The Garda Síochána Motor Club has attracted a strong entry of 130 crews for the 2017 Germaines of Baltinglass Mini Stages Rally, the final round of the Colton Motors Midlands East Rally Championship, which takes place this Sunday (22nd October). The organisers are pleased with the level of interest shown, with competitors numbers up over 25% on last year. Many familiar faces return for another chance to tackle the GSMC event, but there are many first-time entrants also. The top seed is Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien, winner of this year’s Laois Heartlands Mini Stages, who will be guided by his usual co-driver, John Butler, in their Ford Escort RS. O’Brien’s last appearance on the GSMC Rally was in 2006, when he drove a 1600 Escort.
They will be followed through the Start Control by David Condell and Michael Coady, also in an Escort, winners of Condell’s home Carlow Rally earlier in the season. Condell has been a longtime supporter of the GSMC event over the years, but has yet to register a victory in Baltinglass.
The third seed, Barry Meade, makes the trip from his Cork base with his Escort RS. He is a past winner of Mini Stages Rallies in his home county and Kerry, and finished third on the National section of the Cork ‘20’ at the start of the month. His co-driver will be Eamonn Hayes.
Limerick’s Ed O’Callaghan is the sole class 13 runner in the top ten, in the midst of the larger-engined Class 14 cars, the seeding accurately reflecting his undoubted pace. He will be guided by Donegal’s Raymond Scott. No. 5 seed, John Lynch, previously campaigned Escorts, but the Laois man has recently made the switch to a Darrian T90, and will be the first non-Ford pilot into stage one.
The Kerry crew of Mike Quinn and Tony Healy have previously taken a top three finish on the GSMC Mini Stages, and are back in their familiar Escort RS, seeded at 6. Quinn’s daughter, Katie, is also on the entry list, driving a Honda Civic.
Donegal’s Martin Doherty finished in the top four of the Baltinglass Rally last year, and is back for another go in his Escort, co-driven by Monaghan’s Paul Sheridan.
Donegal’s Stuart Darcy, former winner of the Billy Coleman Young Rally of the Year Award, is seeded at eight. He will drive his recently acquired Darrian GTR, which finished second on the 2016 GSMC Rally, in the hands of Ian Barrett.
The top ten also includes Welshman, Wayne Evans (Ford Escort RS), the highest seeded of four visiting UK drivers. He will be navigated by Kilkenny’s John Smithwick.
The class based Colton Motors Midlands East Rally Championship will be decided between Joe Moffitt (Class 1 Honda Civic), who leads going into this final round, on 55 points, and Shaun Forde (Class 9 Vauxhall Nova), who is currently second on 52 points, but holds the advantage when dropped scores come into play.
While the rally is headquartered in Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, the competitive action takes place over the border in Co. Kildare, consisting of three loops of the Timolin and Prumpelstown stages near Castledermot, with Service in Crookstown after the first and second loops. The first stage gets underway at 11am on Sunday morning.
No. Driver/Co-Driver (Car)
1 Enda O’Brien /John Butler (Ford Escort) 
2 David Condell/Michael Coady (Ford Escort) 
3 Barry Meade/Eamon Hayes (Ford Escort) 
4 Ed O'Callaghan/Raymond Scott (Ford Escort) 
5 John Lynch/TBA (Darrian) 
6 Mike Quinn/Tony Healy (Ford Escort) 
7 Martin Doherty/Paul Sheridan (Ford Escort) 
8 Stuart Darcy/Paddy McCrudden (Darrian T90) 
9 Wayne Evans/John Smithwick (Ford Escort) 
10 Keith White/Damien McCabe (Ford Escort Mk1) 
It has been announced that Colton Motors Tullamore & Mullingar will replace Loughran Signs as main sponsor of the Midlands East Rally Championship. Loughran Signs have been sponsoring the championship since 2010.
Keith Colton of Colton Motors stated “It is a great honour to sponsor this prestigious rally championship and I really look forward to working the championship committee & rally competitors”. Keith was an active rally driver and a Birr Motor Club Committee Member for a number of years and rallied in a Ford Sierra Cosworth, Ka, Puma and an Escort. Colton Motors are over 40 years in the motor trade and the business has expanded to 2 Garages in Tullamore & Mullingar. Colton Motors are main Ford, Seat & Mazda Dealers.
This years championship has been reduced to 5 counting rounds starting in Nenagh and concluding in Baltinglass in October.
The 5 Counting rounds are as follows:
26th February - Birr Stages Rally, Nenagh.
26th March - Midland Moto Stages, Longford.
11th June – Laois Heartlands Rally, Portlaoise.
20th August - Westmeath Rallysprint, Athboy.
22nd October - GSMC Mini Stages Rally, Baltinglass.
The Championship has always been geared towards the Clubman Competitor with all the events well spaced out and easy to budget for. The Championship comprises of 2 Multi Stage Rallies – Birr & Midland, 2 Mini Stage Rallies - Laois & Baltinglass & the popular Westmeath Rallysprint held in Athboy.
The opening round of the Championship will be hosted by the Birr & District Motor Club based in the Abbey Court Hotel in Nenagh on Sunday 26th February. This Rally is also the opening round of the Triton Showers National & Top Part West Coast Rally Championships.
Further details on the championship can obtained from the Championship Registrar Eoin Longworth 086 8179297 or PRO Dawn Popham 085 7146732.
Regulations for the 2017 MERC Championship can be downloaded by clicking here.