With an imperious performance, the local crew of Rob Duggan/Ger Conway (Ford Escort) took a superb victory in the Rentokil-Initial Killarney Historic Rally.
Leading from the start, they withstood the pressure from the experienced and out of contract World rally crew of Waterford’s Craig Breen and Killarney’s Paul Nagle, also in an Escort, to take a famous win by a margin of 14.4 seconds.
They also became the inaugural winners of the Maurice Nagle Cup. In truth, both crews served up a tremendous performance and while Breen/Nagle can point to a spin that cost them valuable time, Duggan/Conway were composed throughout. Last year’s winners, the Ovens/Askeaton duo of Owen Murphy/Anthony Nestor (Ford Escort) were two minutes and 5.8 seconds adrift in third.
As daylight emerged from a clouded Kerry skyline, Duggan pushed hard on the opening Moll’s Gap stage to open an eight second lead over Breen, who reckoned he opted for a tyre compound that was a little too soft.
Breen was marginally quicker through Beallaghbeama and Shanera to cut the deficit to 6.6 seconds. By the conclusion of the first loop the leading pair had opened up a considerable gap with Belfast’s Jonny Greer (Sierra) 28.2 seconds further behind in third and Owen Murphy 36.7 seconds off top spot after his Escort lapsed on to three cylinders all through the loop.
Another front runner and former winner Mark Falvey (Ford Escort) dropped out of contention when an axle bolt snapped.
Out on the repeat loop and while excelling through “the Gap” Duggan, who lost slightly over three seconds to Breen on Beallaghbeama remarked: “I never really liked that stage anyway” before he went on to move ten seconds ahead of Breen despite some understeer and an exhaust issue on Shanera. Breen had his own woes.
“I spun on the second run through Moll’s Gap and lost 10 seconds or more.”
Greer retired from third with suspected transmission trouble, the incumbent Murphy was a minute and 35 seconds further adrift having spun on S.S. 6.
Dubliner Robert Barrable (Escort) was fourth and reckoned he was far too conservative with his tyre choice; he spun and stalled on the sixth stage.
Welsh ace Neil Williams (Escort) was next followed by Ryan Loughran, who was on his first outing in a left-hand drive Escort and also had a new navigator in John McGrath. An oil deposit saw Cathan McCourt crash his Escort on Moll’s Gap where Luke McCarthy bowed out when his Escort lapsed on to two cylinders.
Punching the best times on the final pair of stages, Duggan powered his way to victory to complete a notable double as he won the modified category on the Rally of the Lakes last May.
Breen took second, adding, “It was a big, big pace today and it was great to be part of it.”
Murphy completed the top three from Williams, Barrable and Loughran. Killarney’s Alan Ring (BMW M3) came home seventh after brake issues in a top ten that also featured Donegal’s Martin Doherty, who was competing in Killarney for the very first time and was followed by the Escorts of Denis Cronin and Johnny O’Connor.
Killarney’s Colin O’Donoghue (Ford Escort) won the modified event, fastest on all bar one of the eight stages he finished 19.3 seconds ahead of Cavan’s Gary Kiernan with Donegal’s Martin McGee 26.5 seconds further behind in third completing an all Escort top three. Monaghan’s Raymond Conlon (Toyota Corolla) was fourth. Top seed Cavan’s Chris Armstrong crashed on the opening stage where he ripped a front wheel from his Escort and pulled the rear axle from its mountings.