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Luckless Boyle is hoping to hit the heights at Circuit

By Sammy Hamill

Published 01/04/2015

Catching air: Declan Boyle has led the past four rallies but has been unable to cross the line in first place
Catching air: Declan Boyle has led the past four rallies but has been unable to cross the line in first place

What does Declan Boyle have to do to win this season?

The reigning Irish Tarmac and double National champion, Boyle has a string of victories behind him.

But not this year. He has contested four rallies in the past two months, led all of them but has never crossed the finish line in first place. Luck seems to have deserted him.

Maybe Easter and the Circuit of Ireland National Rally will bring the change of fortune the Donegal driver deserves.

It did last year when victory landed in his lap at the very last moment.

It was Garry Jennings who led for all but the final moments in 2014, the then Tarmac champion crashing his Subaru almost within sight of the finish and handing victory to his friend Boyle.

Jennings is absent this year, as is Donagh Kelly, the man who has benefited most from Boyle's misfortunes this season, but can he break the morale-sapping run of bad luck which has seen his S12 Subaru let him down in Galway and Birr followed by punctures in West Cork and Roscommon?

His team, led by Robbie McGurk, will having everything crossed as Boyle and co-driver cousin Brian lead the national runners into the stages on Friday and Saturday.

Derek McGarrity, a five-times Circuit winner but now concentrating on the Northern Ireland championship, leads the opposition in his newly acquired S14 Subaru with Kenny McKinstry, another multi-NI champion, lining up in a similar S14 ahead of the S12 Impreza of Paddy McVeigh.

Alan Carmichael is at five and is expected to be joined in a pair of WRC Minis by Derek McGeehan, who is on the reserve list but should start.

The two-wheel-drive division is headed up by Wesley Patterson and Frank Kelly in their Ford Escorts.

No one can doubt Kelly's commitment to the sport.

The Moy security engineer was in the Caribbean at the weekend, finishing fifth in the Trinidad Rally before flying home where, he hopes, a second Escort will be prepared and ready to roll.

The Ford Escorts, Minis and the older generation WRC cars are excluded from the FIA-sanctioned international Circuit which is part of the European series.

But Boyle isn't just competing against the national field.

His target is the retention of his Tarmac title and points will also be distributed to Irish drivers in the international event once the overall times from both rallies are computed and compared.

It brings drivers like Sam and Josh Moffett, Jonny Greer and Stephen Wright into the equation in terms of the Tarmac series.

But for Boyle it is primarily about ending his horrible run of bad luck. Surely the Easter Bunny will bring him a change of fortune.

The national rally runs in tandem with the main event, with Boyle and Co starting immediately after the last ERC competitor.

Top of the National entry list: 1 Declan Boyle and Brian Boyle (Subaru Impreza); 2 Derek McGarrity and James McKee (Subaru Impreza); 3 Kenny McKinstry and Noel Orr (Subaru Impreza); 4 Paddy McVeigh and Gary McElhinney (Subaru Impreza); 5 Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont (Mini WRC); 6 Wesley Patterson and Johnny Baird (Ford Escort); 7 Frank Kelly and TBA (Ford Escort); 8 David Armstrong and Paul Mulholland (Ford Escort); 9 Camillus Bradley and Crawford Henderson (Ford Escort); 10 Alastair Cochrane and Paddy McCrudden (Ford Escort).

Belfast Telegraph

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