Michael and James O’Brien pairing overcome late drama

London-based Churchtown driver Michael O’Brien and fellow north Cork co-driver James O’Brien from Dromtarriffe survived some late drama to win the Carrick on Suir based Willie Loughman Forest Rally, the first round of the Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship.

Michael and James O’Brien pairing overcome late drama

Their ’08 specification Ford Focus went into safe mode on the final stage but they had enough of a cushion and won by 17.2 seconds.

Desi Henry/Liam Moynihan (Subaru WRC) fashioned a fine recovery for second after a troubled opening three stages and even had a damaged shock absorber for four stages. Cork pair Gerard Lucey/JJ Cremin (Mitsubishi) were third.

Henry (Subaru WRC) was the only four-wheel drive competitor to traverse the opening stage after the emergency services were deployed to attend to a spectator that had taken ill in a non-related incident. The remaining crews in the category, including those that had started the stage before being subsequently flagged down, were duly accorded Henry’s time.

Waterford’s Andrew Purcell was the first major retirement –his Mitsubishi locked up at the first corner of the stage and retired instantly. Meanwhile, Micky Conlon (Escort) was fastest of the two-wheel drive section – 9.2 seconds ahead of the Escort of James Coleman.

O’Brien was quickest through the second stage, Slievenamon and also topped the time sheets for S.S. 3, Anner, he arrived at the Carrick on Suir service park with a lead of 17.5 seconds over Gerard Lucey (Mitsubishi).

Leader of the two-wheel drive category Micky Conlon (Escort) admitted he had a major moment on the third stage.

He was seventh in a top ten that also featured Ian Chadwick (Subaru), Andrew Fanning (Mitsubishi) and Stephen Cullen (Subaru). James Coleman had an eventful loop. On the first stage his Escort suffered a puncture close to the stage finish, then on S.S. 2, the relay for the fan dropped out and his Escort overheated.

In the process of trying to solve the issue he sustained some burns on his hand, nevertheless, he was second in the category.

With his Subaru back on four-wheel drive Desi Henry (albeit still with a leaking shock absorber) was quickest by over 20 seconds on S.S. 4, although he remained in fourth and was within touching distance of second spot. That second place was occupied by brother Niall, who moved ahead of Lucey with O’Brien. Desi Henry clocked two additional fastest times to secure second and Lucey got the better of Niall Henry in the race for third.

Micky Conlon (Escort) was the best two-wheel drive and Kevin Eves (Peugeot 208 R2) won the Junior category.

Meanwhile, the west Cork duo of Leap’s Dermot Whelton and Lisavaird’s Mark McCarthy won the Cavan Navigation Trial, a counting round of the National Navigation Trial Championship.

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