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by Brian & Liz Patterson

In rallying terms last weekend was busy enough, what with Lark in the Park, the Monaghan Stages and even some of our crews making the trip to the Speyside, chiefly as a shakedown exercise for this weekend’s Pirelli International. Desi Henry in his Skoda R5 claimed 2nd place on the Scottish event, behind David Bogie. Mark Donnelly (Fiesta WRC) was 4th. Young Marty Gallagher, co-driven by Dean O’Sullivan in his Peugeot R2 had a good run to win his class. Josh McErlean had been going well until his Citroen developed alternator trouble.

On the Lark in the Park Donagh Kelly claimed victory from Joe McGonigle. Donagh didn’t do just as well on the Monaghan Stages where he had to give best to Sam Moffett. Whereas the Maiden City MC’s Lark in the Park had less than 50 starters, 121crews started in Monaghan, reinforcing the event’s place as one of the most popular rallies in the country. This was the fifth year running a Moffett has taken the victory on their home rally. Sam, who won the event in 2013 and 14, was co-driven by Karl Atkinson in their Fiesta WRC and they led from start to finish. Josh won the rally for the last 2 years but crashed his Fiesta R5 out on only the 2nd stage this time. Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley set several fastest times in the afternoon, but still had to settle for 2nd.

Another former National and Tarmac Champion, Declan Boyle, did get into 2nd o/a briefly on stage 7, but a great time by Donagh Kelly through stage 8 relegated Boyle and his co-driving cousin Brian Boyle back to 3rd. Declan said throughout the day that his Fiesta WRC was down on power, that he was driving it as fast as it would go. He even commented, “It is not the car it was last year. We will send it to M-Sport next week to get sorted.”

The stages were a mix of all sorts of country roads, fairly technical and jumpy in places, fast in others. The weather, although mostly dry, was a bit mixed and sudden patchy rain early in the day as well as through stages 7 & 8 caught quite a few drivers on the wrong tyres.

Sam Moffett, very much on his home patch, shrugged off any difficulties and indeed earned most of his advantage through the opening three stages, building up a lead of 21.5s over Donagh Kelly by first service. This was the 3rd round of this season’s Triton Showers National series, and Sam has won them all, so there must be ever shorter odds on him taking the title at the conclusion of this 2017 season. Current National Champion Roy White in his Fiesta WRC was more or less 6th all day, Roy admitting to a lack of commitment. It seemed to be one of those days for the Clonmel man, it just didn’t click.

The expected major battle for Mk2 Escort supremacy began with Gary Kiernan setting the pace, but he retired on stage 4 following his Escort suffering a major moment on a stage 3 jump followed by an oil leak. Gary McPhillips started well but his Escort sustained a broken half shaft. Brian Brogan’s example had gearbox maladies. Adrian Hetherington disappeared from a solid 10th o/a and 4th Escort, three stages from the end. Adrian doesn’t know what caused his Escort to puncture, but it took him 15 minutes to get the offending wheel off – end of rally. Cavan’s Jonathan Pringle, with the experienced Paul Sheridan co-driving, took a few stages to settle down and then they were very impressive indeed on their way to winning the category with just a little room to spare. Damien Gallagher/Mac Walsh put on a great charge through the later stages to take 2nd, ousting Damien Toner/Denver Rafferty to 3rd best Escort.

In the Group N category Shane Maguire and David Guest had a huge day long battle in their respective Lancers. Guest did lose a few seconds in stage 4 when he clipped the front of his Mitsubishi avoiding a stricken car, but that didn’t really affect the West Cork man through the later stages where Maguire had the edge and took the category win by 10s. Brian Brady in his Civic won the juniors, pipping similarly Civic mounted Michael Boyle in to 2nd. Michael, who is former National and Tarmac Champion Declan’s son, has been nominated for the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year scheme. The 19 year-old, and his co-driver Dermot McCaffrey won the Junior category in Birr earlier this season, and won the Juniors on the Donegal Rally last year. Michael manages the Limelight in Glenties as well as McCafferty’s bar in Donegal Town.

Top Ten:-
1 Sam Moffett/Karl Atkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1h01m52s
2 Donagh Kelly/Conor Foley (Ford Focus WRC) + 26.8s
3 Declan Boyle/Brian Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 15.5s
4 Niall Maguire/Enda Sherry (Subaru Impreza WRC S12b) + 2m22.6s
5 Stephen Wright/Arthur Kierans (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 0.9s
6 Roy White/James O’Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 07s
7 Jonathan Pringle/Paul Sheridan (Ford Escort Mk2) +2m01.8s
8 Damien Gallagher/Mac Walsh (Ford Escort Mk2) + 09.2s
9 Damien Toner/Denver Rafferty (Ford Escort Mk2) +15.9s
10 Raymond Conlon/Darren McCague (Ford Escort Mk2) + 23.7s

Class Winners:-
1 Martin Geraghty/Conal Doherty (Honda Civic)
2 David Kelly/James Conwell (Citroen C2)
3 Roger Kennedy/Wendy Blackledge (Peugeot 306)
4 Shane Maguire/Darragh Kelly (Mitsubishi E9)
5 Stephen Wright/Arthur Kierans (Ford Fiesta R5)
7 Sam Moffett/Karl Atkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC)
10 Mickey Brennan/Ryan Brennan (Vauxhall Nova)
11F Donal Kelly/Shane Byrne (Honda Civic)
11R Johnny Jordan/Gary McNern (Toyota Starlet)
12 James Cassidy/Karen Kelly (Ford Escort Mk2)
13 David Moffett/Martin Connolly (Toyota Starlet RWD)
14 Jonathan Pringle/Paul Sheridan (Ford Escort Mk2)
15 Martin Tynan/Declan Tynan (Mitsubishi Evo)
20 Andrew Dudgeon/Joseph Dooley (Mitsubishi Evo)
16 (Juniors) Martin Brady/Leonard Tuite (Honda Civic).

This coming weekend the rallying spotlight at home switches to Killarney and the Rally of the Lakes. Nine of the top ten seeded drivers will be in R5 cars for the Cartell.ie backed event, reflecting the interest in the Clonakilty Blackpudding Tarmac Championship, of which this is round three. Roy White is the odd man out in the R5 stakes, as he drives his usual Fiesta WRC, Roy’s stated aim being to get more seat time and also just to enjoy Killarney’s fabulous stages.

Alastair Fisher is the No.1 seed in deference to his standing in the Tarmac Championship. Co-driven by Gordon Noble in their Dom Buckley prepared Fiesta R5, Alastair and Gordon will be under big pressure on this one to keep or increase their narrow points advantage. Snapping at their heels will be Sam Moffett, on the crest of a rally wave at the moment, his brother Josh, notwithstanding his big accident last weekend, is fast everywhere and should figure. Robert Barrable will surely be out to make amends for his non finish in West Cork and give the new Hyundai R5 its first success in Ireland. Add in some very good drivers such as Stephen Wright, Joe McGonigle and Brendan Cumiskey to give the top few seeds a hard time, as well as Aaron MacHale, Welshman Tomas Davies and Pauric Duffy, again all in R5 machinery, and there should be no shortage of action over the two days of the rally.

As ever there is no shortage of Modified/National competition, no doubt to be enlivened by the presence of Declan Gallagher, this time in an Escort. Some interesting new cars as well, for example Fergus O’Meara’s recently acquired ex Craig Breen 2.4 litre Fiesta 4WD just prepared by M-Sport. Also sure to cause a stir once again is the fabulous BMW E30 of Kevin O’Donoghue – surely this vastly potent car has to come alive soon. There are lot of entries in the Junior category and also in the Historic section, so along with the dramatic scenery and the spectacular special stages, the weekend will have something of interest for everyone.

At the same time as the anticipated battles on the Lakes, the action should also be pretty frenetic on the Pirelli Rally, round three of the Prestone British Rally Championship. The pace of the top BRC contenders is stunning, and the anticipated action from the top guys through the smooth Kielder stages should be something to behold. As in Killarney, the top of the entry list is all about R5 machinery and the top drivers – Frederik Ahlin, Tom Cave, Osian Pryce, Eyvind Brinildsson and David Bogie will absolutely fly through these stages. Seeded at 6, 7 & 8 we have Keith Cronin, Marty McCormack and Desi Henry. Any or all of these three could give the top guys a real run for their money this weekend and pick up a bagful of BRC points. It is an ultra-competitive scene of course, and the slightest slip-up could be costly, but hopes are high for these three that their trip over to Cumbria will be worthwhile.

We have lots of other drivers from Ireland competing as well – such as Jonny Greer who could well be a dark horse in his R5 Citroen or in the classes, William Creighton, Callum Devine, Marty Gallagher and Josh McErlean so it will be disappointing if the ferry out of Cairnryan on Sunday evening isn’t loaded down with silverware. We have a good chance of some recognition in the Historic part of the rally, as Stanley Orr/Stephen McAuley will almost certainly be in the thick of the action with Stanley’s Mk1 Escort.

Also taking place this Saturday will be the hotly supported Cookstown Targa Rally.

Finally, to cap what should be a very interesting weekend, the World Rally Championship clicks back into action in Argentina. Kris Meeke, co-driven as usual by Paul Nagle in the Abu Dhabi Citroen’s team C3, reckons he can win. It is a tough looking rally, and the opposition from Hyundai, Ford M-Sport and the now three pronged Toyota attack won’t exactly be hanging back, but Kris could do it. His speed over the last few rallies has been phenomenal, even though the level of competition is through the stratosphere. Kris’s Citroen team mate Craig Breen and his co-driver Scott Martin certainly haven’t been letting themselves down either. We wish them every success in Argentina.

Finally for now, our heartiest congratulations go to the most favourite man on a motorsport microphone, the irrepressible Dougie Hughes. Despite not being fully recovered from his recent serious illness, Dougie made the trip from Dublin to the Monaghan Rally and was awarded the ‘FIA Volunteers Pin’ – a very special award indeed for this extraordinary gentleman, richly deserved.


2018 Patterson Agencies

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