Late victory for Gary Kiernan in Midleton

Cavan’s Gary Kiernan (Escort) and his Limerick co-driver Keith Moriarty took a late victory in the Midleton based Imokilly Rally, round four of the Southern 4 Rally Championship after long time leaders Jonathan Pringle/James Fulton (Escort) crashed out of the lead on the penultimate stage.

Kiernan finished 7.1 seconds ahead of the similar Escort of late entry Killarney’s Rob Duggan and his Ballincollig co-driver Stephen Quin. The all-Cork crew of Barry Meade/Eamonn Hayes (Escort) were 24.1 seconds further behind in third.

On the opening stage near Cloyne, Pringle took a lead of 10.1 seconds with Kiernan in second followed by Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien, a mere eight-tenths of a second behind. At the Midleton service park, leader Pringle remarked that his tyres had lost their effectiveness.

Duggan, driving the Colin Byrne Escort, was six-tenths of a second further behind but overheating brakes made his journey difficult.

Barry Meade continued the Escort success leaving Youghal’s Jason Ryan (Honda Civic) to break the Blue Oval dominance in sixth.

Quickest on a dusty second stage, Pringle stretched his advantage to 11.8 seconds with Kiernan cementing second by moving 8.9 seconds ahead of new third placed driver Duggan.

Meade moved up to fourth but still reckoned he needed to be more aggressive.

A harder suspension setup was also required. O’Brien lost time on the second stage when he wasn’t paying enough attention to his co-driver at one particular junction. The top six was completed by Limerick’s Ed O’Callaghan (Escort), competing for the first time in several months.

Elsewhere, Jason Ryan (Honda Civic) was seventh even though his co-driver Keegan O’Farrell felt unwell.

Another Cork driver Vincent McSweeney (Honda Civic) occupied eighth as he claimed the tyre compound chosen for the rear tyres was far too soft. Carlow’s George Condell (Toyota Starlet) damaged the rear axle and was ninth with Midleton’s Mark Dolphin (Escort) rounding off the top ten. Ballylickey’s Daniel Cronin (Mitsubishi) led the Group N category.

On the repeat of both stages Pringle, happy with his tyre choice, punched in a pair of fastest stages to move into a strong lead of 19.7 seconds. Kiernan remained in second and 9.9 seconds clear of Duggan with Meade completing an unchanged top four.

Daniel Cronin retired on the fourth stage due to transmission problems – his Mitsubishi EvoX stuck in fifth gear. Philip Cross (Mitsubishi EvoIX) inherited the category lead but departed for the final two stages uncertain if he had enough fuel to complete the rally. He failed to finish.

Seemingly set for victory, Pringle bowed out on the penultimate stage. “On a long two right the car just broke away, spun around and clattered against a pole hitting the co-driver’s door.”

His demise gave Kiernan the lead and the Cavan driver took an 11.2 second advantage into the final stage.

Although Duggan was quickest on the final stage Kiernan had done enough to claim the spoils. Meade took third.

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