This weekend the hotly anticipated inaugural Heartlands Rally comes to Portlaoise.
An infl1ux of the rally community will arrive in the early hours of Saturday morning to sign on at rally headquarters O’Loughlin’s Hotel, Main Street, Portlaoise where they will get their paperwork in order and head out to recce the stages on The Heath and Ballyfin.
Scrutiny of the cars will take place over at County Hall on Saturday evening where the drivers will have an anxious few moments as weeks of late night work on cars pays off as the cars are inspected and cars are deemed fit to rally on Sunday. A ceremonial start will take place outside O’Loughlin’s Hotel from 7.30 pm where the top ten seeded drivers and local crews will drive their cars down the main street and be interviewed before returning to Parc Feirme for the night.
Local crews include Pat Delaney, Ballyfin with co driver Joey Hearns, Mountrath, Dan and Eoin Gorman, Mountmellick, Brendan and Stephen Hearns from Abbeyleix, Larry and Ann Brady, Portlaoise, Liam Grant, Abbeyleix with Anthony Brady, Portlaoise, Christy and John Kelly, Castlecomer, Edward and Paul Kelly, Castlecomer, Paul Lacey and Arthur Walsh, Portarlington, Paddy Nolan and Padraig Gorman, Abbeyleix, Aaron Martley, Portlaoise, and Mark Conlon, Portlaoise, David Kearney Senior and David Kearney Junior, Portlaoise, and John Fogarty, Abbeyleix with Michael Culleton, Clonaslee.
The real action begins on Sunday morning when the rally starts out on The Heath with the first car on stage at 10:43 a.m. With over 130 entries it promises to be a spectacular rally and the stages are fast and tight with some sharp corners to keep competitors on their toes. Spectators are welcome and to ensure their safety are asked to obey marshals at all times.