On his debut in a Subaru WRC, Donegal’s Manus Kelly, co-driven by Donal Barrett took a fine victory in the Seven Oaks Hotel Carlow Rally, the third round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship.
They finished 9.9 seconds ahead of the Ford Fiesta WRC of Clonmel’s Roy White and his Cork co-driver James O’Brien, who have extended their lead in the Triton series.
Longford’s Tommy Doyle - another Subaru WRC debutant and co-driven by Cork’s Liam Moynihan - were 21.8 seconds further behind in third.
Championship contender and winner of the last round in Kerry, Declan Boyle never made it to the first stage due to a sensor problem in the transmission system of his Ford Fiesta WRC.
The Group N category was won by Aidan Wray/Kieran McGrath (Mitsubishi) from Neil and Gerard Tohill (Mitsubishi) and Paul Barrett/ Declan Tumilty (Subaru).
Manus Kelly, who stalled the car at the start line, went on to set the best time on the opening stage where he was nine tenths of a second ahead of Peadar Hurson (Subaru WRC) with Escort driver Frank Kelly eight tenths of a second further behind in third followed by Fiesta WRC of Roy White, Tommy Doyle (Subaru WRC) and Daragh O’Riordan (Fiesta WRC).
Hurson was best through the second stage where Frank Kelly retired at the stage start with a broken crankshaft. The third stage was cancelled due to heavy fog over the opening few miles.
Manus Kelly arrived at the Carlow service park as rally leader. “This car is unbelievable.” he quipped. Hurson, two tenths of a second behind endorsed the decision of the organisers to cancel the third stage. Daragh O’Riordan (Fiesta WRC) sixth on the opening stage, slotted into third 6.7 seconds behind Hurson.
Intercom woes upset pre-event series leader Roy White, a swap of helmets brought some improvement while the selection of a hard compound tyre did little to help his plight, he was fourth.
Tyre selection was also an issue for fifth placed Tommy Doyle, who like all the others remarked on the slippery nature of the second stage.
Mel Evans on his first rally in some six months reckoned he was taking time to get into the groove, he occupied sixth in a top ten that also included the Subaru WRC’s of Kevin Barrett and Niall Maguire and the Escorts of Wesley Patterson and Vivian Hamill.
Having led the Group N category through the first stage Shane Maguire retired his Mitsubishi with transmission failure.
On the second loop and as he continued to acclimatise to the Subaru WRC, Kelly, fastest on S.S. 4 and equal fastest on S.S. 6, extended his advantage to 9.1 seconds with White moving into second spot – eleven seconds ahead of Hurson.
Leader Kelly remarked that while he was gaining in confidence with the car he needed to get the correct braking points.
Having made suspension adjustments along with fitting a new intercom system White increased his pace, he set the same time as Kelly on S.S. 6. Third placed Hurson admitted that he had chosen the wrong tyres for the loop. Meanwhile, after setting the best time through S.S. 5, Tommy Doyle in fourth spot then lost around twenty seconds with two overshoots on Stage 6.
Daragh O’Riordan was untroubled in fifth with Niall Maguire in sixth expressing satisfaction with the performance of his Subaru after a change of settings in the differentials. Mel Evans (Subaru) in seventh had gear selection troubles on Stage 6 but were sorted by re-booting the system. The top ten was completed by the Escort trio of Johnny Pringle, Wesley Patterson and local ace David Condell.
In Group N, reigning Triton Showers champion Aidan Wray (Mitsubishi) had a comfortable lead over former champion Neil Tohill (Mitsubishi) with Paul Barrett (Subaru) third.
On S.S. 7. White punched in the best time to cut the deficit to 6.8 seconds and the prospect of a thrilling finish remained. Kelly added a tenth of a second on the penultiumate stage and set a cracking pace on the final stage to secure a superb victory.
White took maximum points in the Triton Showers series including the three points from the Power Stage to extend his lead as the series approaches the half way mark in Cavan at the end of the month. Doyle took a deserved third. There was late drama on the penultimate stage for Hurson, his Subaru hit a wall and the car caught fire and Patterson crashed on the same stage.
The Mk. 2 Ford Escort Challenge was won by Jonny Pringle, he finished 9.3 seconds ahead of local driver David Condell. Pringle also won the Triton Showers Drive of the Day award.
Opening round winner Garry Jennings was a non-starter as his Subaru WRC was not fully repaired after he crashed out of last week’s Rally of the Lakes in Killarney.
The fourth round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship, the Cavan Rally takes place on Sunday May 29th.
1. M. Kelly/D. Barrett (Subaru WRC) 51m. 14.3s.
2. R. White/J. O'Brien (Ford Fiesta WRC) 51m. 24.2s.
3. T. Doyle/L. Moynihan (Subaru WRC) 51m. 46.0s.
4. D. O'Riordan/A. Hayes (Ford Fiesta WRC) 52m. 09.9s.
5. N. Maguire/E. Sherry (Subaru WRC) 52m. 31.0s.
6. M. Evans/M. Glennerster (Subaru WRC) 53m. 03.0s.
7. J. Pringle/A. Keena (Ford Escort) 53m. 27.5s.
8. S. Wood/K. Moriarty (Subaru WRC) 53m. 35.9s.
9. D. Condell/E. McGrath (Ford Escort) 53m. 36.8s.
10. S. McCann/D. Fleming (Subaru WRC) 54m. 00.0s.
Triton Showers National Rally Championship
(Provisional Standings after Round 3):
1. R. White 60 pts; 2. N. Maguire 48 pts & 3. P. Hurson 36 pts.