For six of the seven stages of the Rentokil-Initial Killarney Historic Rally, World Rally star Craig Breen and Northern Ireland Rally champion Belfast’s Jonny Greer fought a tremendous battle and shared identical times prior to the final stage - a first ever third run through Moll’s Gap.
Breen in the ex-Frank Meagher Sierra Cosworth, that was restored to its 1992 Circuit of Ireland winning livery and Greer’s Sierra Cosworth 4x4 were virtually inseparable throughout the day, indeed, they were also level after the second stage as both pushed to the maximum.
Spectators thronged the iconic stage that was set to decide the outcome - however, the drama unfolded prior to the stage start when Breen’s Sierra was stricken with a broken drive between the stage arrival and start control.
It was a cruel end to an absorbing contest as Greer and his Sligo born co-driver Niall Burns took the laurels - 30.6 seconds ahead of the Subaru Legacy of Killarney’s Alan Ring and his Newcestown co-driver Adrian Deasy with the Ford Escort of Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt and Millstreet’s Liam Moynihan a further 31.1 seconds behind in third.
The early morning blast over “The Gap” gave an indication of what was to come with Breen just seven tenths of a second ahead of his rival.
McCourt was only 1.6 seconds off top spot followed by Ring in fourth – the top quartet separated by just 2.2 seconds. Donegal’s Eamonn Kelly was the first major retirement when his Escort pulled off at the summit in a plume of smoke, some oil deposits made conditions hazardous for the crews behind.
A gravel strewn Ballaghbeama stage brought parity for Greer and he moved 1.2 seconds ahead on the stage at Kilgobnet where Ring was still in the mix - four seconds shy of the new rally leader. McCourt lost touch when he clattered the rear of his Escort.
Breen regained the lead with a scintillating run on the repeat of Moll’s Gap to edge 3.2 seconds ahead of Greer, who was only a second behind when Breen spun on Ballaghbeama. For the second time Greer regained parity, this time after Kilgobnet (S.S. 6) and the prospect of a thrilling finish awaited, at the final service, Breen replaced the differential - sportingly lent by Greer.
Meanwhile, Ring had slipped some twenty seconds behind due to a reoccurrence of a misfire that was evident at low revs.
As Greer took an unexpected path to victory and Ring completing a back to back second place, McCourt stormed through to take third ahead of Williams followed by O’Meara, Donagh Kelly (BMW M3) and Ray Breen (Subaru Legacy).
“It’s a shame (Breen’s retirement) I had a good battle with Craig and Alan (Ring).” said Greer at the Killarney finish ramp.
“But that’s the way it happens in motorsport. This is actually my first ever win in the South, I don’t know why it took so long to get one down here. I am relieved that I didn’t have to try and race him (Breen) but at the same time disappointed as it was a great battle and finishing second to Craig would have been nothing to be ashamed of really.”
1. J. Greer/N. Burns (Ford Sierra Cosworth 4x4) 59m. 07.5s; 2. A. Ring/A. Deasy (Subaru Legacy)+ 30.6s; 3. C. McCourt/L. Moynihan (Ford Escort)+1m. 01.7s; 4. N. Williams/Anthony O'Sullivan (Ford Escort)+1m. 10.6s; 5. F. O'Meara/M. Galvin (Ford Escort)+1m. 59.7s; 6. D. Kelly/R. Kennedy (BMW M3)+2m. 12.4s; 7. R. Breen/D. Morrissey (Subaru Legacy)+3m. 12.2s; 8. T. Clark/A. Wyllie (Ford Escort)+3m. 18.9s; 9. M. Evans/S. Hayde (Ford Escort)+3m. 24.6s. 10 H. Hunt/S. McPhee (Ford Escort)+3m. 26.8s.
1. K. Eves/C. Melly (Toyota Corolla) 57m. 03.2s; 2. D. McKenna/A. Grennan (Ford Escort)+38.5s; 3. J. Doogan/P. Lennon (Ford Escort)+44.7s; 4. D. Keenan/J. McKenna (Ford Escort)+49.4s; 5. J. Black/K. Egan (Toyota Starlet)+1m. 55.5s; 6. R. Conlon/P. Sheridan (Toyota Corolla)+1m. 59.4s; 7. L. Downey/M. Murphy (Ford Escort)+2m. 01.0s; 8. D. Hickey/E. O'Leary (Ford Escort)+2m. 02.9s; 9. C. Moynihan/K. Horgan (Ford Escort)+ 2m. 07.4s; 10. K. O'Donoghue/E. MacBride (BMW E30)+2m. 17.1s.