Killarney Historic Rally will bring an end to a busy Autumn of rallying across Ireland. The iconic event begins with a ceremonial start on Friday evening before the 160-car field embark on six stages on Saturday.
The World Rally Championship pairing of Craig Breen and Paul Nagle lead the way in a BMW M3 and are very much the cherry on top of a near-perfect Killarney Historic Rally entry list. It’s not a bad way to mark the event’s 25th anniversary.
Keeping to the international standard heading Killarney’s Historic field, Jonny Greer brings his Ford Sierra Cosworth back to the kingdom for a second assault on the rally.
Breen and Greer were running second and third respectively in Killarney two years ago until the latter’s exit on the sixth stage, Shanera. They couldn’t match the pace of Rob Duggan last time out but won’t have the local hero to worry about this time around as he joins the modified battle in his recently built Ford Escort Mk2.
Denis Moynihan and Mark Falvey, both previous winners of the event, will follow Breen and Greer in Mk1 Escorts. Alan Ring’s Subaru Legacy and Neil Williams’ Mk2 Escort make it five different models in the top six to kick off a fantastic array of historics.
The quality continues as Cathan McCourt goes back in time from his modern-day Rally2 Ford Fiesta to an historic-spec Escort. Meanwhile, Donagh Kelly will listen to pacenotes from seven-time Rally of the Lakes winner Rory Kennedy for the very first time. The Donegal duo will showcase Kelly’s BMW M3 which made a popular appearance on last Saturday’s Ulster Rally.
David Greer’s Opel Manta 400 will be another spine-tingler to approach Moll’s Gap early Saturday morning.
Porsche 911s, Mini Coopers, and Hillman Avengers are some of the other classics fans can savour in Killarney’s Historic category.
As for the modified category, well we really are in for a thrilling fight between the best two-wheel-drive pilots Ireland has to offer. Rob Duggan, Gary Kiernan, Kevin Eves, Chris Armstrong, Declan Gallagher, and Ryan Loughran are just six of them.
2019 modified winner, Colin O’Donoghue will lead them over the start ramp and he explains what makes the rally so special to him.
“I did the Killarney Historic Rally in 2017 and that was my first ever rally,” said O’Donoghue. “It is close enough to my heart as it is one of my home events in Kerry.
“Look there is obviously a bit of pressure [after winning in 2019] but maximum attack is at the top of my list for the weekend.
“I feel like I am in very good shape after Kerry [Winter Rally]. Unfortunately we had a small bit of hard luck on the last loop but we know the speed is there and the car is set up properly.
“It’s going to be absolutely full tilt from the get go. The best of the best is behind me and it is an honour to be leading them out. I’m looking forward to heading out to Molls.”
Local rival Duggan is arguably O’Donoghue’s biggest threat as they charge through their home stages. He debuted a newly built Mk2 Escort on the Kerry Winter Rally but niggling issues left him with work to do ahead of Killarney.
“The feeling was bad after Kerry,” admitted Duggan. “But we have changed around a few bits and feel like we have made a bit of progress. We will only know when we finish the first stage and see the time.
“It’s going to be a short rally so as always we will try to get going from the first stage. It won’t be easy with the line-up around us.”
Duggan’s track record in Killarney speaks for itself. The 2019 Historic winner also won the modified category two years earlier. Two seventh overall Rally of the Lakes finishes in an Escort in 2018 and ‘19 speaks volumes of his speed at home.
Kiernan and Eves will do their best to upset the locals and Eves will be aiming to make it three two-wheel-drive wins from three in 2021.
There really are too many names to mention in modifieds but three that I can’t leave out are Declan Gallagher, Ryan Loughran, and Gary McPhillips. All three are proven modified winners. If they can rock up in Killarney and take it to the in-form favourites – now, that would be a story to end the year.
Killarney Historic’s crews will tackle Moll’s Gap, Ballaghbeama, and Caragh Lake two times each on Saturday. To give us a perspective of the unique loop of Kerry stages, top modified seed O’Donoghue explains how they differ.
“I suppose Molls Gap is just like a motorway at the moment. It is nothing like what it was before.
“It’s the closest thing you could get to the Alps in France or Knockalla would probably be the closest stage to it in Ireland. Your lines are a big thing that you have to watch out for and to make time on.
“Ballaghbeama is the complete opposite. It’s the width of a car up through the valley. They are chalk and cheese.
“I remember my first event, I always thought Ballaghbeama would be my favourite stage but when you get into you are just hoping nothing goes wrong.
“Caragh Lake would be my favourite stage, it is just class from the start and when you are going up along by the lake.
“It is one of the fastest stages, similar to Molls Gap but still it is slightly different again.”
Photos by Alan Noonan
Killarney Historic Rally Top 10 – Historic
1 // In Memory of KDMC members Johnny Hickey and Mike Falvey
2 // Craig Breen – Paul Nagle (BMW M3)
3 // Jonathan Greer – Dai Roberts (Ford Sierra)
4 // Denis Moynihan – Martin O’Brien (Ford Escort RS1600)
5 // Mark Falvey – James O’Brien (Ford Escort RS1600)
6 // Alan Ring – Adrian Deasy (Subaru Legacy)
7 // Neil Williams – Anthony O’Sullivan (Ford Escort RS1800)
8 // Cathan McCourt – Liam Moynihan (Ford Escort RS1800)
9 // Donagh Kelly – Rory Kennedy (BMW M3)
10 // Ray Breen – Podge Newe (Subaru Legacy)
Killarney Historic Rally Top 10 – Modified
63 // Colin O’Donoghue – Kieran O’Donoghue (Ford Escort Mk2)
64 // Robert Duggan – Ger Conway (Ford Escort Mk2)
65 // Gary Kiernan – Darren O’Brien (Ford Escort Mk2)
66 // Kevin Eves – Chris Melly (Toyota Corolla)
67 // Chris Armstrong – Darren Curran (Ford Escort Mk2)
68 // Declan Gallagher – John McCarthy (Toyota Starlet)
69 // Ryan Loughran – Gareth Doherty (Ford Escort Mk2)
70 // Martin McGee – Denis O’Mahony (Ford Escort Mk2)
71 // Gary McPhillips – Conor Mohan (Ford Escort Mk2)
72 // Raymond Conlon – Damien Fleming (Toyota Corolla)
2021 Killarney Historic Rally itinerary
SS1 // Moll’s Gap 1, 19.90 km – 08:30
SS2 // Ballaghbeama 1, 11.49 km – 09:08
SS3 // Caragh Lake 1, 14.21 km – 09:38
SS4 // Moll’s Gap 2, 19.90 km – 11:37
SS5 // Ballaghbeama 2, 11.49 km – 12:15
SS6 // Caragh Lake 2, 14.21 km – 12:46