Thirty years since O'Brien's incredible Fastnet Rally win

August 13th, 2019 5:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Skibbereen's Bernard O'Brien and Pat Coakley slide their Ford Escort out of the hairpin junction in Tragumna on their way to winning the 1989 Marine Hotel Fastnet Rally that was based in Glandore.

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We reflect on the Fastnet Rally where victory went to the local crew of Skibbereen's Bernard O'Brien and Pat Coakley

AS plans for this year’s Fastnet Rally step up a gear, we reflect on the event some years ago where victory went to the local crew of Skibbereen’s Bernard O’Brien and Pat Coakley (Ford Escort), who won the 1989 Marine Hotel Fastnet Rally.

Up until last year when Donegal’s Damien Tourish/Domhnall McAlaney won the event, O’Brien/Coakley were the last crew to drive a Mk 2 Ford Escort to victory.

It was a much different event in 1989 but local success was and always remains important, as O’Brien/Coakley finished 53 seconds in front of the Opel Manta of Cork’s John McGirr and his Killarney co-driver Maurice Nagle. Waterford’s Don Butler and his Glanmire navigator Vincy Coughlan (Ford Escort) were over a minute behind in third place.

The morning’s torrential rain made the stages extremely slippery as the 65 crews set out from Glandore just before noon. Butler (Escort) set the pace on the opening stage at Tragumna, the Waterford driver was 12 seconds quicker than O’Brien with the previous year’s winner, Dunmanway’s Liam McCarthy (Escort), a further four seconds behind.  The number two crew of Cahir’s Donie Keating and Barryroe’s Pat Finn (Vauxhall Chevette) were 19 seconds off the lead due to a slipping clutch.

On SS 2, Maultrahane, O’Brien/Coakley took the lead as the Escort of Butler/Coughlan sustained a puncture. On the stage itself, the Skibbereen crew were 11 seconds quicker than both McCarthy and Keating. O’Brien added a further five seconds on SS 3 and stretched his lead to 20 seconds with McCarthy in second place. 

Third placed Keating was still hampered by clutch issues. McGirr was fourth.

 Retirements on the opening loop included Jim McDonald (Opel Manta), Jimmy Deane (Opel Ascona) and local crews of John Whyte/Pat Whyte and Ken Stanley/John O’Sullivan.   

Keating/Finn survived a high-speed on on SS 4 but subsequently decided to call it a day after losing over ten minutes.

More drama unfolded when McCarthy/Murphy cut O’Brien’s lead to just five seconds.  However, SS 5 brought an end to their rally, as the number one crew rolled their Escort out of the rally. Luckily, neither were injured.

With the subsequent cancellation of the stage O’Brien led McGirr by 53 seconds, Butler moved into third followed by Ken Lyons. The remaining pair of stages were cancelled due to safety precautions.

By the final stage, the local crews of Willie McCarthy/Jim Clancy and Donal O’Donovan/Pat Lordan made their appearances in the top ten, finishing sixth and seventh respectively. Following the addition of road penalties Ken Lyons/Philip Moynihan dropped to eighth. A total of 26 crews retired during the day.  

Meanwhile, Liam McCarthy went on to win the Fastnet in 1992 and 2008 and Donal O’Donovan won in 1993 while Carlow’s Stephen Murphy, who was tenth in the 1989 event in a Sunbeam, became a National Rally champion in 1995 (clinching the title in Glandore from Mickey Farrell (Subaru Legacy) and 1996.  In the 1989 Fastnet, the Clerk of the Course was Donnchadha O-h-Aodha. 

Meanwhile, this year’s Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally takes place on Sunday, October 27th and is the final round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship. 

The eight-stage event will again be based in Bantry with James Kingston set to become the ninth different person to clerk the rally since its inception in 1982 when Schull’s Mick Barnett was the clerk of the course. This year’s rally will have two stages repeated three times with another repeated twice, the service park is adjacent to the town square in Bantry.

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