Killarney’s Rob Duggan and his co-driver Ger Conway (Peugeot 208 R2) captured one of the top prizes in Irish rallying, a fully-funded drive in Rally GB, after a composed performance in the McKelvey Asbestos Removal Bushwhacker Rally in Omagh.
Needing a second-placed finish to either of his rivals, Kesh driver Jon Armstrong (Peugeot 208 R2) and Omagh’s Alan Smith (Citroen DS3 R3) to claim the prize, Duggan, aged just 23, showed great maturity with a measured performance that will see him pilot the David Greer Motorsport Citroen DS3 R3 on the final round of the World Rally Championship in November.
On the first of the day’s six stages Armstrong set the pace and led Duggan by five seconds with Smyth three seconds further behind. The order was unchanged through S.S. 2 albeit with respective margins of 13 and two seconds.
Smyth was quickest of the trio on S.S. 3. to move into second, 14 seconds behind Armstrong and five ahead of Duggan. Duggan’s time for S.S. 4 was just three seconds slower than Armstrong’s and the contest became a two-way tussle when Smyth put his Citroen off the forest track and bowed out of contention.
For the remaining two stages Duggan, in his Rentokil Initial liveried Peugeot, kept his composure and netted the prize.
“It’s hard to get my head around the fact that I will now be competing in Rally GB in a Citroen DS3 R3. I went to Omagh with the intention of coming second as that was going to be enough.
"Alan (Smyth) went ahead of us but we knew he was pushing hard. We went on a bit of a push on S.S. 4 to get back ahead of him, but unfortunately for him, he went off. I was very comfortable from the word go, we had a steady pace, took no chances and it all went smoothly.”
Meanwhile, the event, the eighth and final round of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship, was won by Mark Donnelly/Barry McNulty (Subaru WRC), who led from the start and finished 20 seconds ahead of the Mitsubishi of Monaghan’s Josh Moffett/Jason McKenna with Antrim’s Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia S2000) and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan 13 seconds further behind in third.
Former Pirelli Star Driver and Omagh native Donnelly set the pace. On board his S10 Subaru WRC he was quickest on the opening loop of three stages and led Moffett’s Group A Mitsubishi by 20 seconds with Henry (Skoda Fabia S2000) eight seconds back in third.
Omagh’s Martin Cairns (Subaru WRC) was a late entry and the organisers insisted he either ran first on the road or in his seeded position, he chose the former and occupied fourth after the opening loop followed by Kenny McKinstry (Subaru WRC), Niall McCullagh (Mitsubishi) and top two-wheel drive competitor Frank Kelly (Escort).
Donnelly cruised to victory with Moffett and Henry completing the top three. Kelly retired with transmission woes on the penultimate stage and Shane McGirr (Toyota Starlet) took the spoils in the two-wheel drive section.
Matt Griffin (Ferrari 458 GT3) and his Clearwater Racing team mate Richie Wee were ninth and 10th in the GT Asia double header at Shanghai.
In the penultimate round of the final Dunlop British Touring Car Championship at Silverstone, Colin Turkington (Volkswagen CC) kept his title hopes alive with victory in the day’s final race. Earlier, there were race wins for Matt Jackson (Ford Focus) and Andy Priaulx (BMw125i). Dubliner Aron Smith’s VW CC) best result was third in the opening race.