00:00 Saturday 22 March 2008  Written by Martin Walsh

OSullivan wins West Cork Rally

LEADING all though the seventeen stages of the Quality Hotels West Cork Rally, Cullen born Donie O'Sullivan and his co-driver, Paul Nagle, on board the Atomic Energy Drink liveried Subaru WRC, took their second victory in the Clonakilty-based event.

They finished two minutes and 14 seconds ahead of the Welsh crew of John Dalton/Gwynfor Jones (Darrian). Top local crew, Liam McCarthy/Kieran Murphy (Toyota Corolla), who won the Paddy Keohane Memorial Trophy, were 33.6 seconds further behind in third.

Three other local crews were amongst the class winners. Leap driver James Collins and his co-driver, TJ Deasy, brought their Vauxhall Nova to a popular victory in Class 9. Dunmanway's Ger O'Connell/Stephen Hayde (Ford Escort) emerged victorious in Class 12; they also won the Denis Buckley Memorial Trophy. Meanwhile, Lissarda's Philip Cross/Dave Kearney (Escort Cosworth) won Class 15.

Two local co-drivers were also amongst the top ten finishers. Newcestown's Adrian Deasy partnered Alan Ring to victory in Group N, while Clonakilty's Ruth Guest was co-driver for Wesley Patterson, who piloted the first Mk. 2 Ford Escort home in sixth place.

Difficult conditions greeted the drivers on the opening stage at Rossmore. It didn't seem to make a difference to O'Sullivan, who set the best time for the stage. In contrast, Liam McCarthy had the imposition of a 30 second penalty for a jump-start to contend with as he acclimatised to his new Toyota Corolla WRC. Meanwhile, Stephen Murphy lost vital time when he stalled his Subaru at the hairpin on the second half of the stage. Colm Murphy made a great start, while Phil Collins was equally impressive.

The first major retirement was that of Stephen Murphy; he damaged an oil cooler and radiator following an altercation with the scenery. O'Sullivan also set the best time on the second stage, Ballinascarthy, and arrived at the Darrara service halt with a lead of 26.6 seconds over Colm Murphy, who lost a few seconds when he stalled his Mitsubishi off the start line of S.S. 2. The Mk. 2 Escorts of Adrian Hetherington and Phil Collins were next in classification, while JJ Fleming (Ford Focus WRC) occupied fifth and McCarthy, with the addition of the 30 second penalty, was sixth.

QUICKLY

Murphy's Group N Mitsubishi was the fastest car through S.S. 3, Rossmore, as rally leader, O'Sullivan lost time with a puncture. However, he bounced back quickly by setting the pace on the fourth stage as he led Murphy by 8.8 seconds. McCarthy, second fastest on S.S. 4, moved into third with Dalton climbing up the order to fourth ahead of Neil Williams (Escort). Wesley Patterson, who was third fastest through S.S. 3, was sixth, it could have been fifth were it not for the fact that he caught up with Kevin O'Donoghue's ailing Escort on one stage.

Alan Ring and his Newcestown co-driver, Adrian Deasy, were seventh with the modified cars of Conor Curley (Escort), Adrian Hetherington and James Stafford rounding off the top ten. JJ Fleming slid off the road and out of the rally, while Owen Murphy's plight nose-dived when he suffered a time consuming puncture on S.S. 3.

On S.S. 5, Sam's Cross, O'Sullivan added twelve seconds to his lead but lost it all again when he spun and stalled his Subaru on the stage at Rathbarry. Indeed, he lost further time on the day's final stage when he had to traverse the stage without fifth gear. Yet, he still finished the day with a lead of 14 seconds with Colm Murphy (Mitsubishi) some 55.4 seconds ahead of John Dalton, who edged his way into third. Indeed, Dalton's performance was one of the highlights of the afternoon stages.

Liam McCarthy was only a fraction of a second behind, while Wesley Patterson occupied a fine fifth place but was concerned about the rear axle of his Escort. The Darrian of James Stafford held sixth at the overnight halt from Alan Ring (Subaru). The final three places in the top ten were occupied by the Escorts of Neil Williams and Phil Collins and Gwyndaf Evans.

Ovens driver, Owen Murphy crashed his Mitsubishi on one of the afternoon tests. Local drivers that retired during the day included Ardfield's Eoghain Calnan, Drimoleague's Martin Lordan and Barryroe's Damien McCarthy, the latter with a gearbox malady, he was well inside the top twenty at the time.

Meanwhile, Carrigaline's Brian O'Mahony, who lost time on the first stage, held 15th overnight. Other overnight positions included Lissarda's Philip Cross (Escort Cosworth) in 25th, just ahead of Fintan Canty (Escort). Jason O'Mahony (Honda Civic) was 32nd, one place ahead of Willie McCarthy (Escort), Ger O'Connell and Diarmuid Keohane ended the day in 34th and 36th places respectively.

Out on the first of Sunday's nine stages, Inchy Bridge, O'Sullivan added some 19 seconds to his advantage, on S.S. 10, Clogagh, he gained a further 14 seconds and duly arrived at the Darrara service halt with a lead of 47.1 seconds, yet again, he was afforded the luxury of a time consuming manoeuvre at some of the tighter junctions as his Subaru experienced some differential trouble.

Second placed Colm Murphy reckoned his tyre choice could and indeed, should have been better. However, he was still an extremely comfortable margin ahead of Dalton, who had moved some seven seconds ahead of McCarthy. The Dunmanway driver was experiencing a few intercom worries.

steady

James Stafford (Darrian) leapfrogged Wesley Patterson in the battle for fifth. Alan Ring had a steady run through both stages to hold seventh as Neil Williams continued to impress in his Mk. 2 Escort; he was eighth followed by Phil Collins and Gwyndaf Evans. Evans lost time at the location where Conor Curley crashed his Escort out of tenth place.

On the repeat of the stages, O'Sullivan continued to lead and although he had a slight altercation with the West Cork scenery, yet again, this time loss and another with a overshoot, scarcely mattered and went unpunished as he led by 46.1 seconds. Murphy had already decided to settle for second and that, considering the way things were working out for O'Sullivan, was a sensible option.

The race between Dalton and McCarthy was the focus of attention as the Dunmanway ace cut the deficit to just 4.1 seconds. Stafford, despite running extremely late of the road, held fifth; it appeared he spent several minutes attending to an electrical problem on board his Darrian. Wesley Patterson was the best of the Mk.2 Escorts, he was sixth overall ahead of an untroubled Alan Ring (Mitsubishi). The top ten also included Neil Williams, Phil Collins and Sean Flanagan. Pat Donegan and his Rosscarbery co-driver Andy O'Donoghue crashed their Ford Escort, having been on the fringes of the top ten.

On the first run through the Ring stage, Colm Murphy's fine drive ended when he crashed into the sea wall - instantly promoting Dalton and McCarthy to second and third respectively.

Meanwhile, O'Sullivan tackled the stage with his Subaru in full fettle as the McKinstry team diagnosed the differential problem that was eventually traced to a faulty sensor. With another fastest time he added to his lead. Dalton was quickest through S.S. 15, Dunworly and gained some 15 seconds on McCarthy, who was eight seconds quicker on the preceding stage, to leave the Dunmanway driver nine seconds behind with three stages remaining.

As O'Sullivan coasted to his second Quality Hotels West Cork Rally win in six years, Dalton increased his lead over McCarthy, he was quickest through the spectator stage at Clonakilty to seal the runner-up spot. McCarthy took yet another podium finish on his local event and won the Paddy Keohane Memorial Trophy.

Meanwhile, Stafford, who was running well down the order - possibly as many as 40 places - and despite the fact that, one hour after the finish, he didn't even figure in the interim results, was eventually classified fourth. Ring, and his Newcestown co-driver Adrian Deasy posted the best time through S.S. 16, Dunworly, took Group N honours. Wesley Patterson and his local co-driver Ruth Guest were an impressive sixth and top Mk. 2 Ford Escort.

Phil Collins (Escort) was sixth in a top ten that was completed by Sean Flanagan (Subaru), Adrian Hetherington (Escort) and Washington James (Darrian). Meanwhile, Alan Carmichael took top points in the Irish Mitsubishi Evo series. Marty McCormack took top points in the opening round of the C2R2 series, while Barry Evans was Sunday's top points scorer.

LOCAL

From a local context, aside from those already mentioned, there were a number of other award winners. Ballinspittle's John McCarthy/Fergus Harrington (Peugeot 306) were second in Class 3; Carrigaline's Brian O'Mahony/John Higgins (Renault Clio) having lost over five minutes with a puncture, finished second in Class 6.

Other local crews were amongst the award winners were Rosscarbery's Jason O'Mahony/Jonathan O'Mahony (Honda Civic) were second in Class 11, they were also presented with an award for second placed West Cork crew. Another Rosscarbery crew, Philip Giles/Aoife McCarthy (Toyota Corolla), were third in class 11 and Clonakilty's Michael McKennedy/Andrew Mahon (Toyota Corolla), who lost time with a broken gear lever, were fifth in the same class.

Clonakilty's Steve Roberts/Adrian Hayes (Escort) were second in Class 12. Diarmuid and Peter Keohane (Escort) finished fifth in Class 13, and third West Cork crew, they also received the best Cork Motor Club crew award.

Four of the five award winners in Class 10 were from West Cork. Rosscarbery's Jerry O'Mahony/Willie Buchannan (Escort) were second followed by Bandon's Allan Clarke/James Kingston (Vauxhall Nova); Timoleague's Brendan O'Sullivan/Kevin Flynn (Peugeot 205), and Bandon's Victor and Susan Beamish (Vauxhall Nova).

Non-finishers included Rosscarbery's John Buttimer (Subaru); he was just outside the top twenty until a puncture on one of Saturday's stages dropped him some 50 places. Having worked his way back to the mid twenties, a broken gear selector forced his retirement prior after the penultimate stage. Bantry's Catherine Levis (Nissan Micra) retired on Saturday's final stage with a blown head gasket. Both Willie Buttimer (Escort) and Brian O'Mahony (Peugeot 106) crashed out in an unfortunate incident. Other retirements included Dunmanway's Jason McSweeney (Honda Civic) and Clonakilty's Mike Walsh (Escort).

1. D. O'Sullivan/P. Nagle (Subaru) 2h. 11m. 15.9s; 2. J. Dalton/G. Jones (Darrian) 2h. 13m. 39.9s; 3. L. McCarthy/K. Murphy (Toyota Corolla WRC) 2h. 14m. 13.5s; 4. J. Stafford/F. Dwyer (Darrian) 2h. 16m. 43s; 5. A. Ring/A. Deasy (Mitsubishi) 2h. 16m. 59.3s; 6. W. Patterson/R. Guest (Ford Escort) 2h. 17m. 02.9s; 7. P. Collins/D. Brannigan (Ford Escort) 2h. 17m. 27.0s; 8. S. Flanagan/B. Duggan (Subaru) 2h. 19m. 49.7s; 9. A. Hetherington/G. Nolan (Escort) 2h. 19m. 56.0s; 10. W. James/A. Jones (Darrian) 2h. 20m. 18.5s.

CIRCUIT

The Circuit of Ireland Rally begins on Friday, the three-day event, the second round of the Global Group Irish Tarmac Championship, is based at Downpatrick. Clonakilty's Kevin and Martin Kelleher (Mitsubishi) are the top County Cork crew. Friday's itinerary features four stages, Saturday's second leg has ten stages, the rally concludes with six stages on Sunday.

The top ten for next week's Circuit of Ireland is as follows: 1. Gareth MacHale (Ford Focus WRC); 2. Mark Higgins (Subaru WRC); 3. Tim McNulty (Subaru WRC); 4. Eamonn Boland (Subaru WRC); 5. Aaron MacHale (Ford Focus WRC); 6. Derek McGarrity (Subaru WRC); 7. Peadar Hurson (Subaru WRC); 8. Denis Biggerstaff (Subaru WRC); 9. Garry Jennings (Mitsubishi); 10. Kevin Kelleher (Mitsubishi).

The Limerick Forest Rally takes place on Sunday with plenty of local interest. Keith Cronin will tackle the event as a shakedown for his next outing in the Mitsubishi Evo Challenge, the Ballylickey driver will be partnered by Limerick's Greg Shinnors. Denis Cronin (Subaru WRC) is also competing while two local Junior crews are also competing - Barryroe's Damien McCarthy/Eamonn Hayes and Inchinattin's Ian Stanley and Alan Whyte, both in Honda Civics.

The main entry also includes Andrew Purcell (Subaru WRC), Ray Breen (Ford Focus WRC), Colin Britton (Mitsubishi) and Emma McKinstry (Subaru WRC). The eight-stage event is based at the Woodland House Hotel, Adare with servicing at Newport Mart.

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