Photo: Johnny Sweeney.

This Sunday sees the Garda Síochána Motor Club’s Germaine’s of Baltinglass Mini Stages Rally return to the motorsport calendar after an absence of five years.  The organisers have attracted over 120 crews to take the start, and the line-up is dotted with the names of some of the country’s top drivers, including newly crowned Irish Tarmac Champion and Motorsport Ireland National Champion, Josh Moffett, who swops his usual up-to-date Hyundai i20 R5 for the rawer challenge of a rear wheel drive Toyota Starlet.
Being the most recent winners of the event, in 2017, it is Enda O’Brien and John Butler who are the number one seeds in their Ford Escort RS.  In the intervening timeframe, the Wexford crew has progressed to a modern Volkswagen Polo R5, but the Escort has also been retained and is to be wheeled out once again to tackle the challenging Wicklow stages.
Two other of the top four drivers from 2017 return to challenge O’Brien.  Carlow’s David Condell, who was third in Baltinglass last time out, has more recently also sampled Rally2/R5 machinery, and won the Laois Rallysprint last summer.  He is also in a version of the ubiquitous Mark 2 Escort for the GSMC Rally, as is Johno Doogan from Monaghan, who took fourth spot five years ago.
The returning trio will not have it all to themselves, however, as the entry list also includes various other very accomplished pilots.  Ryan Loughran, seeded at 2, has won Mini Stages events in Carlow and Donegal, and the Cookstown man is widely regarded as one of the country’s fastest Escort drivers.  Likewise, Gary Kiernan (No. 3) has recorded Mini Stages victories in Cork and Kerry, and won the Modified battle on the Galway International Rally early in the year.
The Toner brothers, Damian and Martin, are seeded at four and five.  Damian set an incredible pace on the Ulster Rally, setting second fastest time overall on one stage, and he headed the Modified field until his Escort hit a bridge within sight of the finish.  The mishap handed the Modified laurels to Martin, who continues to develop his BMW 1-Series.
Limerick’s Chris O’Callaghan (No. 7) led the recent ‘Escort Rally Special’ in Belgium before a mechanical problem forced retirement.  Given a clean run, he should be in with a chance of a win in Baltinglass.  Local driver, Jack Newman, finished second on the Belgian event, and is seeded just outside the top ten for the GSMC Rally.
Should Sunday turn wet, the advantage will likely turn to the four-wheel drive runners, such as Pat O’Connell (Mitsubishi Lancer), Stuart Darcy (Proton Millington) and Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Fiesta S2000).  The latter has won all the major events in the south of the country in recent years, including the West Cork Rally, Killarney Rally of the Lakes, and the Cork ‘20’ International Rally, and he can be expected to be a strong contender for victory laurels in Baltinglass.
The intriguing presence of Josh Moffett, seeded at ten, is sure to swell spectator interest in the event.  The Starlet he will drive is the same car as that campaigned by his brother Sam throughout the year, and Josh will also have Sam’s co-driver, Keith Moriarty, calling the notes on this occasion, as his usual partner, Andy Hayes, had committed to doing the GSMC Mini Stages with Daragh O’Riordan.  With a smaller engine than the Escorts seeded up front, the Starlet is a class below and at a horsepower disadvantage.  One of the stories of the rally will undoubtedly centre around how far up the leaderboard Josh Moffett’s talent can bring the car. 
The 2022 Germaine’s of Baltinglass GSMC Mini Stages Rally will consist of six special stages, a loop of two repeated three times.  They are located near Dunlavin and Grangecon, with Service to take place after SS2 and SS4 at Crookstown, on the Kildare side of the county boundary.  The official programme, priced at €10, will be on sale in local shops and it provides full details of where and when to catch the action.  The victory celebrations are scheduled to occur outside Germaine’s Hotel, Rally Headquarters, at around 4.15pm.
2022 Germaine’s of Baltinglass Mini Stages Rally - Top Ten Seeds
No.        Driver/Co-Driver                                          Car 
1            Enda O'Brien/John Butler                          Ford Escort
2            Ryan Loughran/TBA                                    Ford Escort
3            Gary Kiernan/TBA                                        Ford Escort
4            Damian Toner/TBA                                      Ford Escort
5            Martin Toner/TBA                                       BMW 1 Series
6            Pat O'Connell/Mark Wiley                         Mitsubishi Evo X
7            Chris O'Callaghan/Kaine Treanor             Ford Escort Mk2
8            Stuart Darcy/Liam McIntyre                      Proton MEM S2500 Millington
9            Daragh O'Riordan/Andy Hayes                 Ford Fiesta S2000
10          Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarty                     Toyota Starlet RWD

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