Irish Tarmac Rally championship celebrates 50th different winner

The Irish Tarmac Rally Championship celebrated its 50th different winner of a round of its series since its inception in 1978 when Darren Gass won last weekend’s Safety Direct Galway International Rally, the opening round of the 2012 campaign.

The 23-year-old Armagh driver claimed a dramatic late victory when he overhauled long-time leader, Tim McNulty (who had damaged his Subaru’s suspension) and then fended off the challenge of Eugene Donnelly in the MINI John Cooper Works WRC.

The Tarmac series enjoyed a terrific opening round in Galway where thousands of spectators watched the ten-stage encounter. However, the compact location of the loop of three stages around Headford brought its own difficulties given the large volumes of spectators and traffic.

The addition of 50% bonus points seemed to have been a primary factor for attracting a strong entry. However, it remains to be seen if the TROA (Tarmac Rally Organisers Association) can keep the series at this level throughout the rest of the season.

Piloting the S10 Subaru WRC that Niall Maguire campaigned in the 2007 Dunlop series, Gass proved a very popular winner. Although the car lacked the power of McNulty’s S12B or the technology of Donnelly’s MINI WRC, Gass turned a 22.3 second deficit into a lead of 9.2 seconds by the conclusion of the penultimate test and then went on to finish just 1.3 seconds in front of Donnelly. Gass said: “I drove really hard on Stage 8 and Stage 9. I was very nervous through the last stage, I knew that Eugene (Donnelly) would push hard and that’s exactly what he did. The car was perfect and it is great to win.” The next round of the series is the Circuit of Ireland on April 6/7.

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