The British crew of Hugh Hunter/Andy Marchbank (Subaru WRC) roared to victory in the Trim-based ALMC Rally, round four of the REIS MSA Asphalt Rally Championship.
They finished 54 seconds ahead of both Damian Cole/Elliott Edmondson (Ford Focus WRC) and London-based Cork driver Michael O’Brien and his north Cork co-driver James O’Brien, also in a Ford Focus WRC, who lost second by virtue of a tie-break.
On the opening stage Hunter was seven seconds ahead of fellow Subaru duo Garry Jennings and Steve Simpson, who shared second spot and were followed by the Ford Focus WRC duo of Damien Cole and Michael O’Brien.
Hunter also set the pace on the second stage to move eight seconds ahead of Jennings with Simpson two seconds further behind in third.
Cole hit a chicane bale and dropped to ninth in general classification.
Heavy showers led to treacherous conditions on parts of the third and final stage of the opening loop. The change of weather also brought a change to the lead as Jennings topped the timesheets — turning an eight second deficit into a five second lead.
Hunter, in second, admitted he was over cautious and with a slick tyre was not prepared to take any risks. Simpson was nine seconds further behind, followed by fellow overseas driver John Stone (Skoda Fabia WRC) and Michael O’Brien (Ford Focus WRC). The Ford Fiesta R5 of Alex Laffey completed the top six.
In the Modified category Frank Kelly (Ford Escort) held a strong advantage and was some 40 seconds ahead of Scottish driver Keith Robathan, who was co-driven by Cork’s Alastair Wylie.
All crews were credited with the same time for S.S. 4 where Simpson (Subaru WRC) crashed out. Meanwhile, Hunter, fastest on S.S. 5, cut the margin between himself and Jennings to just three seconds. However, the battle ended on the next stage when Jennings opted to retire some two miles from the stage end after the oil light came on.
Hunter was well ahead of the opposition and at the final service halt he led the Skoda Fabia WRC of John Stone by 50 seconds. Cole continued his recovery to slot into third with O’Brien fourth.
With a commanding advantage Hunter added eight seconds to his lead on S.S. 7 and then measured his performance on the remaining pair of stages to take victory 12 months after he made his debut in the car on the same event.
John Stone (Skoda Fabia) was fourth and secured enough points to claim the lead in the REIS series after the demise of pre-event series leaders Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Subaru WRC) on S.S. 4.
Elsewhere, Frank Kelly (Ford Escort) was a convincing winner of the modified section and Galway’s Dean Raftery took his Ford Fiesta R2 to victory in Class 6, top two wheel drive and eleventh overall.
The Welsh/Limerick pairing of Christopher Lloyd/Frank Curtin (Ford Escort) won the Historic section and the Junior category was won by the Meath crew of Brian Brady/Leonard Tuite (Peugeot 106).
Kilkenny’s Ian White (Mini Saloon) won the Cork Autotest, round seven of the Premier Auto Parts Munster Autotest Championship at the Cork Marts complex at Corrin near Fermoy. His path to victory was eased when Waterford’s Patrick Power (Mini) retired with mechanical woes on the fourth test.
The Kerry pair of Timmy Lynch (Westfield) and Peter Falvey (Mini Special) completed the top three.
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