Cork pair Daragh O’Riordan and Mikey Walsh (Ford Fiesta WRC) won the Rose Hotel Circuit of Kerry Rally in Tralee — round two of the Top Part West Coast Rally Championship.
Their victory was hard-earned as they were given a tough battle by the Subaru WRC duo of, first Limerick’s Ed Synan and then Clare’s Padraig Egan, before both retired, leaving O’Riordan/Walsh with an easier path to victory.
Their winning margin over the Group N Mitsubishi EvoX of Cashel’s Pat O’Connell and co-driver Adam Coffey was a minute and 39.7 seconds. O’Riordan/Walsh became the first crew to celebrate an Irish rally win with milk instead of the customary champagne.
On the opening stage, Synan led Egan by just six-10ths of a second, with O’Riordan 1.9 seconds behind and Subaru debutant Mike Quinn an additional 5.1 seconds back in fourth.
Quinn was quickest on the second stage to slot into third but retired on the road section to SS3 with engine woes. While Egan was best on SS3 and led Synan by 3.8 seconds, the stage times were eventually scrapped.
At the Tralee service, the revised times gave Synan a 2.4 second lead over Egan, with O’Riordan five seconds behind.
Limerick’s Sean Moran led the two-wheel drive category and was a fine fourth from Donegal’s Stuart Darcy, with Limerick’s Ian Roche (Subaru WRC) and Group N leader O’Connell next in classification.
A transmission problem on the fourth stage saw the end for Synan as O’Riordan, went in front for the first time, leading Egan by a mere two-10ths of a second. The pair traded times on stages five and six with Egan arriving at the final service halt four seconds ahead of O’Riordan. A fine drive saw Darcy move into third from O’Connell and Moran who had head gasket woes and retired at the service halt.
As a contest, the rally ended on SS7 when Egan took to the scenery and retired, leaving O’Riordan to coast home ahead of O’Connell and Welshman Tomas Davies (Escort) and his Killarney co-driver Shane Buckley, who reaped the rewards when Darcy spun on the final stage and lost significant time.
Limerick’s Keith Lyons (Fiesta R5) secured his best finish to claim fourth ahead of Darcy, Roche, who spun on SS6 and Colin Byrne (Escort) with an impressive Michael Hamilton (1600 cc Honda) next in classification. The Escorts of Kerry drivers Ed Murphy and Tim Enright rounded out the top 10.
Meanwhile, Portglenone’s Desi Henry (Skoda Fabia R5) and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan won the Strabane-based Eakin Bros Brian James Trailers Rally, round three of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship. They led all through and finished 14.1 seconds ahead of another Derry driver Callum Devine (Ford Fiesta R5) and his Enniskillen co-driver Brian Hoy.
Donegal’s Manus Kelly only managed to get past two corners before beaching his Hyundai i20 R5, albeit undamaged. Despite a trip up a bank on SS2 that brought some cosmetic damage Henry led from Philip Allen (Hyundai i20 R5) and Devine. Fuel pump failure on SS4 ended Allen’s rally as Henry and Devine went well clear of the rest. A superb time on the final stage saw Donegal’s Kevin Eves (Toyota Corolla) leapfrog both Ryan Loughran (Escort) and Derek McGarrity (Fiesta WRC) to claim the final spot on the podium.
Elsewhere, Cork’s Lucca Allen took four podium places (two seconds and two thirds) in the opening four races of the FIA Formula 4 Southeast Asia series at the Sepang International Circuit.