As his rivals fell by the wayside, Draperstown driver Marty McCormack gave the Volkswagen Polo GTI a winning Irish rallying debut on the CBtoolhire.com Cork “20” International Rally.
McCormack and his co-driver Barney Mitchell finished the 13-stage event, the final round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, 18.5 seconds ahead of the Skoda Fabia R5 of Welsh duo Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson. Belfast’s Jonny Greer and co-driver Kirsty Riddick (Ford Fiesta R5) finished a distant third almost three and a half minutes further behind.
Top seed Callum Devine found the first run through the stages at Kilnamartyra and Lough Allua bumpier and greasier than expected but it didn’t prevent him from setting the best times on both to move into a 17.4 second lead over the Skoda Fabia R5 of Meirion Evans. The Welshman had leapfrogged Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (Fiesta R5), who was 2.2 seconds behind and admitted he was too cautious on Lough Allua. Belfast’s Jonny Greer (Fiesta R5) and McCormack followed.
Cathan McCourt (Fiesta R5) occupied sixth but lost brakes half through the opening stage and spun on the next. Eugene Donnelly was happy with the performance of the Proton Iriz but was stymied by the lack of seat time and commitment.
On the repeat of both stages, Cronin was best through SS 3 but Devine, who had a slight spin, actually extended his lead to 27 seconds courtesy of a strong drive through SS 4. McCormack’s VW Polo showed the benefits of some changes to the settings as he slotted into third followed by Evans and McCourt.
The predicted deluge of rain arrived for the day’s final stage, Kilnamartyra, as Devine’s surge at the top received a major blow when the rear left driveshaft snapped.
He ended the day in fourth place – a minute and eight seconds off new leader Cronin, who was 20.8 seconds ahead of McCormack with Evans 3.9 seconds further behind in third. McCourt set the best stage time to hold fourth ahead of the unlucky Devine.
In Group N, Andy Davies (Subaru) ended the day 10.6 seconds ahead of rival Willie Mavitty (Mitsubishi), who was held up by another competitor.
for several kilometres on SS 5.
Yesterday, Devine’s bid to reel in Cronin ended on the day’s opening stage, Mullaghanish, where his Fiesta R5 lost grip over some loose chips and ended up in a drain. He also punctured later in the stage and retired.
A charging McCormack trimmed Cronin’s lead to 7.5 seconds but on the next stage, SS 7, Cronin endured a high-speed spin on a long left-hander and ended up in a drain with a broken steering arm that ended his rally.
New leader McCormack was composed and led Evans by 4.8 seconds. Cathan McCourt slotted into third but slipped into a drain and retired on SS 9.
By the end of the second loop of stages (SS 11) McCormack was in total control and without taking any risks whatsoever he moved 14.8 seconds ahead of Evans, who punctured but lost no significant time as it was almost at the stage finish.
Greer was a distant third – but was happy with the performance of his Fiesta. McCormack went on to claim his first International win as Evans and Greer completed the top three.
Eugene Donnelly in a Proton Iriz, along with Cork drivers David Guest in a Skoda Fabia S2000 and Denis Moynihan in a Fiesta R5, rounded out the top six. Welsh ace Andy Davies (Subaru) won Group N to seal the ITRC 2 title. Armagh’s Damien Toner (Escort) won the Modified category and in the historic spoils went to Ovens driver Owen Murphy (Sunbeam).