Rally Report: @RallyoftheLakes with @ItsAaronMcElroy
What looked like it was going to be a comfortable win for Roy White and James O’Brien on the Rally of the Lakes quickly turned to a nightmare in the closing stages after colliding with a chicane, and a hard push by Sam Moffett saw him in prime position to inherit the lead and add another Killarney victory to his 2014 win.
It was Alastair Fisher who was quickest to wake up on Saturday morning, and had almost a 7 second cushion to White after SS2 Healy Pass. Timing issues dominated talk in the early part of the rally with Sam Moffett being given an incorrect sub-eight minutes time on Molls Gap when he said he had an 8.20.
White made his charge on the first run over Cod’s Head when he reduced the gap to less than a second, and when Fisher put his car off the road and out of the rally on Stage 4 Ardgroom, White set another fastest time to sit 18 seconds ahead of Sam Moffett who was trading times with Robert Barrable and Damien Connolly in their Hyundai i20 R5. Barrable was on a mission on the second run over Healy Pass to get in front of Sam by just over half a second and hold second overall, 22 behind White who was still in control.
Stephen Wright was 4th and Joe McGonigle 5th. Brendan Cumiskey and Ronan O’Kane were in a battle with the Welsh crew of Tomas and Eurig Davies, and the VW dealer trailed by two seconds in 7th O/A.
White extended his lead over the course of the day and was over 27 seconds in the clear before Barrable took six out of him on the final stage of the day; returning to Parc Ferme 21.5 behind. Sam Moffett was a further 11 seconds behind, with Stephen Wright down over 3 minutes on the leaders in 4th and under pressure from McGonigle who was within touching distance after taking around 40 seconds off the Monaghan driver during the day. Brendan Cumiskey put 20 seconds between himself and Davies while Aaron McHale had a difficult day and couldn’t get the better of Pauric Duffy for 8th.
In Group N, it was Gavin Kelly and Elaine Ni She who lead from Brian O’Keefe and Sean Hayde with William Mavitty in 3rd. There was a battle emerging in R2 where Keith Lyons was less a second in front of a hard charging John Mulholland who was adapting to front wheel drive after changing from his ex-Sebastian Ogier Skoda S2000. Both drivers had been following young Armagh driver James Wilson until he lost minutes when he got a puncture in his Peugeot.
The National section was also subject to time errors early on, but Kevin Eves soon put down his authority to lead overall. He was calm throughout the day and no major issues had him 40 seconds ahead of “The Milkman” Declan Gallagher who was out again, this time in a Ford Escort MKII. Vincent McSweeney followed close behind in his giant-killing Class 13 Honda Civic. Gary Keirnan had been fast on Saturday morning but he retired with back axle problems at the end of SS3.
With over 30 entrants in the Junior category it was decided to run them on the Saturday stages instead of the traditional Sunday, and it was Shane McCarthy and Trisha Greavy who had a start to finish win in class. Jason Black and Jack McKenna were 2nd, and John McCabe and Stephen Doogan 3rd.
On the morning of the second day it was clear that Sam Moffett was on a mission, a string of fastest times saw him pass Barrable for second by the time of the second service. The overall positions of the rally were turned on its head at the end of SS13 when Roy White came to the end of the stage with visible damage to his Fiesta WRC after coming together with a bale during the stage. His rally came to an end at that point and Moffett was now leading the rally with two stages to go and almost 20 seconds in hand.
Despite marginally quicker times by Barrable and Connolly, it wasn’t enough to catch Sam and the gap at the end was 16.5 seconds.
Stephen Wright was third overall after a battle with Joe McGonigle. Tomas Davies was 5th, passing Brendan Cumiskey for the position with some fast times on the second day. Aaron McHale was 7th, Joe Connolly 8th, Pauric Duffy 9th and Gavin Kelly rounding out the top 10 and 1st in Group N.
John Mullholland had a comfortable victory in the R2 class after Keith Lyons had a double puncture on the second run up Moll’s Gap, and dropped to 3rd behind James Wilson.
In the National section, Kevin Eves held of a hard pushing Declan Gallagher to take another maximum score for the championship. Vincent McSweeney was 3rd, lucky to make the finish after his car developed a misfire late on.
Among the class winners were Sean Moynihan and Liam Brennan in Class 12, Tadgh O’Sullivan and Eoin O’Leary in Class 13, Andrew Duggan took Class 11R honours and Ken O’Neill the winner in 11F.
(All pictures Copyright JMadden2017© WWW.JMADDENPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)