Sporting success rests easy in the Premier county these days as the Liam MacCarthy Cup, the Irish Press Cup and the Vard Memorial Trophy savour their surroundings in what has been a remarkable sporting year in County Tipperary.
It’s been four years since the Irish Press Cup was in the county, six since the return of Liam Mac and all of twenty-five years since the National Rally Championship was won by a Tipperary driver - Donie Keating, brother of hurling legend, Michael “Babs”.
Clonmel’s Roy White (41) had already clinched and indeed clutched the magnificent Vard Memorial Trophy in his native town before he went off to watch and enjoy the recent double in Croke Park.
On Sunday week, September 18, Roy and his Cork co-driver James O’Brien take part in the Hyundai Limerick Motor Centre Clare Rally, the penultimate round of the Triton National Rally Championship that will be based in Shannon.
Roy’s journey to national success has been somewhat of a whirlwind, a plan the was executed quicker than intended and it was only in the days after his championship success at the Tipperary Stonethrowers Rally that the achievement began to sink in, even still, as he enjoys the congratulations of the sporting public, the realisation is still dawning.
Having finished within the top three of the National Championship three years running from 2013 to 2015, all of which was achieved - with the exception of one rally - in his Rover MG S2000, Roy acquired a Ford Fiesta WRC some twelve months ago with the aim of landing top spot in Irish rallying’s best supported rally championship.
Of course it was a bit of a wrench waving goodbye to the MG, a car that had been tamed by fellow Tipperary man and rally preparation expert, Tom Gahan, widely respected for his attention to detail.
“At the start that Rover wasn’t a reliable car but with a lot of time and effort Tom made that car exceptionally reliable. We had a habit of not hitting it as well and that helped of course.” said Roy
Having finished third, second and third overall in those seasons Roy and his team had extracted the maximum from the car, in 2014 the title was lost to Declan Boyle by a mere point. A decision to acquire a Fiesta WRC seemed the most plausible next step and the FESP, Arbelos and MKF liveried car was debuted on the Cork “20” International Rally last October. A few weeks later Roy then netted second overall in the final round of the Triton series in Bantry, West Cork – both outings in preparation for a tilt at this year’s Triton title.
“It took me a lot longer than what I had thought to get comfortable with the car. I thought it was just going to be that I had a car with more power, I wasn’t prepared for how much of a step up it was to drive these WRC’s and that caught me a bit unawares.”
However, as the championship got underway in County Mayo, Roy and James went on a remarkable run of consistency. Moving into the lead of the series on the second round in Kerry they began to tighten their grip on the series with each successive event.
“In Cavan (Round 4) we took our second set of maximum points and I was getting more comfortable with the car. We looked at videos and photographs and saw where we could improve and, of course, discussed ideas with Tom and every change that was made had a positive effect.”
Roy added, “Winning the championship here in Clonmel was really sweet, I don’t think I appreciated it there and then. I was delighted to get it done. It was amazing.”
One aspect that hankers with the Clonmel man is the fact that he has yet to actually win a Triton round - he is aiming to set the record straight in Clare. “We are going to play with a few set-ups and see how it goes, the pressure is off so we can try more extremes to address the issues that we are having. I can afford to take a step back from being so aggressive with the car and try and fix my driving as well.”
He knows where the problem lies, “At square junctions I haven’t really got the hang of it, the front of it is nosing out or the back of it is swinging out, everywhere else the car is good, but the square’s (junctions) are a weakness and that is my fault. I think I might be overdriving the car in that scenario.”
Roy plans to defend his title next season. “Yes it will be a tall order but the format of the championship really suits me, I can leave work on Friday evening and be back at the office again on Monday morning.” Roy White has certainly proved the adage – life begins at 40.