Welsh driver Steve Wood (Subaru WRC) and his Limerick co-driver Keith Moriarty secured victory in the Wexford Volkswagen Rally.
They led through stages five and six and, although they were replaced at the top on stage 11, they regained top spot a stage later and went on to finish 46 seconds ahead of the Escort of Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien and co-driver John Butler. Tyrone’s Adrian Hetherington and his Wexford co-driver Gary Nolan (Escort) were third.
O’Brien was best on the opening stage where he extricated a seven-second lead over Wood, with Tyrone’s Paddy McVeigh (Subaru WRC) and Cavan’s Gary Kiernan (Escort) tying for third.
McVeigh dominated the second stage and moved into second — five seconds off O’Brien with Wood and Kiernan following behind.
With his second fastest stage time (SS3) O’Brien went nine seconds clear of Wood, who edged 10 ahead of McVeigh. On the completion of the opening loop, Carlow’s David Condell (Escort) had moved into fourth in a top-six that included the Escorts of Adrian Hetherington and Kiernan.
Though Kiernan punched in the best stages times through SS4 and 5 and McVeigh topped the time sheets for SS6, it was Wood who led after the finish of the second loop. The Welshman was three seconds in front of the WRC of McVeigh with O’Brien another two seconds behind in third; the latter lost time after an altercation with a chicane bale. He overshot at the next junction and the damaged wheel arch got caught in the wheel of his Escort. Kiernan, Hetherington, and the S14 Subaru WRC of Kevin Barrett filled the remaining spots on the top six.
Losing time and the lead on SS7, Wood ended Saturday’s nine stages in second — 18 seconds adrift of McVeigh, who was concerned about the loss of coolant fluid. O’Brien was another 15 seconds behind in third as Kiernan closed to within two seconds of the Kilkenny driver — even though he lost time at the chicane that troubled O’Brien. Hetherington and Barrett rounded out the overnight top six.
Overnight rally leader McVeigh crashed on yesterday’s opening stage, leaving Wood to regain top spot ahead of Kiernan, who was quickest through the stage and was 14 seconds off the lead.
A stage later, the Cavan driver was at the head of proceedings as Wood spun for the second stage in succession, this time his Subaru dropped significant time and Kiernan edged three seconds ahead of the Welshman.
However, Kiernan’s hopes of victory were dashed when he crashed on SS12; although his Escort suffered little damage, his rally was over.
Wood responded to his double stage spin in the best possible fashion with the fastest stage time on SS12 to open a significant lead of 26 seconds over O’Brien, who lost time with two spins on SS 11 where he admitted he was too cautious in the damp conditions. At the final service halt Hetherington, Barrett and the Escorts of Mickey Conlon and Richard Moore rounded off the top six.
Wood went on to seal the win and eased off on the final stage as O’Brien had settled for the runner-up spot, Hetherington was third.
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