After the day’s six stages they were 7.1 seconds in front of the Mitsubishi of Josh Moffett/Jason McKenna with early leaders Michael O’Brien/James O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC) a further 10.4 seconds behind in third.
Opening round winner O’Brien set the pace on the first stage but Antrim’s Desi Henry (Subaru WRC) and his Cork co-driver Liam Moynihan pushed hard and were only a fraction off the pace. Purcell occupied third just 1.8 seconds further behind and 5.1 seconds in front of Moffett.
Purcell then set the best time on the second stage but Henry continued to press and while the former moved into the lead, he was only three tenths of a second ahead of Henry. Indeed, it was all a very close affair with O’Brien another 1.2 seconds behind in third followed by Moffett, Enda McNulty (Subaru) and James Lucey (Mitsubishi).
Fastest again on the third stage Purcell began to tighten his grip on the rally — unlike Desi Henry whose challenge ended when his Subaru WRC overheated. McNulty retired with a mechanical problem.
At the halfway mark Purcell led O’Brien by 5.4 seconds with Moffett and Lucey completing the top quartet.
Having lost time on the second and third stage O’Brien decided to increase his challenge on the fourth stage.
However, his plan went awry after he overshot a junction, clipped a rock and punctured. Purcell — with another fastest time — moved 15.5 seconds in front of the London based Cork driver, whose second place was under threat by a constantly improving Josh Moffett, who was only eight tenths of a second behind.
On the penultimate stage Purcell decided to slacken his pace, albeit a little too much and with Moffett continuing his charge the gap between the pair was reduced to 9.6 seconds. O’Brien was third and Gerard Lucey edged ahead of Desi Henry to claim fourth.
Judging his pace to perfection Purcell took a fine victory to launch his title bid in the best possible fashion.
Moffett was second with O’Brien third. Lucey (Mitsubishi) retired with broken front driveshaft and that allowed Desi Henry clinch fourth in a top six that was completed by the Escorts of Micky Conlon and David Crossen.
Afterwards, a delighted Purcell said: “For once everything went well for us. We had no problems and no real moments, though we did back off a little bit too much on the penultimate stage. It’s great to win, especially after only getting about half a mile last time.”
Two-wheel drive winner Micky Conlon damaged a wheel on the fourth stage and also had brake troubles while he had a half spin on the penultimate stage. For his part, David Crossen had gearbox woes throughout the day and had to complete the final stage with just fourth gear.
In the Junior category, Donegal’s Kevin Eves led initially only to retire on the second stage when his Peugeot 208 R2 clouted some logs. The category was won by Tyrone’s Patrick O’Brien (Citroen C2 R2 Max).
Meanwhile, the Monaghan Navigation Trial, the final round of the Motorsport Ireland Navigation Trial Championship was won by Keith McConnon/Michael McCluskey (Subaru). They completed the event with just three penalty points. The Expert class was won by Pakie Duffy/Evin Hughes (Subaru): the best Semi-Experts were the West Cork duo of Dermot Whelton/Mark McCarthy (Subaru) and the Novice category was won by Derek Mackarel/Seamus McTigue (Subaru).
Motorsport Ireland has announced that Cavan’s Chris Armstrong is the first bi-monthly nominee for the 2015 Billy Coleman award.