Ford Fo­cus driver win as Fisher scores max­i­mum.

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By Brian Pat­ter­son Photos: Martin Walsh

Cur­rent Tar­mac cham­pion Don­agh Kelly, co-driven by Conor Fo­ley, took em­phatic back-to­back vic­to­ries in Kil­lar­ney fol­low­ing on from his West Cork win. Of al­most equal sig­nif­i­cance, Alas­tair Fisher/ Gor­don No­ble fin­ished sec­ond in their Ford Fi­esta R5, which net­ted the pair max­i­mum Ir­ish Tar­mac points and moved them into the lead of the se­ries.

The clas­sic Gort­na­gane stage be­tween Kil­lar­ney and Mill­street was the opener this year and Garry Jen­nings in his Subaru made his in­ten­tions loud and clear with a fastest time from Fisher, with Sam Mof­fett third and first seed Kelly fourth. Jen­nings had his Im­preza re­vamped since its last out­ing in West Cork and he was de­ter­mined to make amends for his per­for­mance there. On the West Cork, the car was mapped for rain but the event was dry.

At the end of the open­ing stage, he said that he had been dis­tracted a cou­ple of times when he caught a glimpse of Kelly’s Ford Fo­cus in the dis­tance. Kelly, along with sev­eral of the top driv­ers, re­marked on how much gravel there was on the as­phalt stages the event is fa­mous for.

Ed Mur­phy was fastest of the Na­tional crews ini­tially from Eu­gene Mee­gan in his BMW 1M. Top Na­tional seed Fer­gus O’meara was third, but his Ford Es­cort had brake prob­lems and he fell out of con­tention.

At first ser­vice af­ter stage two, Jen­nings was 10s ahead of Fisher, with Kelly a fur­ther three sec­onds back. Sam Mof­fett was fourth and the Tar­mac points leader start­ing the rally, Josh Mof­fett, was sixth hav­ing lost a cou­ple of sec­onds avoid­ing a dog on a stage. He was then dis­tracted in stage two when a tem­per­a­ture warn­ing light flashed on. Worse was to fol­low for Josh though as he in­verted his Fi­esta in stage three, the sec­ond run over Gort­na­gane. For­tu­nately Josh and his co-driver John Rowan were un­in­jured.

By stage four, Jen­nings had ex­tended his lead to 18s over Fisher, with Kelly third but breath­ing down Alas­tair’s neck. Jen­nings was ham­pered by a dis­ap­pear­ing dash­board dis­play, which meant that of­ten he didn’t know which gear he was in. This was even­tu­ally traced to a bro­ken wire in the map light and was eas­ily fixed. Sam Mof­fett re­ported his Fi­esta R5 to be per­fect, but he was driv­ing the door han­dles off it in his effort to reel in Fisher. The lat­ter stayed cool though, and main­tained a fab­u­lous pace through­out the first day. Stephen Wright worked up to a de­cent trou­ble­free tempo in his Ford Fi­esta R5 to hold fifth over­all through the Satur­day af­ter­noon.

At day’s end Jen­nings had a 27s lead over Fisher, with Kelly just two sec­onds back from the fly­ing R5. Mof­fett was driv­ing as hard as he dared to stay in touch with the top three, and was within touch­ing dis­tance. David Guest led Group N de­spite his Mit­subishi Lancer need­ing a re­place­ment driver’s side door, which was dam­aged in a com­ing to­gether with Keith Cronin’s Citroen at a con­trol.

Paul Bar­rett was sec­ond in Group N with his Subaru Im­preza but that was to change on the foggy open­ing Sun­day stage Moll’s Gap. Bar­rett crashed his Subaru out of the rally at Fish­ers Bridge. Brian O’keefe had held sec­ond Group N early in the event but a bro­ken turbo and gear­box dra­mas side­lined his Im­preza. This left Gus Kear­ney sec­ond in Group N but his Lancer was down on turbo power. This prob­lem was soon rec­ti­fied.

De­spite the dread­ful con­di­tions, Kelly set a sparkling time over the in­fa­mous Moll’s Gap, 16s faster than Jen­nings. Per­haps Jen­nings tried to re­spond on the next stage, Bal­lagh­beama, but un­for­tu­nately he put his Subaru into the scenery and out of the rally. At the fin­ish of that stage Kelly had thus taken the lead by 13s from Fisher, with Mof­fett a fur­ther 22s back.

Through the fol­low­ing Sun­day stages, with the early fog re­placed by sun­shine, Kelly drove in a very con­trolled but ex­tremely fast man­ner to build up a 49s lead over Fisher.

Mof­fett was re­lent­less in his ef­forts to close the gap on Fisher, but he couldn’t avoid a large stone in stage 11 and his Fi­esta suf­fered a punc­ture, which re­sulted in a 50s gap. Mof­fett kept try­ing, but Fisher was cool un­der pres­sure to main­tain his sec­ond place.

The Fi­es­tas of Stephen Wright and Alan Ring fol­lowed in fourth and fifth, with Owen Mur­phy sixth. Mur­phy was pleased to get to grips with his re­cently ac­quired Skoda Fabia S2000 and, de­spite stalling the car at a stage start and also some wiper trou­bles, be­came more com­pet­i­tive through the two days.

Aaron Machale has driven his sim­i­lar Skoda on a few ral­lies now, but is still get­ting ac­cus­tomed to the brakes on the car and man­aged sev­enth place.

In­cred­i­bly, only one spot be­hind was Cal­lum Devine who was quick­est R2 af­ter a strong run on the Cir­cuit of Ire­land Rally.

Guest in his Lancer had a very clear run to Group N vic­tory and was even able to in­dulge in test­ing dif­fer­ent tyres in readi­ness for the Done­gal Rally, which is the next round of the Tar­mac se­ries. Tip­per­ary broth­ers Pat and Gus Kear­ney in their re­spec­tive Lancers were sec­ond and third in the cat­e­gory.

Joe Connolly in his Fi­esta R5, and John Mul­hol­land in his ex-ogier Skoda S2000 had a great bat­tle through­out, the for­mer just get­ting the edge to fin­ish 10th place over­all be­hind Guest.

Out­side the top 10, it was an­other mis­er­able rally week­end for Keith Cronin. His Citroen DS 3 R5 was sta­tion­ary for 19 min­utes be­tween the ar­rival con­trol and the start of stage one when the brakes seized on. This ef­fec­tively knocked him out of all con­tention for the week­end, al­though he did get the car go­ing and fin­ished the stage. How­ever, de­spite chang­ing ev­ery elec­tri­cal com­po­nent on the car, the en­gine was off song through­out. Keith never gave up try­ing. He fine-tuned the sus­pen­sion and, by revving the en­gine hard, even man­aged to score a fastest time on the Sun­day, even­tu­ally fin­ish­ing 13th of 17 In­ter­na­tional fin­ish­ers.

Mee­gan/sarah Whe­lan won the Na­tional cat­e­gory in their BMW 1M de­spite se­vere brake shud­der prob­lems over the last five stages. ■

Kelly tamed the likes of Moll’s Gap Fisher con­tin­ued good R5 form

Guest drive: Group N win­ner

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