Daragh O’Riordan rules Fastnet Rally

Midleton’s Daragh O’Riordan (Ford Fiesta WRC) celebrated his 34th birthday in style with an emphatic and record-breaking fourth victory in the Bantry-based Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally that brought an end to the first season of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship.
Daragh O’Riordan rules Fastnet Rally

Co-driven by Derry’s Tony McDaid they finished a minute and 17.6 seconds ahead of the Fiesta WRC of Clonmel’s Roy White and Cork co-driver James O’Brien. Donegal’s Declan Gallagher and Ryan Moore (Toyota Starlet) were 11.5 seconds behind in third as they secured the rally.ie title in the Triton series.

Blitzing the opposition on the opening stage, Mullaghmore, O’Riordan was 20.4 seconds better than the opposition. Belittling his seeded position of No. 14, Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (Subaru WRC) was next best. He could have been closer were it not for a transmission problem.

Meanwhile, Mel Evans (Subaru WRC) finished a stage that proved slippery, a 10th of a second behind Cronin. One of the star performers in the two-wheel drive category, Declan Gallagher (Toyota Starlet) made a great start and held fourth in a top six that also included a fine performance from the Peugeot 208 R2 of Rob Duggan and the Ford Escort of Jonathan Pringle.

O’Riordan continued a breathtaking pace, on the third stage along Bantry Bay. He led by 40.2 seconds at the Bantry service park.

Showing equal dominance, albeit in lesser-powered machinery, was Declan Gallagher. Amazingly, his rear- wheel drive Toyota Starlet occupied second overall, 3.5 seconds in front of the Subaru WRC of Mel Evans, who had a few scary moments on the SS2 and a massive high-speed drift on the third stage.

After a poor opening stage performance, Roy White (Fiesta WRC) got to grips with the situation and from 11th on SS1, he was fourth after the opening loop. In Group N, local driver David Guest (Mitsubishi) led Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi) by 41 seconds.

Such was his dominance, O’Riordan eased off on the repeat loop, yet he managed to extend his lead margin to a minute and 18.4 seconds. Gallagher continued to withstand the challenge from Evans, who was 3.5 seconds behind and a second ahead of the ever-improving White. Gary Kiernan (Ford Escort) occupied fourth with Clonakilty’s Kevin Kelleher (Subaru WRC) moving into fifth.

White broke O’Riordan’s grip on fastest stage times on SS7 and duly displaced Gallagher in second spot as Evans moved to within a fraction of a second of the Donegal driver.

O’Riordan went on to net his fourth win in five years with White securing enough points to claim third overall in the Triton series. Gallagher managed to repel Evans to take a deserved third.

Kelleher and Gary Kiernan rounded off the top six with the final places in the top 10 annexed by the Escorts of Jonny Pringle and Chris Armstrong; Class 11 winner Rob Duggan and the impressive Group N winner David Guest (Mitsubishi EvoIX). Tyrone’s Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi) was second in the category to clinch the Motorsport Safety Group N award within the Triton Showers series.

The Junior category was won by the Meath/Cavan pairing of Gary McNamee/John McCabe (Honda Civic). Meanwhile, Bandon’s Vincent McSweeney (Honda Civic) overcame an electrical issue to claim enough points to win the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship.

In the RACC Rally Catalunya, Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen, who won the Fastnet Rally in 2007, took a dramatic final stage victory to claim his inaugural victory in a round of the WRC. World champion Sebastien Ogier had entered the final stage with a lead of 50.9 seconds. However, he crashed into a guard rail gifting the win to Mikkelsen. Irish pair Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen WRC) were fifth.

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