LEADING from the start, Cavan pair Jonathan Pringle/James Fulton (Ford Escort) won last weekend’s Imokilly Rally, the fourth round of the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship that was based in Midleton.
One of the performances of the rally was that of Donegal’s Declan Gallagher (Toyota Starlet), who was co-driven by Bandon’s Shane O’Mahony, who had never previously competed in a rally; they were second overall. As part of a fundraising scheme to help four-year-old Culann Cashman, who suffers from cerebral palsy, tickets were sold for the co-driver’s seat for Gallagher and Tyrone’s Frank Kelly (Escort). O’Mahony won the seat with Gallagher, his only previous involvement in the sport was as part of the service crew for Bandon’s James O’Sullivan several years ago. Gallagher/O’Mahony finished 30.9 behind the winners and 1.5 seconds ahead of Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien/John Butler (Escort).
At the Midleton service park the Donegal driver gave his opinion on his novice co-driver, O’Mahony: ‘He’s doing a great job in fairness, he’s quite good you know, the notes are there. He did his homework as he watched the DVD of the stages and he’s right on it. I’m impressed especially as it’s his first time co-driving.’
Pringle, who was a late entry, settled quickly and posted the fastest time on the first stage that traversed the narrow roads to the south of Cloyne and Shanagarry. Gallagher was next best, 11.4 seconds behind, followed by Enda O’Brien (Escort), was 3.3 seconds further adrift.
With last year’s winner Gary Kiernan withdrawing his entry before the seeding took place, another Cavan driver Chris Armstrong (Escort) was installed in the number one spot. He overshot the second junction at high speed and finished the stage in fifth place. Tom Flaherty (Escort) and Mark Dolphin (Escort) were next.
Prior to the rally, Denis Cronin withdrew due to a back injury and his nephew Daniel (partnered by Kilnamartyra’s JJ Cremin) took his place in the ex-McCann Mitsubishi and duly finished the stage in eighth spot. Another fastest time on the stage near Midleton gave Pringle a lead of 17.4 seconds over Gallagher.
Enda O’Brien continued in third but the instability of his Escort gave him cause for concern. Armstrong and Byrne followed. Daniel Cronin (Mitsubishi) held seventh having increased his pace on the second stage where he had a slight skirmish with a chicane bale.
With another pair of fastest times on the repeat of both stages Pringle led an untroubled Gallagher by 28.6 seconds as co-driver O’Mahony enjoyed his new role. Pringle lost a few seconds when he spun and damaged the exhaust on SS 3.
Taking a steady pace Pringle took victory as Armstrong and O’Brien set the respective fastest times on stages five and six. Gallagher/O’Mahony managed to keep O’Brien at bay and secure second spot, albeit by 1.5 seconds. Armstrong finished fourth with Byrne and Cronin completing the top six. Other Cork finishers in the top ten were Mark Dolphin (eighth) and Ovens driver Donal O’Brien (ninth), the former, co-driven by Colin Fitzgerald (Halfway) had a reoccurrence of the misfire on the closing pair of stages.
Meanwhile, Rosscarbery’s Jerry O’Mahony/Willie Buchannan (Ford Escort) won Class 10 despite some alternator issues. Lissarda’s Philip Cross/Tony Hennessy (Mitsubishi) won Class 4. The junior category was won by Carrigaline’s Eric Calnan (Peugeot 106) and his Rosscarbery co-driver Aileen Kelly.
Elsewhere, Rosscarbery’s Brian O’Mahony and Leap’s Michelle Gallwey (Honda Civic) were third in Class 1, while Diarmuid and Peter Keohane (Ford Escort) from The Pike finished third in Class 13. Bandon co-driver Sinead O’Donovan and Limerick’s Roland Doherty (Vauxhall Nova) were second in Class 9.