At the end of the first leg of Rally Finland, round eight of the World Rally Championship, the Irish crew of Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Ford Fiesta S2000) hold fourth place in the S-WRC category.
It was an emotional return to the series for the Waterford driver after the fatal accident on the Targa Florio Rally in June that claimed the life of his Welsh co-driver, Gareth Roberts.
After he set the fourth fastest time in the category on the opening stage, he said: “It’s a sad feeling but I want to thank all the people who have given me the courage to get here. I never thought I’d be in a rally car again, let alone with a time that was not so far off the pace.” Breen reckoned he could have improved his stage time had he bled the brakes more effectively before the start of the stage. Breen maintained his position through yesterday’s remaining pair of stages.
Meanwhile, world champion, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) leads the main event 7.3 seconds ahead of his team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen and Ford’s Jar Matti Latvala, who are equal seconds. Petter Solberg (Ford Fiesta) and his Irish co-driver, Chris Patterson are fourth — 9.2 seconds off top spot. Today’s action features nine special stages.
Meanwhile, Killarney and District Motor Club hosts the latest round of the Munster Autocross Championship with a Grass Surface Autocross at Farranfore on Sunday next. The first timed run begins at 1.30pm. The entry is set to include Owen Murphy, Ger Brennan, Conor Bradley and Jerry Lehane. Last year’s winner, James Lucey will bid to retain the Jimmy Devane Memorial Cup. The Munster Kart Races at Kiltorcan, County Kilkenny start at 11am.
Former national rally champion, George Robinson (Mitsubishi EvoIX) is the top seed for tomorrow’s Maiden City (Dogleap) Rally in Ballykelly, Co. Derry. The event has switched from the forests to tarmac and opted out of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship and the Irish Forest series. The other entries include John McKeown (Escort Cosworth), Sean Cassidy (Ford Fiesta 4x4), Richard Hogg, who has yet to decide what car he will drive and Gary McEvoy (Subaru WRX).
The Rallies Committee meet on Wednesday next to streamline dates for 2013. It appears the draft calendar has a number of major clashes and the committee will have to make some tough and unpopular decisions. The rallying season will begin with the Galway International Rally on the first weekend of February followed a week later by the Tipperary Sean Conlon Memorial Forestry Rally that reverts to its more usual date. The forest series continues with the Carrick-on-Suir Willie Loughman Rally on the first Saturday in March. The first clash that needs the intervention of the Rallies Committee is that of the Monaghan Rally (April 14) with the Munster Moonraker Forest Rally, provisionally set for the same day. The Monaghan event is a round of the Dunlop series and championship clashes are not allowed.
It will be interesting to see how the clash of the Sligo Rally and the ALMC Rally, both listed for July 14 will be sorted. Sligo returns to the Dunlop series and that requires a two-week gap between rounds — the Raven’s Rock Rally (the previous round) is scheduled for the final Sunday in June.
Although the Imokilly Motor Club, who hosted their first ever rally last Saturday, have applied for a Single Stage Rally on July 27, it is most likely to be upgraded to a mini stage rally.
The Ulster Rally and the Galway Summer Rally are on the final weekend of August — representing a clash of the Irish Tarmac Championship with the Dunlop series.
In September, the Wexford Rally is scheduled to take place the weekend of the 7/8, a week earlier than normal. They have moved to the date seemingly vacated by the Castle Motor Club. Although not shown in the original draft, the Clare Rally, seems certain to be included in the list of fixtures.
October presents the biggest headache with the Laois Single Stage Rally on the first weekend along with the Cork “20” International Rally; the Donegal Harvest Rally and the Garda Síochána Mini Stage Rally are both listed for October 12.
Organisers of the Dunlop National Rally Championship have announced that the presentation of awards for this year’s series will take place in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone on November 17.
RALLY FINLAND (Round 8, World Rally Championship): 1. S. Loeb (Citroen) 15m. 07.1s; =2. M. Hirvonen (Citroen) & J.M. Latvala (Ford Fiesta) 15m. 14.4s; 4. P. Solberg (Ford Fiesta) 15m. 16.3s; 5. E. Novikov (Ford Fiesta) 15m. 25.3s; 6. O. Tanak (Ford Fiesta) 15m. 28.2s.
S-WRC: 1. E. Lappi (Ford Fiesta) 15m. 51.8s; 2. H. Paddon (Skoda) 15m. 53.3s; 3. PG Andersson (Proton) 16m. 04.4s; 4. C. Breen (Ford fiesta) 16m. 07.7s.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved