitments.
That essentially leaves a two-way battle for the Junior NRC title between the two Honda Civic drivers, Brady and Treanor. Brady leads Treanor in the standings by 12 points but, thanks to his three wins, Treanor would lead the championship when the three dropped rounds are considered.
The scenario is confused further by the fact that Galway is also a counting round of the Border Rally Championship. Toyota Starlet driver Black will be in the hunt for a good points haul to maintain his Junior lead in the Border Championship.
Treanor and Brady are also in contention in the Border Championship making Galway a significant event in both championship battles.
After watching Black’s Junior dominance on last weekend’s Ulster Rally, Brady fears the young driver from Armagh could hamper his chances of a win in Galway.
“Jason will be hard stopped now with the new engine,” said Brady.
“I think he is going to take a lot of time out of us all in Galway but it’s all down to the day too I suppose.”
The Junior NRC leader is hopeful that some changes to his Civic will boost his competitiveness on Sunday.
“I was losing my brakes halfway through the stages in Sligo,” said Brady.
“I’m just after changing the brake cylinders and I have much better brakes now, I thought I had good brakes before!”
Treanor is in a confident mood, having won three rounds of the championship, but a non-finish in Galway could scupper all hopes of this year’s title.
“I’m going to make it my business to try and win on Sunday,” said Treanor.
“Galway is going to be the decider for the Junior National Rally Championship. There is still one round after Galway, the Fastnet, but whoever wins Galway will have the upper-hand to walk away with it.”
While Treanor’s priority is the National championship, he knows that a good result in Galway would also put him in a strong position in the Border championship.
“A win on Sunday would help me win both the National and Border championship,” said Treanor.
“I’d like to win both.”
Black was pleased with his upgraded engine’s debut at the Ulster Rally helping him, alongside co-driver Jack McKenna, to win the Junior section by seven and a half minutes over eight stages.
“A bit more power is always a good help, it makes the car a lot easier to drive,” admitted Black.
“It is good going out of corners and we can now carry even more speed.”
“We were getting onto Jonny’s times by the end of Sligo so hopefully with a bit more power we will be right up there in Galway.”
The pace of Black’s Starlet will be of intrigue to many but the youngster from Armagh plans a steady start to the rally.
“The aim is to score good points for the Border Championship,” Black said.
“It will be hard to beat the other boys but we will give it a go.”
“I’ll take it steady at the start and get to the finish.”
Both championships are held finely in the balance but Galway’s result is set to tip each title in the favour of one of its hard-charging contenders. The three rivals know the importance of pushing for a win without letting a retirement ruin their title credentials ahead of the final rounds.
Other Junior entrants such as Tom Holton and Sean Maloney cannot be discounted. They have the opportunity to steal the limelight by taking a surprise win ahead of the top three on Sunday.
Junior National Rally Championship points:
|Position||Driver||Current Points||After three dropped rounds|
Junior Border Rally Championship points:
|Position||Driver||Current Points||After two dropped rounds|
Written by Adam Hall
Photos by Eamonn O Riordan and Adam Hall