BY MARTIN WALSH
WEST Cork drivers David Guest (Dunmanway) and Gerard Lucey (Ballyvourney) served up a thrilling battle in the post-Christmas Mitchelstown Motors Boggeragh Rallysprint at Nad where drama unfolded on the fourth and final run.
Following the completion of the four timed runs, Guest, in his Ford Fiesta R5, took his maiden rally win while Lucey, driving his Mitsubishi EvoIX and who led all through the previous three timed runs, had to be content with third, 4.2 seconds further behind.
The event organised by the Cork Motor Club attracted an entry of 69 competitors and is likely to become an annual event such was its relaxed and popular nature.
On the first run Lucey and his Cill na Martra co-driver JJ Cremin set the quickest time (three minutes and 43 seconds) for the 5.6-kilometre stage in the shadows of the wind farm.
Guest, on what was only his fourth ever outing on gravel and his first in the Fiesta R5, was just 2.9 seconds in arrears. Although he reeled in another competitor, he lost no time in the overtaking move. Guest’s regular co-driver, Mitchelstown’s Jonathan McGrath, was unavailable and Millstreet’s Liam Moynihan, who had co-driven for Guest many years ago, proved an able deputy.
Limerick duo Mike O’Connor (Jr) and co-driver Greg Shinnors (who partnered Keith Cronin to his first British Rally Championship success in 2009) slotted their Mitsubishi Evo IV into third place, 2.7 seconds further behind and 1.2 seconds ahead of the ex-Marcus Gronholm Ford Focus WRC of Waterford’s Ray Breen and his Wexford co-driver Andy Hayes. The top six was completed by the Mitsubishi Evo IXs of Limerick’s Alan Shinnors and PJ O’Connor. Tyrone’s Frank Kelly (Ford Escort) was the top two-wheel drive exponent; he held seventh overall.
On the second run Lucey extended his advantage to 7.7 seconds but was concerned as his Mitsubishi experienced a build-up of water pressure. At service, the second-placed Guest was 3.5 seconds faster the second time around. O’Connor remained third but was 12 seconds off the lead while Breen was 1.4 seconds further adrift.
Guest and Breen set equal best times through SS 3, though Lucey retained his lead that stood at seven seconds. Breen moved into third where the previous incumbent Mike O’Connor (Junior) lost time with transmission problems and dropped down to 59th in overall classification.
The fourth and final run produced great drama. Midway through the 5.6km test Lucey’s Mitsubishi lost power for about a kilometre and he knew his opportunity for what would have been a maiden rally was in severe jeopardy. What he didn’t know was that Guest was also in trouble as he spun his R5 at the very last corner and he was forced to reverse to get back on stage. When they compared times at the service area Guest, despite the spin, had taken the laurels.
Even though there were issues with the results system, a Guest victory was never in doubt and it was later confirmed that he had taken the laurels by a margin of 2.8 seconds. Unfortunately, Lucey had to settle for third, 1.4 seconds behind second-placed Breen.
‘It has been a long time coming but I am absolutely delighted,’ said rally winner Guest, who added, ‘It’s hard luck on Ger (Lucey) as he was winning all day. I was delighted to get out and get a run on gravel. At the start of the stage I knew that seven seconds was a lot to pull back but we decided to give it a good go. Then, when we spun at the last junction we thought that was it, but sure you never know really.’
Long-time leader Lucey remarked, ‘We are disappointed, we thought we had it in the bag but it slipped away from us in the end. Hopefully, we will have other days. We will be back again.’
Both Guest and Lucey were run by Ballymakeery-based TTEC Rally Preparation. Team boss Colm Grant said, ‘It was nice to get two in the top three. It looked for a time that we would have a one-two but that’s the way it goes. It was great for David (Guest) on what was his first time on gravel in the R5 car. It was tough on Ger (Lucey) but it just shows the fickle nature of motorsport.’
Elsewhere, the Douglas father and daughter pairing of Mark and Shaunagh Murphy (Subaru) finished tenth overall. Bantry co-driver Catherine Levis and her husband Matt Shinnors (Mitsubishi), who have moved to the Dunmanway region in recent times, won Class 2B and were 12th in overall classification. Dunmanway’s Mike Casey (Peugeot 205), who competed without a co-driver, won Class 6 and Rosscarbery’s Brian O’Mahony and Leap’s Amy Gallwey (Subaru) finished 13th in Class 5 and 37th overall.
Result: 1. D Guest/L Moynihan (Ford Fiesta R5) 14m 51.6s; 2. R Breen/A Hayes (Ford Focus WRC) 14m 54.4s; 3. G Lucey/JJ Cremin (Mitsubishi) 14m 55.8s; 4. A Shinnors/G Shinnors (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 15m 20.2s; 5. PJ O’Connor/D Greaney (Mitsubishi EvoIX) 15m 31.6s; 6. B Stone/JP Ruth (Subaru Impreza) 15m 39.6s; 7. F Kelly/L Kelly (Ford Escort) 15m 43.7s; 8. M O’Connor Snr/G Shinnors (Mitsubishi EvoIV) 15m 54.3s; 9. S Corey/P McCullagh Jnr (Ford Escort) 16m 03.1s; 10. M Murphy/S Murphy (Subaru Impreza) 16m 23.5s.