Omagh’s Ryan Barrett (Ford Escort) made light of his inexperience of the Killarney terrain, and guided by Paul McCann took a maiden victory in the Rentokil Initial Killarney Historic Rally. Moving into the lead on the fourth stage they finished the seven-stage event 45.1 seconds ahead of the Escort of Welsh ace Mel Evans and his Cork co-driver Sean Hayde.
The Cork/Limerick duo of Owen Murphy/Anthony Nestor (Sunbeam Lotus) were a minute and 14 seconds further adrift in third. Meanwhile, the local crew of Rob Duggan/Ger Conway (Escort) took a start to finish victory in the Modified category while there was a last stage win for Meath’s Michael Cahill/ Brian Cassidy (Escort) in the Junior category.
Evans was best over Moll’s Gap despite an anxious moment when the rear of his pristine Escort stepped out but he managed to curb the slide. Murphy was hot on his heels and even though he lost brakes some four miles into the iconic stage and also had a misfire, he was only 1.2 seconds behind.
Stanley Orr (Escort) was 13.3 seconds further adrift followed by Barrett.
On the three-stage loop that followed, Barrett set the best times to edge 4.5 seconds ahead. His rival Evans had a spin on S.S. 2, was off briefly on S.S. 3. hitting the rear left corner and both dented his confidence.
On S. S. 5 Evans cut the deficit to 2.5 seconds but his bid to get closer came undone on the penultimate stage when the throttle cable ravelled. He finished the stage 23.3 seconds behind the Kumho shod Escort of the untroubled Barrett, who dominated the final stage and won by 45.1 seconds. Murphy’s perseverance with his ailing Sunbeam resulted in the retention of third. Lloyd, Johnson and Rayner completed the top six. The legendary Jimmy McRae (Vauxhall Firenza) came home seventh on his first Irish event of the year.
In the Modified section, Duggan was best on “The Gap” as he became accustomed to the power unit of his hired 2.4 Escort. Jack Newman (Escort) was 3.4 seconds behind in second with the genial Phil Collins (Escort) 8.2 seconds further off the pace. Cavan’s Gary Kiernan (Escort) lost almost four minutes when he punctured the rear left wheel, he was quickest on the next three to move up from 72nd. to 28th.
Although leader Duggan continued to impress, a hard charging Newman was in no mood to give him a smoother passage and was only 6.7 seconds in arrears.
Gaining time on S.S. 5 Duggan went 14.2 seconds ahead but Newman responded to reduce the margin to 7.9 seconds prior to the night’s final stage. In a dramatic final stage Duggan damaged the rear left wheel rim, but kept his composure to take victory by 5.6 seconds. Donegal’s Kevin Eves (Toyota Corolla) made a final stage push that saw him take third away from Damien Toner (Escort). Keenan’s final destiny was seventh as former Irish Tarmac and National champion Donagh Kelly in a Mk. 1 Escort finished eighth.
Meanwhile, Longford’s Pakie Duffy (Subaru) and his Monaghan navigator Evin Hughes won the third round of the National Navigation series in Drumlish, Longford where second place for the Monaghan/Cork pair of Derek Mackarel/Muireann Hayes (Subaru) was enough to retain the lead of the series.
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