McNulty wins Quality Hotel West Cork Rally
AFTER a bright beginning, hopes of a local victory in the Clonakilty based Quality Hotel West Cork evaporated rather quickly as pre-event favourites, Tim McNulty and Paul Kiely (Subaru WRC), went on to secure a fine win, some two minutes ahead of Ballylickey's Denis Cronin and Helen O'Sullivan (Subaru WRC).
The Welsh crew of John Dalton and Gwynfor Jones (Darrian) were a further one minute and 17.9 seconds behind in third.
Aside from Cronin, five other Cork drivers secured top ten finishes. Midleton's Daragh O'Riordan (Subaru WRC) was fourth overall and winner of Class 8. He was co-driven by Donegal's Tony McDaid.
A number of West Cork crews were also amongst the class winners with pride of place going to Barryroe's Damien McCarthy and his Ownahincha co-driver Eamonn Hayes; they powered their Honda Civic home in a cracking seventh place, winning Class 11 and finishing the highest placed West Cork crew.
Others in the top ten included Carrigaline's Brian O'Mahony and John Higgins (Renault Clio S1600) who were eighth overall and winners of Class 6. Donoughmore's Leonard Downey and Mark Murphy (Escort) were ninth in overall classification while Rossmore's John and Declan Buttimer (Subaru) were tenth overall and second in Class 8.
Baltimore's Stephen Carey and Mark Lee (Honda Civic) came out on top in Class 2, whilst in Class 4, Bandon's Sean O'Donovan and Harold Atkinson (Subaru) were third.
Another Bandon crew, Peter Desmond and Brian Magan (Vauxhall Nova) were third in Class 9.
In Class 10, Bandon's Victor and Susan Beamish (Vauxhall Nova) emerged victorious ahead of Clonakilty's David and Geraldine Jennings (Escort) and Innishannon's Alan Clarke and James Kingston (Vauxhall Nova).
In Class 11, Clonakilty's David Guest and Liam Moynihan (Honda Civic) were second; they had no third gear for a substantial part of the rally. Dunmanway's Ger O'Connell and Pakie McCarthy (Escort) won Class 12 from Timoleague's Steve Roberts and Adrian Hayes (Ford Escort).
In Class 13, Ballineen's Fintan Canty and Denis O'Mahony (Escort) finished third and in Class 15, Kealkil's Mick Cremin and Noreen Mullins (Mitsubishi) were second in class.
In the Junior category, Ballydehob's Jonathan Roycroft and Christopher Keohane (Suzuki Swift) were first in J1 and Rosscarbery's Cathal McCarthy and Paul Dullea (Toyota Corolla) were second in J2.
On the opening stage at Ballinascarthy, McNulty justified the tag of pre-event favourite as he eked out a 2.3 second lead over Cronin. Top seed, Liam McCarthy (Toyota Corolla WRC) was also very much on the pace - 2.1 seconds further behind.
Cronin turned up the heat on McNulty through the stage at Clogagh and was duly rewarded with a lead of 9.3 seconds over McNulty as McCarthy remained in third.
At the service halt in Darrara College, Cronin remarked: "I didn't think I was going that hard, but it was smooth and that is where the time has come from." Dalton led the charge of the two-wheel drive brigade. He was fourth in general classification.
Meanwhile, Clonakilty's Kevin Kelleher in his Mitsubishi, lost a few seconds after he caught the Focus of Hugh Hunter on the opening test, debris from the British driver's car cracked the windscreen of Kelleher's car.
Subaru WRC debutant, Daragh O'Riordan made a solid start and was sixth ahead of the Ford Focus of former winner, Michael Barrable, who punctured on the opening stage.
Scotland's Billy McLelland, who was co-driven by Rosscarbery's Alastair Wyllie, was eighth followed by Brian O'Mahony, who clipped a rock on the first stage. Galway's JJJ Fleming (Subaru) took the final top ten place.
Cronin maintained the lead through the repeat of the pair of stages but his margin was cut to a mere 1.8 seconds. Liam McCarthy and co-driver, Kieran Murphy's rally ended on S.S. 4 soon after a crest when a fence post lodged in the rear wheel arch after a brief off road excursion; they lost about four minutes and decided to withdraw.
Kevin Kelleher was also in trouble; differential woes cost him substantial time as he plummeted down the order. McCarthy's demise promoted Dalton into third followed by O'Riordan and Fleming as the leaderboard changed substantially.
Barrable retired and Brian O'Mahony lost close to four minutes when he was forced to stop and change a punctured wheel. Sean Flanagan (Subaru) took up the role of Group N leader.
The afternoon stages at Ring and Dunworley ended the potential of a classic encounter. Differential woes took their toll on Cronin, who lost the lead to McNulty and after S.S. 6, the latter led by a minute and 1.1 seconds.
Dalton, who was quickest through Ring, remained in third with O'Riordan and Flanagan next in classification. Former winner, Bob Fowden was seventh.
Having lost a few seconds over the morning stages, Damien McCarthy began to set the roads alight with a stunning performance. By S.S. 6, it had yielded eighth place in a top ten that also featured Washington James and JJ Fleming, McLelland retired.
Out on the repeat of the two stages, Dalton once again dominated Ring and Cronin gained a crumb of comfort by posting the best time through the day's final stage.
Overnight leader, McNulty remarked that he was trying various options in terms of suspension. Cronin ended the day just slightly one minute behind NcNulty. Dalton, O'Riordan and Flanagan completed an unchanged top five. Washington James, Bob Fowden and Ed O'Callaghan followed.
Meanwhile, McCarthy was concerned about the gearbox of his Honda Civic. His service crew replaced the unit in some 30 minutes allowing him to reflect on a good day's work. JJ Fleming was tenth overnight. Kelleher was 14th,with O'Mahony, who was fourth fastest on the closing stages, 17th on the leaderboard
There was disappointment for Kevin and Martin Kelleher who were forced to withdraw their Mitsubishi prior to the start of Sunday's eight stages. A vibrating noise coupled with an oil leak made it too much of a risk. JJ Fleming (Subaru WRC) also withdrew.
On the stages at Rossmore and Sam's Cross, there was little between the top duo, McNulty quickest on the former with Cronin holding sway on the latter. On the repeat run over both stages, it was a role reversal.
At the mid-day service halt in Darrara Agricultural complex, McNulty, who continued to test, was a comfortable 54.4 seconds ahead of Cronin. Dalton remained a solid third from O'Riordan, who clipped a rock on the second run through Sam's Cross.
Former winner, Bob Fowden in his Subaru was fifth as Sean Flanagan (Subaru) continued to dominate Group N. Ed O'Callaghan arrived at the service halt with oil seeping from his Ford Escort. Washington James (Darrian) was eighth overall.
Having taken (by his own standards) what was a sedentary pace over the first two stages of Sunday morning, Damien McCarthy (Honda Civic) clipped almost a minute off his times on the repeat of the stages. Meanwhile, Brian O'Mahony (Renault Clio S1600) made up several places and was only a fraction of a second off a top ten spot.
Although he was fastest through Hayes Cross, S.S. 14, McNulty was a little concerned about his Subaru as he felt it was moving around, akin to having a puncture. However, his problems were minuscule compared to those of Cronin, who damaged the rear of his Subaru after he was forced to spin the car in an effort to scrub off some speed.
It appeared that a glitch in the software relating to the differentials made the car difficult to control. Despite the drama, he managed to hold second from an unchanged top quartet that also featured Dalton and O'Riordan.
Fowden retired with a blown turbo promoting Washington James into fifth as Sean Flanagan dropped to tenth with differential woes that threatened his dominant Group N position.
Damien McCarthy held seventh and Brian O'Mahony moved up to eight. McNulty went on to claim victory and Cronin managed to guide his Subaru to second spot with Dalton third. O'Riordan, on his debut in the Subaru WRC, finished fourth with Washington James and Ed O'Callaghan fifth and sixth respectively.
Damien McCarthy and Eamonn Hayes came home a magnificent seventh, winning Class 11 and taking the best West Cork crew award. Brian O'Mahony finished eighth and won Class 6.
The top ten also included Donoughmore's Leonard Downey (Escort) and Rossmore's John Buttimer. The Group N category was won by Brian O'Keefe who took advantage of Sean Flanagan's problems, they were eleventh and thirteen respectively.
1. T. McNulty and P. Kiely (Subaru WRC) 2h. 12m. 38.4s; 2. D. Cronin and H. O'Sullivan (Subaru WRC) 2h. 14m. 39.5s; 3. J. Dalton and G. Jones (Darrian) 2h. 15m. 57.4s; 4. D. O'Riordan and T. McDaid (Subaru WRC) 2h. 18m. 04.3s; 5. W. James and L. Jones-Davies (Darrian) 2h. 22m. 18.1s; 6. E. O'Callaghan and G. Clancy (Ford Escort) 2h. 22m. 23.4s; 7. D. McCarthy and E. Hayes (Honda Civic) 2h. 23m. 58.8s; 8. B. O'Mahony and J. Higgins (Renault Clio S1600) 2h. 24m. 01.1s; 9. L. Downey and M. Murphy (Ford Escort) 2h. 25m. 32.8s; 10. J. Buttimer and D. Buttimer (Subaru) 2h. 26m. 18.9s.
The Irish crew of Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle suffered heartbreak in Rally Argentina when they were forced to retire their Peugeot 207 S2000 with a broken steering joint following the penultimate stage. They were set to take third until the late drama. They dropped to sixth after S.S. 14 but were unable to make it to the final stage.
The rally, the third round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, was won by Juho Hanninen (Skoda Fabia S2000), who has a five-point lead in the series. Briton, Guy Wilks, also in a Skoda, was second and Jan Kopecky inherited third after the demise of Wilks to complete a Skoda top three.
1. J. Hanninen (Skoda) 2h. 30m. 38.1s; 2. G. Wilks (Skoda) 2h. 31m. 29.1s; 3. J. Kopecky (Skoda) 2h. 32m. 58.2s.
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