He finished 18 seconds ahead of the similar car of Limerick’s Ed O’Callaghan with Carlow’s David Condell, also in 2.5 litre Escort taking third, some 51 seconds adrift.
Barry Meade was the first major retirement, the Banteer driver opted for a tyre compound that transpired to be far too soft and his Escort took to the scenery on a bend that resulted in a broken steering arm and wheel damage.
O’Brien punched in the best stage time to lead O’Callaghan by a single second with Condell 15 seconds further behind in third.
O’Brien was also quickest on the second stage as he extended his lead to nine seconds with O’Callaghan struggling. Condell was 19 seconds back in a top six that also included the Escorts of Johno Doogan, Jason Roche, and Wayne Evans. Clare’s Padraig Egan (Subaru) had a gearbox problem en route to the start and although he lost fourth gear, he was seventh. Laois driver John Lynch (Darrian) retired on the opening stage with overheating issues. The Escort of Kerry’s Mike Quinn retired on SS2 with an electrical issue.
O’Callaghan posted the best time on SS3 to cut the deficit to four seconds only for O’Brien to make full use of his top speed and push the margin out to 15 seconds after SS4. Condell continued in third but lost ground to the leading duo as Doogan retained fourth. Egan retired with transmission woes. O’Brien added three seconds to his lead on the penultimate stage and was equal fastest with O’Callaghan on the final stage to claim victory. O’Callaghan finished 51 seconds clear of third-placed Condell. Doogan came home in fourth spot ahead of the Mk 1 Escort of Antrim’s Keith White and Welsh driver Wayne Evans. Waterford’s Brian O’Keeffe (Mitsubishi) won the Group N category. Westmeath’s Michael Cunniffe (Peugeot 106) won the Junior class.
Meanwhile, turbo failure on the final round of the European Le Mans Series in Portimao dashed the hopes of Matt Griffin and team mates Aaron Scott and Duncan Cameron in taking the LMGTE category of the series. It was a cruel blow for the Spirit of Race trio in their No. 55 Ferrari 488GTE as they were on course for success. A disappointed Griffin remarked, “We’re gutted, everything had been going so well, our race strategy was working to perfection. But that’s racing.”