DON­NELLY FENDS OFF UN­LUCKY, PUNC­TURED HETHER­ING­TON

Bush­whacker Rally

Motor Sport News - - Rally Reports - By Brian Pat­ter­son Re­sults

Or­gan­iser: Omagh MC When: Septem­ber 24 Where: Omagh, County Ty­rone Cham­pi­onship North­ern Ire­land Rally Cham­pi­onship Stages: 11 Starters: 92

The Bush­whacker Rally is en­sconced in Omagh ral­ly­ing folk­lore so it was a ma­jor land­mark for Mark Don­nelly and his co-driver Stephen O’han­lon to take a well-de­served vic­tory in their Ford Fi­esta S2000.

Adrian Hether­ing­ton/gary Nolan did lead for much of the day in their Toy­ota Corolla WRC, but had to set­tle for sec­ond at the end while Niall Mc­cul­lagh/ryan Mccloskey, in a hired Mck­instry Mo­tor­sport Subaru Im­preza, had a strong run to­wards the end to cap­ture third place.

The fast, open and smooth Bush­whacker stages have long been a great at­trac­tion for the drivers. That was again the case this year, even though it was a thor­oughly wet day. Sadly chi­canes are a nec­es­sary evil nowa­days to keep av­er­age speeds down, but still the drivers en­joyed the rally. The stages were short, which meant that only a sec­ond or two split the top drivers through­out the event.

Hether­ing­ton and Don­nelly set an equal fastest time on the open­ing stage. On the very fast sec­ond stage, Lough Braden North, Hether­ing­ton edged ahead. It was then nip and tuck be­tween the two, Don­nelly per­haps ham­pered by the lower top speed of his S2000. On the other hand, the car might have been more nim­ble through the tight chi­canes.

At first ser­vice out­side Cas­tled­erg, Hether­ing­ton had 7s in hand over Don­nelly, with Martin Cairns in his Fi­esta WRC a solid third, but 25s be­hind the fly­ing Corolla WRC.

Through the early af­ter­noon stages Hether­ing­ton kept his lead fairly con­stant, and was 10s ahead go­ing into SS 9 Slie­veadoo. Un­for­tu­nately for Hether­ing­ton his Corolla WRC in­curred a punc­ture, the flail­ing tyre wreck­ing a mud­guard be­fore stage fin­ish. He did well to only lose 20s. In SS10 Glen­derg, Don­nelly was fastest, which meant vic­tory was his. There were 11 stages due, but the fi­nal one didn’t run as a tow truck slipped into a ditch and it was un­safe to run past the ob­sta­cle.

While all the drama was go­ing on at the front, Mc­cul­lagh, in only his sec­ond out­ing in a WRC car, was clos­ing in on the leader­board. He had lost time in stage four when he out-braked him­self on a six-right into a square-left and stalled the Im­preza. Dur­ing the af­ter­noon Mc­cul­lagh set a cou­ple of fastest times, which meant he jumped Cairns for the fi­nal podium place.

Dar­ren Mckelvey had a fine run to fifth place in his Lancer, while Pat O’con­nell in a sim­i­lar Mit­subishi made the trip from Tip­per­ary worth­while by tak­ing sixth. Sea­mus O’con­nell was top two-wheel-drive in eighth over­all.

Those not so for­tu­nate in­cluded Pa­trick O’brien in his Mit­subishi Lancer, whose woes in­cluded break­ing a drive­shaft, which brought the car grind­ing to a halt in stage three.

Co­in­ci­den­tally, and rather spook­ily, his brother Fran­cie in his Ford Es­cort broke down at the ex­act same corner, also with a bro­ken shaft!

Also out with a bro­ken drive­shaft was Kyle White in his Citroen C2R2 Max. Both Josh Mof­fett and Paul Bar­rett were non-starters.

Liam Re­gan hasn’t driven on a rally for two years and was go­ing well on this one un­til his unique Peu­geot 206 4x4 lapsed onto three cylin­ders for three stages. Liam fixed the prob­lem at ser­vice and fin­ished 17th.

Derek Mc­gar­rity’s Ford Fi­esta WRC suf­fered in­ter­mit­tent ECU prob­lems. He kept go­ing and fin­ished 10th, but still should be on course to claim an­other NI rally cham­pion’s ti­tle. Derek’s young son Michael was com­pet­ing in a Fi­esta R2 and spent 3m in a stage three ditch and fin­ished 58th.

Don­nelly took vic­tory on the Bush­whacker

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