Three drivers are involved in a titanic struggle for supremacy in the Ordnance Survey Ireland Rally of the Lakes in Killarney, the third round of the Global Group Irish Tarmac Championship.
At the conclusion of today’s first leg, that consisted of eight special stages, Wexford’s Eamonn Boland (Subaru WRC) is 10 seconds ahead of the Ford Focus WRC of Dubliner, Gareth MacHale with local ace, Donie O’Sullivan (Subaru WRC) a further 11.8 seconds behind in third.
Wet weather greeted the crews on this morning’s opening stage at Moll’s Gap as Eamonn Boland set the pace - 1.1 seconds ahead of the similar S12B Subaru WRC of Tim NcNulty.
Kevin Lynch, also in Subaru WRC, was third followed by Donie O’Sullivan and Gareth MacHale.
O’Sullivan lost time with a puncture while MacHale’s lack of vision through a misted over windscreen stymied his progress.
By SS3, McNulty, courtesy of two fastest times, headed the time sheets and led Boland by 3.3 seconds with O’Sullivan third from MacHale, who was still troubled trying to get the best vision through the screen, in fourth.
Lynch crashed out on the Healy Pass.
McNulty and MacHale dominated stages four, five and six as McNulty went 18.4 seconds ahead of Boland. MacHale was a further 12.5 seconds in arrears in third.
O’Sullivan, in fourth, lost time due to the lack of third gear and some fuel pump trouble.
Out on Stage 7, McNulty put his Subaru off the road and out of the rally and Boland took up the lead role.
However, MacHale stayed in touch and by the today’s final stage had closed to within ten seconds while O’Sullivan also came back into the reckoning.
The top three have opened up a significant gap over fourth placed, Derek McGarrity, who made incorrect tyre choices on the opening five stages.
The Glengormley driver is one minute and 32.6 seconds behind O’Sullivan.
Dessie Keenan (Subaru) is fifth from Aaron MacHale’s Ford Focus and Group N leader, Colm Murphy in a Mitsubishi.
The overnight top ten also features Subaru pair, Patrick Elliott and PJ McGrath and the Mitsubishi of Kevin Kelleher.
Kris Meeke, driving a Renault Clio is proving very spectacular to watch, he was as high as fifth until a puncture cost him over three minutes, he’s now eleventh.
The event concludes tomorrow with a further nine stages.
1 Eamonn Boland/Damien Morrissey (Subaru WRC) 1h. 09m. 44.7s.
2 Gareth MacHale/Craig Parry (Ford Focus WRC) 1h. 09m. 54.7s.
3 Donie O'Sullivan/Barry Goodman (Subaru WRC) 1h. 10m. 06.5s.
4 Derek McGarrity/Diarmuid Falvey (Subaru WRC) 1h. 11m. 39.1
5 Dessie Keenan/Enda Sherry (Subaru WRC) 1h. 12m. 27.9s.
6 Aaron MacHale/Killian Duffy (Ford Focus WRC) 1h. 13m. 07.9s.
7 Colm Murphy/Ger Loughrey (Mitsubishi Evo 9) 1h. 13m. 11.5s.
8 Patrick Elliott/James O'Brien (Subaru WRC) 1h. 14m. 38.0s.
9 PJ McGrath/Billy Collins (Subaru WRC) 1h. 14m. 56.6s.
10 Kevin Kelleher/Martin Kelleher (Mitsubishi Evo 9) 1h. 15m. 39.1s.
11 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Renault Clio S1600) 1h. 15m. 48.1s.
In the National category, James Stafford (Darrian) leads the Escort pair of Martin McGee and Phil Collins.
1 James Stafford/Frank Dwyer (Darrian T90) 1h. 14m. 36.1s.
2 Martin McGee/Arthur Kierans (Ford Escort) 1h. 15m. 20.4s.
3 Phil Collins/Derek Brannigan (Ford Escort) 1h. 15m. 34.6s.