Motor Sport News - - Rally Reports - By Brian Patterson Pho­tos: Kevin Glen­den­ning

Or­gan­iser: Done­gal Mo­tor Club When: Jan­uary 30 Where: Let­terkenny County, Done­gal Stages: 6 Starters: 100.

Ca­van man Jonathan Pringle kicked his 2016 rally cam­paign off in the best man­ner by tak­ing his Milling­ton-en­gined Ford Es­cort Mk2 to vic­tory on the chal­leng­ing Done­gal Mini Stages.

Co-driven by Alan Keena, Pringle’s mar­gin of vic­tory was 16.6s af­ter six stages.

The for­mat of the non-cham­pi­onship event was two de­cent length qual­ity as­phalt stages, each done three times, with ser­vice at the Clan­ree Ho­tel in Let­terkenny be­tween each loop. The weather was dif­fi­cult with sleet and snow cov­er­ing the roads.

The planned open­ing stage didn’t run, partly as a pre­cau­tion be­cause of the road con­di­tions, but also be­cause of a small glitch with the ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tions. This meant that, at first ser­vice, the crews had only com­pleted one stage. Damien Tour­ish/ Domn­hall Mcaleaney in their two-litre Ford Es­cort Mk 2 led from Ryan Loughran/james Mccarville, also in an Es­cort. Tour­ish said that it was slip­pery in places, but that he had no real trou­ble and per­haps the two-litre, as op­posed to the 2.5-litre Es­corts, was an ad­van­tage in the tricky con­di­tions.

Cer­tainly some of the top driv­ers in the big­ger-en­gined cars had early dra­mas. Gary Mcphillips – se­cond on the road – got caught out on a nar­row slippy sec­tion be­tween junc­tions 11 and 12 when a back wheel caught a ditch. The car slewed around and got stuck, a rear-wheel punc­ture not help­ing the sit­u­a­tion. Five cars got caught be­hind the block­age, in­clud­ing fron­trun­ners such as Wes­ley Patterson, Brian Bro­gan and Pringle. They were all given no­tional times for the stage.

For stage three, most of the top driv­ers chose an open pat­tern wet tyre to com­bat the slushy con­di­tions.

Pringle said af­ter the open­ing stage that he was pleased with his pace and felt com­fort­able, un­til he got stopped be­hind the Mcphillips ac­ci­dent. He cer­tainly re­in­forced that pace with a stun­ning run through stage three. Subaru Im­preza driver Frank Wray re­sponded on stage four with a quick­est time, but only by a frac­tion. Wray had spun on an ear­lier stage.

When the cars came into se­cond ser­vice, Pringle led Wray by 5.8s, with Loughran still very much in the hunt and only a fur­ther 2.7s back. Done­gal man Joe Mc­go­nigle, in his Skoda Fabia S2000, couldn’t be dis­counted ei­ther, just an­other 6.7s be­hind. Mc­go­nigle ad­mit­ted that with next week­end’s Gal­way In­ter­na­tional in mind, he was try­ing to look af­ter his car. Ai­dan Wray in his Mit­subishi Lancer led Group N, from the Lancer of Pat Kirk.

On the penul­ti­mate stage, Wray re­tired his Subaru with a bro­ken wheel hand­ing se­cond to Loughran – but, more im­por­tantly, giv­ing Pringle a clear run to vic­tory. He set the fastest time on the stage, be­fore Mc­go­nigle took the fastest time on the last stage in an event­ful end to the day. De­spite his cau­tion, Mc­go­nigle had dam­aged the bumper and bon­net of his Fabia against a bale while over­shoot­ing a junc­tion on the penul­ti­mate test.

It proved costly for the Skoda man as he ended the day just 0.4s down on Loughran to round out the podium fin­ish­ers.

Reig­ing Ir­ish Tar­mac and Na­tional cham­pion Don­agh Kelly was a class win­ner in his Pinto-en­gined Ford Es­cort. He took class 12 and 18th over­all with son Ea­mon in the co-driver’s seat.

Re­sults 1 Jonathan Pringle/alan Keena (Ford Es­cort Mk2) 38m50.8s; 2 Ryan Loughran/james Mccarville (Ford Es­cort Mk2) +16.6s; 3 Joe Mc­go­nigle/ Ciaran Geaney (Skoda Fabia S2000); 4 Brian Bro­gan/ Damian Mcget­ti­gan (Ford Es­cort); 5 Damian Gal­lagher/ Brendan Mcel­hin­ney (Ford Es­cort); 6 Camil­lus Bradley/ Craw­ford Hen­der­son (Ford Es­cort); 7 Wes­ley Patterson/johnny Baird (Ford Es­cort); 8 Ai­dan Wray/ Kieran Mcgrath (Mit­subishi Lancer E10); 9 John Bon­ner/ Leon Jor­dan (Ford Es­cort); 10 Paul Pur­till/ Ray­mond Scott (Ford Es­cort)

Pringle took the win in treach­er­ous con­di­tions Done­gal Mini Stages Frank Cun­ning­ham wowed spectators

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