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Mar
15
  Irish Notes
by Brian & Liz Patterson

‘Jammy’ is a vernacular expression often employed far and wide including Kris Meeke’s home place, the Bush Crossroads. In many instances it means lucky escape. It certainly applied to Kris last Sunday on Rally Mexico. He, and co-driver Paul Nagle, had driven a copybook rally, had taken a commanding early lead in their Citroen C3 WRC and held it relatively comfortable for the remainder of the three day rally. Then, almost within sight of the last stage finish line, Kris seemed to forget what ‘double tightens’ means and, possibly aided by a mid-corner bump, flew his Citroen through a hedge and into a field which doubled as a car park. It was reminiscent of some of the exploits of his old mentor, the late great Colin McRae. Somehow the Citroen didn’t roll, missed the parked cars, the tents, the spectators, and Kris burst the C3 through a gap back onto the road, to win by 9 seconds. It was the stuff that legends are made of. A win is a win of course, and puts Citroen and Kris himself firmly on the right WRC track.

World Champion Ogier in his M-Sport Fiesta didn’t seem to have any real answer to the Citroen. Yes, Ogier was there or thereabouts, but he never looked like getting ahead once Kris had opened up that initial gap. Yes again, road position played its part, though not hugely, and you play with the cards you are dealt. Meeke played his hand beautifully and Ogier was 2nd, his consolation being to have moved into the lead of the World Championship. Well, theoretically he leads it – that may change as his gearbox has gone to the FIA technical delegate in Paris because at post event scrutiny in Mexico the scrutineers were not satisfied that it was fully compliant with the homologation and this has to be looked at more closely. The possible consequence could be exclusion from Mexico, or a time penalty. However the situation could be completely clarified and there would be no change to the status quo.

Neuville in his Hyundai was 3rd, having suffered fuel starvation problems on the opening day. Latvala had led the World series starting the rally, but several problems saw the Finnish driver end Mexico in 7th place. It was a tough rally for Elfyn Evans. He started with a five minute penalty because the team had to change his Fiesta’s engine. Otherwise he would have been around 6th. The young Welshman did score 3 fastest times. Interestingly, Meeke only scored 4 fastest, plus one tied with Neuville.

On the Malcolm Wilson Rally, Keith Cronin finished 2nd to multiple Scottish Champion David Bogie. For Keith the rally was a learning curve as he acquainted himself with DMack tyres in preparation for next weekend’s opening British Championship round, the Border Counties. Keith did lead early on, but then tried carrying two spare wheels in his Fiesta R5, and also adjusting the dampers. At day’s end Keith wasn’t too downhearted with his position and was pleased with his progress in the Fiesta R5. Jonny Greer had a good run to finish 3rd in his Citroen DS3 R5. Desi Henry featured strongly on the leaderboard until his Skoda R5 suffered a broken brake pipe for 2 stages and he finished well down the order. Desi was satisfied though with the performance of the car and, like Cronin and Greer, is looking forward to the BRC. Conor McCloskey said before the rally that he would be pleased to finish at his seeding position of 10. Well, he did one better, taking 9th at the end as he settled into his Fiesta WRC on gravel stages. Other drives of merit included young William Creighton putting on a splendid performance in his Peugeot 208 R2 to win his class, while Josh McErlean was 3rd in class, driving a Citroen C2R2 Max. Sean Devine retired his Fiesta R5 on the opening stage, because of mechanical problems. Ashley Dickson made the finish, in 36th, and Ian Graham was 41st, both in Lancers. Drexel Gillespie took his Escort to 2nd in his Historic class.

Also last Saturday, Derek McGarrity in his Fiesta WRC put on a strong display to take victory on the Ballynahinch Club’s Bishopscourt Stages to extend his lead in the NI Championship. Derek McGeehan (Mini WRC) was 2nd and Stuart Biggerstaff (Impreza WRC) 3rd. The top six was rounded off by Kenny McKinstry (Subaru), Alan Carmichael (Mini WRC) and Peadar Hurson (Fiesta WRC). Phillip Morrow won GpN in his Lancer from Geoff McMahon, also in a Mitsubishi. Kyle White went well to win Class 4 in his Peugeot. Young James Leckey gave Kyle a good run for his money but James put his old model Peugeot off the road on the final stage.

On Sunday’s Mayo Stages Donegal man Joe McGonigle, with Ciaran Geaney co-driving in his Skoda Fabia R5, had the best possible warm up for next weekend’s West Cork Rally by taking a clear victory on this Achill Island based event. This was Joe’s 3rd outright rally victory and possibly the most significant. He said at the finish, “This car is phenomenal’.

Frank Wray and his co-driver Joe McNulty were a late entry in their Impreza WRC but made the long trip to the Atlantic shoreline worthwhile by snatching 2nd place. Co. Tyrone man Adrian Hetherington in his Escort had a brilliant result, working his way up from 5th to 3rd at the finish and taking the 2wd honours. Ronan O’Neill was co-driving for Adrian.

Early conditions were wet and slippy. Pauric Duffy in his new R5 was the clear early leader after the opening stage, 11s up on Joe McGonigle. On stage 2 Frank Wray set fastest time to move into 2nd o/a. However on the 3rd stage McGonigle, following a tyre change for his Skoda, turned up the wick. He moved into a lead he wasn’t to lose. The 6th and final stage was cancelled for technical reasons.

Looking forward to this coming weekend, the anticipation is not just about who will win the West Cork Rally, it is as much about the positions in the Clonakilty Blackpudding Tarmac Championship, as well what looks as if it could be a monumental battle for best Modified, not forgetting the Historics and the Juniors. As regards outright victory, the odds must be on Donagh Kelly scoring his fourth straight win. Yes, local man Kevin Kelleher, driving McKinstry’s Impreza WRC S14 could give him a run for it, and of course the R5’s seem to be getter faster every season, but the odds are still in favour of Donagh in his fabulous Focus WRC. The points in the Tarmac read – Alastair Fisher 17, Sam Moffett 14, Robert Barrable 12, Stephen Wright 10 and Josh Moffett 8. Really, any of those 5 could hit the headlines this weekend. There is so little between these R5cars, as well as these young drivers, it could be a complete nip and tuck scenario. Perhaps the one man up against it a little from the aforementioned group is Robert Barrable, purely because he is in a brand new car, the Hyundai R5. However, previous West Cork winner Robert could also surprise! Fresh from his Achill Island win, Joe McGonigle, as well as drivers such as Aaron MacHale, Brendan Cumiskey and Pauric Duffy could all be in with a shout at the R5 battle.

The top three in the Tarmac Modified points are Gary Kiernan, Damien Tourish and Kevin Eves. However the quality of the drivers and cars in the Modified section – for example Brian Brogan, sensational here last year, Wesley Patterson, Frank Kelly on a comeback in ‘Baby Blue’, Eugene Meegan in the BMW, to name just a few, should make for a battle royale. It is an astonishing line up. Similarly, in the Historics, the top Tarmac points scorers, Keith McIvor, Ernie Graham, Owen Murphy, Barry Jones, Andy Johnston and Gareth Lloyd, will all have to look to their laurels this weekend in Clonakilty. The rally is again based in the Quality Hotel and there are fifteen fast smooth special stages scheduled for the weekend. It should make for quite a story!

Also this weekend is of course the Jedburgh based Border Counties, opener for the BRC. David Bogie is the no1 seed, with Tom Cave at 2. The latter man will drive a Fiesta R5 on this one and then a Hyundai i20 R5 on the next, the Pirelli. Fredrik Ahlin is at 3, Keith Cronin at 4. Also in the top ten are Desi Henry, Jonny Greer and Marty McCormack. Further down the list are several young drivers including Marty Gallagher, William Creighton and Dean Raftery, while Callum Devine will be Junior team mates with Oscar Solberg, both in 1 litre Fiestas.

Motorsport News has announced that they are launching a new website this week, of which details will follow. They have a new Twitter account which will handle all aspects of MN’s reporting. The new Twitter handle is @MNmotorsport

Finally for now, the bad news – the Lurgan Park Rally, the Circuit Challenge and the Mourne Rally, all scheduled to have taken place over the next two or three months, have been cancelled. In addition several rallies so far this season have had small entry levels. Not so good.

 
 
 



2016 Patterson Agencies

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