Cavan’s Jonathan Pringle (Ford Escort) and co-driver James Fulton took a controlled victory on the Midleton-based Imokilly Rally, round four of the PlasticBags.ie Southern 4 Rally Championship.
A late entry, the pair finished 30.9 seconds ahead of the Toyota Starlet of Donegal’s Declan Gallagher and his novice co-driver, Bandon’s Shane O’Mahony.
Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien/John Butler (Escort) were 1.5 seconds further behind in third.
Pringle was quickest on the opening stage near Shanagarry where he was 11.4 seconds faster than Gallagher. Enda O’Brien (Escort) was 3.3 seconds further behind in third followed by local driver Colin Byrne (Escort).
Top seed Chris Armstrong (Escort) lost vital seconds when he had a spectacular overshoot on the second junction. Another driver to have an early stage mishap was Frank Kelly, his Escort slid backwards into a bank as he negotiated the first junction.
Pringle was also quickest on the second stage where he adjusted the suspension prior to the stage start.
He arrived at the Midleton service park with a 17.4 seconds lead over Gallagher, who was untroubled. Enda O’Brien was three seconds further behind and reckoned that the suspension needed adjustment as the rear of the car felt very unstable.
Armstrong had a good run through the second stage, he was fourth but was 25.3 seconds off the lead. Byrne continued to be the best of the locals, he was fifth with Galway’s Tom Flaherty sixth – he lost time when he caught a car on the opening stage and also hit a chicane bale.
Daniel Cronin (Mitsubishi) occupied seventh as Mark Dolphin struggled with a misfire, he was eighth as Frank Kelly (Escort) and Simon Reid (Honda Civic) completed the top ten.
On the repeat of the pair of stages, Pringle extended his lead to 28.6 seconds. However, it wasn’t without incident. At the first junction of the third stage, he spun off backwards and the impact damaged the exhaust. Gallagher was untroubled in second with third-placed O’Brien much happier with the handling of his Escort. Armstrong held fourth and having tweaked the suspension, Colin Byrne recorded two good stage times to hold fifth - 13.7 seconds ahead of fellow Midleton driver Mark Dolphin, who sorted the misfire.
Pringle opted for a steady pace on the final pair of stages to claim the spoils. Gallagher secured second despite a late challenge from O’Brien. Armstrong, Byrne and Cronin completed the top six.
Flaherty netted seventh but a return of the misfire thwarted Dolphin’s efforts for a top six finish as he finished eighth. The top ten was completed by the Escorts of Donal O’Brien and Frank Kelly.
Meanwhile, Latvian driver Ralfs Sirmacis (22) won the auto24 Rally Estonia, round six of the European Rally Championship. Alexey Lukyanuk (Fiesta R5) had led for all of the event until he retired with a broken wheel on the penultimate stage. Sirmacis finished a minute and 34.5 seconds in front of the Fiesta R5 of Kajetan Kajetanowicz.
On Saturday’s stages, there was little between Lukyanuk and Sirmacis. The latter lost around ten seconds when he overshot a junction on S.S.6. Overnight, Lukyanuk held a 20.1 second advantage.
Reigning ERC champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz collected a ten-second penalty for being late out of service following a gearbox change, his Fiesta R5 lost power steering on S.S.9 and he was almost a minute and a half off the lead. ERC regular Jaromir Tarabus retired with engine damage after a rock pierced his radiator during Friday’s qualifying stage.
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