AS EXPECTED, Niall Maguire, driving his S10 Subaru WRC coasted to victory in the Ennis-based Auburn Lodge Clare Rally. Leading from the start and co-driven by Enda Sherry, he finished two minutes and 14 seconds ahead of the Ford Escort of Mike Quinn/Grainne McEnery with Ed O’Callaghan/Ger Clancy, also in a Ford Escort, a further 10 seconds behind in third.
On the opening stage near Ennistymon, Maguire was quick to stamp his authority and opened up an 11-second advantage over Quinn (Escort) with local ace, Anthony O’Halloran (Mitsubishi), a further four seconds behind in third. The first retirement was that of another local driver, Richard Casey, who crashed his Mk. 1 Escort.
Maguire, despite some brake problems, also set the pace of the second test as O’Halloran used his local knowledge with telling effect, posting the best time through the third stage in his native Ruan. At the Ennis service halt, Maguire sorted the brake issues that stymied his progress and reflected on a 21-second lead over O’Halloran. Quinn was third, a further seven seconds adrift. He reckoned the rear tyres weren’t functioning to their maximum. Limerick’s Ed O’Callaghan was fourth followed by Donegal’s Trevor Bustard (Mitsubishi), Brian Brogan (Escort) and Craig Breen in the Fiesta R2.
Maguire stretched his lead to 35 seconds on the fourth test where Quinn closed to within four seconds of second-placed O’Halloran, who hit a chicane bale that apart from denting his Mitsubishi had a similar effect on his confidence. Brogan moved up two places to fourth while O’Callaghan’s Escort suffered fuel starvation.
Completing the loop with fastest times, Maguire was 52 seconds ahead of O’Halloran, who had managed to eke free of Quinn, who was 25 seconds in arrears. Interestingly, O’Halloran was co-driven by Charlie McEnery, whose sister, Gráinne was reading the notes for Quinn. O’Callaghan reclaimed fourth at the expense of Brogan; Trevor Bustard (Mitsubishi) completed the top six. Elsewhere, Craig Breen was seventh.
Maguire went on take a comfortable victory with Quinn taking second after O’Halloran punctured on the penultimate test and decided to withdraw rather than cause further damage. O’Callaghan, despite a repeat of the fuel pressure problems, came home third. Bustard (Mitsubishi) was fourth and won Group N. Craig Breen impressed on his way to fifth onboard the M-Sport Fiesta R2.
The top 10 also featured the Ford Escorts of Brian Brogan and Ed Synan, Pat Kelly (Subaru), Tom Flaherty (Escort) and Patrick Boyle (Toyota Corolla), who was originally seeded at 100. Non-starters amongst the top 10 were PJ McDermott (Subaru WRC), Garry Jennings (Mitsubishi), Thomas Fitzmaurice (Mitsubishi), Andrew Purcell (Mitsubishi)
Posting his best time on the sixth and final run, Limerick’s Paul O’Connell (Delta) won the Imokilly Hillclimb by a margin of 2.68 seconds from the Van Diemen of Pete Ray. James Doherty (Delta) was third. Last year’s winner, Daragh O’Riordan, who made a late switch to his Opel Corsa S1600 was sixth.
Meanwhile, in the HiQ British Touring Car Championship at Rockingham and without a podium finish, Portadown’s, Colin Turkington (BMW 320si) still managed to extend his lead over title rival, Fabrizio Giovanardi (Vauxhall) to 13 points. Turkington was 10th after a spin in the first of the day’s three races that was won by his team mate, Stephen Jelley, who secured his first win in the series. Giovanardi took sixth. Jason Plato (Chevrolet Lacetti) won the second race overtaking team mate Mat Jackson near the end. Giovanardi was third with Turkington one place behind with his championship lead cut to just five points. Jelley notched his second victory in the day’s third and final race where Turkington came home fourth despite his Team RAC BMW 320i being sent into a half-spin by title rival Jason Plato. Giovanardi was out of the points, his Vauxhall suffering collision damage earlier in the race. The series will now be decided on BTCC Finals Day at Brands Hatch October 4th. with Turkington 13 points ahead of Giovanardi and 28 clear of the only other title rival, Jason Plato.
The top 10 seeds for the forthcoming Cork “20” International Rally is as follows: 1. Gareth MacHale (Ford Focus WRC); 2. Eugene Donnelly (Skoda Fabia WRC); 3. Liam McCarthy (Toyota Corolla WRC); 4. Denis Cronin (Subaru WRC); 5. Alastair Fisher (Mitsubishi Evo9); 6. Owen Murphy (Mitsubishi Evo9); 7. Phil Collins (Ford Escort); 8. Wesley Patterson (Ford Escort); 9. Washington James (Darrian); 10. John O’Donnell (Ford Escort).
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