By Martin Walsh
PERFECTION – that describes the performance of Drinagh navigator Denis O’Donovan, who along with his driver, Mallow’s Derek Butler, won the Carbery Navigation Trial that was based at The Pike near Lisavaird.
Competing in a two-wheel drive 1300cc Toyota Starlet, they gave a faultless display over the 85-mile route around West Cork and finished without incurring any penalties.
Considering that the majority of the opposition were in four-wheel drive Subarus, their victory was all the more rewarding. Second place went to last year’s winners, Ovens Driver Owen Murphy and his Togher navigator Daire Hayes, who finished with 12 penalties with Leap’s Diarmuid Whelton and his Lisavaird navigator Mark McCarthy taking third on 26 penalties.
Several crews made a bright start. Indeed, 13 crews had a clean sheet during most of the first hour where they tackled terrain from The Pike to Barleyhill.
All was fine until they encountered the intricacies of the Central Track at Dromillihy on the outskirts of Leap. It proved a major hurdle for all with the exception of Butler/O’Donovan, who managed to complete the Tulip section without any problem.
Within a few miles, it already appeared that the battle for second was the proverbial three-horse race, as Murphy/Hayes, Whelton/Mark McCarthy and Limerick’s Joe Shinnors and Greg Shinnors were all on six penalties.
However, the Shinnors pair retired near Glandore when their Subaru became stuck. That area also brought the demise of the father and son duo of Leap’s James and Ciarán French (Toyota Corolla), who were setting the pace in the Beginner’s category until a broken driveshaft brought a premature end.
As Butler/O’Donovan continued to dominate, the Glandore/Union Hall region brought further losses for their rivals. A late arrival at a time point cost Murphy/Hayes some time while Whelton/McCarthy actually missed a time point.
By that stage Murphy/Hayes had accumulated 11 penalties. However, from thereon they managed well and only incurred one extra penalty to finish second with 12 penalties.
Whelton/McCarthy were fortunate to hang on to third as Leap’s Andrew Whelton and Rosscarbery’s Cyril Maguire finished a mere penalty point further behind in fourth, they won the Semi-Expert category.
Victory in the Novice section went to Monaghan’s Shane Dalton/Seamus McTigue.
Reigning Motorsport Ireland National Navigation Trial champions Monaghan’s Derek Mackarel and Togher’s Muireann Hayes had to be content with eighth overall and were followed by Monaghan’s Mac Kierans/Conor Boylan, who retained the lead of the Motorsport Ireland series. Mackarel/Hayes are second in the series a point behind.
The best Skibbereen and District Car Club crew were Carrigaline’s Eric Calnan and Blarney’s Derek O’Brien.
Afterwards, a delighted O’Donovan said, ‘I’m thrilled. The opposition was very strong. All the big guns from the national series were here and apart from Owen and Daire (Murphy and Hayes), the rest of them were outside the top five.’
On completing the route without incurring penalties, O’Donovan added, ‘I certainly didn’t think about it when we started out. I would have been happy with four or five penalties and that I wouldn’t miss a time point. The toughest part for us was a farm complex in Union Hall where we had to travel up a few grassy lanes. Running first on the road was an advantage. Really, the event was won and lost in the racetrack in Leap.’
O’Donovan also paid tribute to the organising team at the Skibbereen and District Car Club.
‘Brian (O’Mahony) picked a great route, he knows the terrain well and knows how to put a good event together.’
O’Donovan will now concentrate on organising the Skibbereen 100 Isles Navigation Trial at the end of January.
Results: 1. D Butler/D O’Donovan (Toyota Starlet) 0 penalties; 2. O Murphy/D Hayes (Subaru) 12 pens; 3. D Whelton/M McCarthy (Subaru) 26 penalties; 4. A Whelton/C Maguire (Subaru) 27 pens; 5. C Treanor/R Treanor (Subaru) 37 pens; 6. S Dalton/S McTigue (Subaru) 53 pens; 7. J Fitzgerald/K Carmody (Subaru) 61pens; 8. D Mackarel/M Hayes (Subaru) 68 pens; 9. M Kierans/C Boylan (Subaru) 71 pens; 10. J McKenna/O Sherlock (Subaru) 82 pens.