Wall and Kelly blitz rivals on final stage

BLITZING the opposition with a superb run through the third and final stage, Wexford’s Liam Wall and co driver Tommy Kelly (Ford Escort) took a dramatic last stage win on the Cooney Engineering/Esso Tipperary Rally.

Trailing leaders Seamus Murphy/Graham Kelly (Escort), they came back to win by 13 seconds. It was the first rally win for Wall, 35, from Fethard on Sea. The consistent Enda O'Brien/John Butler, also in an Escort, were third, a further seven seconds in arrears and six ahead of Andrew Purcell/John Purcell's Honda Civic.

Just a second separated the Escorts of Eamonn Murphy and Liam Wall after the first run through the stage near Ardfinnan . A broken drive-shaft on the reconnaissance run meant an early retirement for top seed David Percy (Escort).

Another favourite, Shay Power, set a blistering pace through the first half of the stage. After building up a lead of over 10 seconds it went awry when his Escort ground to a halt with a broken gearbox. Behind the top duo, Enda O'Brien and Seamus Murphy, who received a call up from the reserves, shared third, four seconds off Wall.

The Honda Civic of Andrew Purcell interrupted the Escort supremacy as he slotted into equal sixth with Gordon Percy's Escort. Willie Whitty, Thomas O'Rourke and Ollie O'Reilly completed the top 10.

Without setting the quickest time on the second run, Seamus Murphy powered his Escort to the top of the leaderboard. Three drivers shared second place early leader, Murphy was joined by Wall and O'Brien. They were eight seconds off the lead.

Meanwhile, John Nolan (Escort), who was surprisingly off the pace on the first run, set fastest time and moved from 14th to 10th.

On what had become a very slippery stage, Wall set a staggering time of 10 minutes and five seconds, seventeen seconds better than the previous fastest time, and claimed victory. At the Cahir finish he admitted having a few "moments" on the stage near Ardfinnan. Seamus Murphy settled for second some seven seconds ahead of Enda O'Brien.

Eamonn Murphy (Escort), who was fifth behind Andrew Purcell, admitted losing a few seconds on the second run when he drifted on to a muddy patch. Thomas O'Rourke (Astra) took sixth from John Nolan, who edged out John Carroll (Peugeot) for seventh on a tiebreak.

Ollie O'Reilly (Escort) and Gordon Percy (Escort) completed the top 10. On Saturday night, the organisers excluded one crew for an illegal reconnaissance offence.

The Circuit of Ireland Retro Rally was won by Eamonn Byrne/Paul Phelan (Mini Cooper S). The event began in Downpatrick and finished in Sligo yesterday. Mickey Gabbett/Michael Jackson (Peugeot 404) were second and Robert Bolton/Ian McCullough (Hornet) finished third.

Due to the deteriorating conditions, organisers of the Irish Motorcycling National Championships called a halt to proceedings after just three races at Mondello Park. An accident in the 600cc race delayed racing for over an hour as marshals mopped oil from the Co Kildare circuit.

Although the race was re-started and won by Kieran McGroary (Kawasaki), continuous heavy rain made conditions treacherous and the remainder of the programme was abandoned. Earlier, Tom Lawlor on board a Yamaha won the 250cc race and the Sidecar race was won by Iain Duff/John Abel (Suzuki).

Cousins Michael A Roche and Michael B Roche shared a win apiece at the Killarney Hillclimb double-header at Rockchapel.

Adam Carroll's presence at the Japanese Grand Prix has increased speculation he could land a Formula 1 test role for next season. The Portadown driver dominated the season's British Formula 3 Scholarship Class with Sweeney Racing, taking an unprecedented 14 wins in 26 races and wrapping up the title six races before the end. He could dovetail the test role with an assault on the F3 Championship Class, Carroll spoke with several teams at yesterday's F1 season finale.

Max Biaggi was overjoyed after taking his second MotoGP victory of the season in the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang yesterday. The Italian started from second on the grid and quickly stormed into the lead before holding off a determined attack from world champion Valentino Rossi.

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