Leading from the start Welsh driver Steve Wood (Subaru WRC) and his Limerick co-driver Keith Moriarty took a relatively comfortable victory in the Volkswagen Wexford Rally where they finished 40 seconds ahead of the Fiesta WRC of Maynooth’s Ian Barrett/Eoin O’Flaherty.
Cavan’s Gary Kiernan (Ford Escort) and his Donegal co-driver Ryan Moore took third – they lost the position early yesterday but regained the spot almost as quickly and went on to finish strongly.
Switching from his usual S10 Subaru WRC to a hired S11 version owned by former national champion Niall Maguire, Wood was quickest through Saturdays’ opening pair of stages as he led Barrett by twelve a seconds. Untroubled, Wood took six seconds out of his rival on each stage. Barrett on a debut outing in his recently acquired Fiesta WRC suffered brake problems on the opening stage and throttle issues on the second stage. Gary Kiernan was some sixteen seconds further behind in third, his Mk. 2 Escort suffered from a lack of grip particularly on the first stage. Fourth placed Stephen McCann (Fiesta S2000) on his first outing in some six months also lacked traction.
On the repeat of both stages the order remainder unchanged as Wood extended his lead to 22 seconds, Barrett lost some time due to problems with the launch control. Kiernan lost a few seconds to McCann, who topped the time sheets on S.S. 4, on the previous stage the Cavan driver put his Fiesta S200 off the road at a square left, luckily, the damage to the front right wing was merely cosmetic.
Posting the best times on the day’s final pair of stages Wood, who reckoned the S11 was much sharper than his own car, held an overnight lead of 41 seconds.
Barrett, who resorted to using the manual controls, retained second with Kiernan and McCann completing an unchanged quartet, the latter gained some time to close the deficit to fifteen seconds. Elsewhere, local Wexford driver Richard Moore (Escort) was fifth from Donegal’s John Bonner and Wexford duo, Liam Howlett and Leon Galvin, all in Escorts. The overnight top ten was completed by the Fiesta R5 of Joe Connolly and the Escort of Tommy Doyle.
Barrett, McCann and Wood were the respective pacesetters through yesterday’s opening loop of three stages. In slippery conditions Wood retained a 40 second buffer despite a spin on S.S. 7 where he also stalled the Maguire Subaru WRC. Barrett was secure in enough in second as McCann made good progress and when Kiernan spun, McCann moved into third. However, his tenure in the spot was brief as Kiernan was back in the spot by the final service halt.
On the final loop, the top three remained unchanged. As Wood went on to seal a fine win and Barrett took second, there was little between Kiernan and McCann through the opening stages of the final loop as Kiernan held a six second lead, the Cavan man sealed the spot with a stunning time on the final stage to finish 18 seconds ahead of McCann. The Escorts of John Bonner and Richard Moore followed with Kilkenny’s Joe Connolly (Fiesta R5) completing the top seven.
Meanwhile, Dundalk’s Brendan Cumiskey (Fiesta R5) and his co-driver Ronan O’Kane were the top Irish crew in the Galloway Hills Rally in Scotland. They finished eleventh. Elsewhere, Tommy O’Connell/Emmet Sherry (Escort) were fifteenth overall and second in Class 8, Cork’s Neil Phelan and co-driver Joe Hearns (Escort) were third in the same class. The rally was won by Jock Armstrong (Subaru), from Euan Thorburn.
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