They were a minute and 27.1 seconds ahead of the Mitsubishi of Cashel’s Pat O’Connell and his Cork co-driver Mark Wiley. Dundalk’s Brendan Cumiskey/Ronan O’Kane (Fiesta R5) were a tenth of a second further behind in third. Fourth place for locals Gerard Lucey/JJ Cremin (Mitsubishi) was enough to propel them into the lead of the series. Killarney’s Rob and Tara Duggan (Peugeot 208 R2) were the top two-wheel drive exponents.
With just six-tenths of a second between Henry and Irish Forest champion Josh Moffett (Mitsubishi) after the short opening stage at Derreenaling, the prospect of a close battle loomed large, while Lucey was 3.4 seconds behind in third. On the fast, flowing stage on the opposite side of the N22, Moffett’s challenge ended when he nosed into a ditch. He lost over 10 minutes before spectators pushed him back on track, but turbo problems and panel damage forced his withdrawal. Liam Ryan (Mitsubishi) also retired with transmission failure.
Meanwhile, Henry was well clear of his rivals. A precise and powerful drive saw him move 55.1 seconds in front. The battle for second intensified, with an untroubled Lucey 2.2 seconds ahead of Pat O’Connell, while Cumiskey, who had a slow puncture near the finish of the third stage, was 5.8 seconds further behind. Though his Mitsubishi lost brakes on the fourth stage, pre-event championship leader Patrick O’Brien retained fifth, followed by the Fiesta WRC of Robert Moffett. The top 10 also included the Mitsubishis of Niall Henry, Michael Carbin, Darren McKelvey, and the Peugeot of Rob Duggan. Elsewhere, Adrian Hetherington was on a learning curve as he debuted a Toyota Corolla WRC. Niall McCullagh (Mitsubishi) withdrew at the service park with differential troubles.
Though he eased off, Henry continued to dominate and he extended his advantage to a minute and 11.2 seconds after the completion of the sixth stage. O’Connell slotted into second at the expense of Lucey, who was also reeled in by a charging Cumiskey. Niall Henry and Carbin filled the top six. Henry went on to claim a deserved victory, with O’Connell just managing to repel the charge of Cumiskey, who was only a tenth of a second behind. For the second year in succession, Lucey was fourth, while McKelvey’s late push saw him claim fifth at the expense of Niall Henry.
Duggan reigned supreme in the two-wheel drive category.
In the opening round of the European Le Mans Series at Silverstone, the Murphy Prototype team that included Donegal’s Damien Faulkner took their LMP2 Oreca 03R to 12th in the LMP2 class and 15th overall. Cork’s Matt Griffin and his AF Corse team- mates Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott were fifth in the LMGTE category.
In Mondello Park, Niall Murray won both races in the opening rounds of the SEAT Supercup Ireland series.