The Circuit of Ireland National Rally which was the second round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Rally Championship bore witness to one of the most dramatic conclusions in the history of the event when Garry Jennings and Rory Kennedy who led the event from the second stage crashed out close to the finish. Their demise on the eighteenth and final stage, Gregorlough, allowed Declan & Brian Boyle to win the rally and in doing so, strengthened their lead at the top of the Tarmac Championship leader board. It was cruel luck on Jennings who had set some stunning times over the weekend and looked set to win when he led by over a minute midway through the second day.
However a lot of time was lost with a puncture on the 30km penultimate stage, Bronte’s Homeland, which reduced a commanding lead to just three seconds going into the final stage where it all went wrong.
For sheer refusal to accept second place much credit must got to Boyle as he kept the pressure on and the confidence that comes from winning is hard to quantify, as he has now won all four events he has started this year, two of them in the Tarmac Championship which puts him in a strong position going into Killarney in two weeks’ time.
Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan took second place in their Focus WRC after a good performance all weekend and it was enough to move the crew into second place in the overall standings in the championship. Eugene Donnelly’s championship hopes took another blow when he slid off the road on the first stage of the day, a similar occurrence to the previous round in Galway and he now has quite a bit of ground to make up.
Sam Moffett who was running in the International section of the rally retired with fuel pump problems early on the second day while his brother Josh who ran first on the road all weekend in the International section picked up some valuable championship points. Rory Byrne and James Byrne overcame previous unreliability problems with their Lancer Evo X to get off the mark after a non-finish in Galway.
The Modified Championship saw Declan Gallagher & Ryan Moore pick up their third straight win and are now in a commanding position as Wesley Patterson was forced to retire on the second day with a second half shaft failure of the weekend in his Escort.
Frank Kelly took second place despite a troubled first day which included a broken axle, and this gives him some valuable championship points heading into the fourth round in Killarney. Enda McCormack and Colin Fitzgerald were third home of the registered competitors to get his first points on the leader board for the season while Pat Sheehan and Liam Egan were also in the points to add to their tallies after Galway.
There was a high attrition rate in the Historic Championship with many of the registered crews failing to finish. The main beneficiaries of this were Aidan O’Connor / Ian Regan in their Escort who was top registered driver home, followed by 1982 Tarmac Champions John Coyne and Christy Farrell in their Sunbeam and Niall Creighton and Gregory Roberts came home in third.
The action now switches to Killarney in two weeks’ time as the main protagonists prepare to do battle again and if the event provides even half as much drama as the Circuit of Ireland did, it should be a great occasion. Words: Kevin O’Driscoll (TROA) Photos: Graham Curry