Welsh driver Steve Wood (Subaru WRC) and his Limerick co-driver Keith Moriarty took a start to finish victory in the Rathkeale House Hotel Circuit of Munster Rally.
Always in control they finished 10.3 seconds ahead of the Escort of Tyrone’s Frank Kelly and his Mallow co-driver Paul Twomey.
It was Wood’s first ever rally win.
The local Limerick crew of Ed O’Callaghan/Ger Clancy (Ford Escort) recovered from eighth on the first stage to claim third – 31.2 seconds further behind.
Wood posted the best time on the first stage – 2.9 seconds faster than Frank Kelly, who clouted his Escort off a chicane and damaged the doors.
Paul Purtill (Escort) was ten seconds further behind. Meanwhile, Ed O’Callaghan (Escort) lost time when he overshot a junction and also had brake problems, he dropped to eighth place 25 seconds off the lead.
Wood was also quickest on the pair of stages that completed the opening loop and arrived at the Rathkeale service with a lead of 10.9 seconds.
The Welsh driver continued to build his confidence after a high sped crash earlier in the season although he acknowledged that he was braking far too early.
Kelly lost a few seconds when he stalled his Escort on a square left on the third stage.
Purtill remained in third despite having to resort to the manual gear shift after the flat shift failed to work.
O’Callaghan moved up to fourth but he had to keep pumping the brake pedal through the stages - he was 38 seconds off the lead.
Midleton driver Mark Dolphin (Escort) had a good opening stage but a misfire on the third cost him time, he was fifth ahead of the similar Escort of Johnny O’Connor.
Daniel Cronin’s Mitsubishi was difficult to handle particularly over the bumps, he held seventh and was followed by fellow Cork pair Colin Byrne and Donal O’Brien, both in Escorts.
Cahir’s Paul Manton (Subaru) completed the top ten. Fourth fastest on the opening two stages Tipperary’s Barry Ryan (Escort) retired with mechanical trouble.
On the repeat loop, Wood continued to dominate and stretched his lead to 30.1 seconds with Kelly retaining second. With his brakes sorted O’Callaghan pushed hard and slotted into third – 19.6 seconds behind Kelly. Purtill was untroubled in fourth followed by Cork driver Donal O’Brien, who posted the same as Wood on S.S. 4. Local driver Johnny O’Connor (Escort) was next with the final places in the top ten going to Daniel Cronin, Colin Byrne, Mark Dolphin and Rob Duggan, all in Escorts.
Wood slackened his pace over the final loop to take the spoils with Kelly in second and O’Callaghan third. Top seed Donagh Kelly (Ford Focus WRC) was a non-starter due to work commitments and Adrian Hetherington (Escort) was another top ten withdrawal.
The Azores Airlines Rallye, round four of the European Rally Championship resulted in a home win for Ricardo Moura (Ford Fiesta R5), who finished 26.8 seconds ahead of the similar car of Alexey Lukyanuk.
Reigning European champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Fiesta R5) was third.
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