The ALMC ran the opening round of the 2019 Coffee Perfection backed Endurance Championship last weekend. Based at Luttrelstown Castle, the event had been superbly promoted on social media in the run up, with the result that the sense of anticipation was palpable as over 70 crews lined up for scrutiny on Saturday morning.
At the recent Multi Venue Autotest at Mondello Park, it seemed that the entire entry comprised of Starlets and MX-5, prompting a seasoned campaigner to say that “The Starlet is the new Cooper S and the MX-5 is the new MG Midget!” There may have been only a solitary MX-5 on the entry list last weekend but it seemed that every Starlet in the country was entered. It was great to see a full entry, with even a few reserves too.
Despite winning this event last year, and subsequently the championship, Peter Barrable was seeded third, behind Derek Butler/Aaron O’Regan and local challengers Karl O’Donoghue/Evin Hughes. Predictably though, Peter didn’t seem bothered and appeared confident before he set off. Brother Rob lost out to Peter at this event last year after a fantastic battle and opined at the time that his car may have needed a few upgrades to stay with his big brother.
After three selectives, Rob and Ciaran Larkin, upgrades or not, headed the field, just 8 seconds ahead of Butler, with Karl O’Donohue in third, from Robert Howard/Claire Murtagh and the slow starting (in relative terms) Peter Barrable, who wasn’t overly happy with the new suspension fitted to his Starlet. Defending 1.0 class champion Nicole Drought, with Aaron McElroy alongside, was top seed in class 1A and duly led Brian Kirwan/David Busher by 12 seconds with Ray Heney/Ger O’Connor in third. Des Bruton’s Avenger Tiger headed class E, from Martin Nugent’s iconic Mark 1 Escort, Declan Burke’s Beetle (yes really!) and the returning Dr Frank O’Donoghue in his trusty Sunbeam Ti. Unfortunately neither Bruton nor O’Donoghue would make the lunch break in Johnstownbridge. By this stage, Peter Barrable had overhauled Both Butler and O’Donoghue in his efforts to win the event for the second year in a row, but brother Rob was a full minute to the good at the head of the field. In class 1A, Brian Kirwan had displaced Drought for the class lead and the battle was on for the afternoon selectives!
After the next three selectives, having adjusted his suspension at the lunch halt, Peter had reduced the deficit to Rob by 11 seconds to 49, as Kevin Fitzgerald displaced O’Donoghue for fourth. Nicole Drought had taken back her Class 1A lead but Kirwan was a mere 3 seconds adrift, with Ray Heney in third. A further three selectives saw Peter shave a few more seconds off Rob’s lead, and was now trailing by just 42s with three final selectives, all in darkness, still to come.
Drought, meanwhile had extended her class lead to 21 seconds, with both her and Kirwan mixing it with the bigger engined Starlets mid field, as they battled for the win. When the cars arrived back at Luttrelstown to finish the event, there was the usual wait and anticipation as the times slowly came in. When the official results were posted, it was Rob Barrable and Ciaran Larkin at the top of the sheet, reversing the order from 2018, with Peter Barrable and Gary McElhinney taking runner up spot, 52 seconds behind. A fine run in the final selectives elevated O’Donoghue to third, with Kevin Fitzgerald/Kevin Fagan pipping Butler and O’Regan for fourth. similarly, an inspired run from Drought/McElroy saw them climb to 22nd overall and take the 1.0 class by a significant margin from Kirwan/Busher with Heney/O’Connor in third.
Fitzgerald and Fagan were the first A2 Expert ranked crew home, in fourth overall, whilst Mark Reilly and Mark Convey were first A2 Semi-Expert crew in ninth. Andrew Wedlock/Niall Turley were first A2 Beginner crew and 17th overall, and Darragh Smyth/Benny Smyth took A2 Novice honours in 25th overall.
Other class winners were Martin Nugent/Paul Tierney in class E (RWD Retro cars), Glynn Gaffney/Susan Briggs in class B(Non Endurance cars up to 1400cc), Donal Smyth/Trevor O’Brien’s Puma in class C (Non Endurance cars from 1401-2000), Joe Murray/Sam Dolan in Class D (FWD Retro cars), whilst Jack Quinn and Nolan took class F in the solitary MX-5.
Rob Barrable was understandably elated after his dominant performance. “Myself and Ciaran are delighted to have won and it’s great to keep the trophy in the family. It’s always a tough event and it was good to see the hard work of the (ALMC) club paying off with over 70 entries. It’s also great to see so many newcomers taking part!”
To echo Rob’s sentiments, the ALMC should be applauded for not only running a challenging and oversubscribed Endurance Trial, but also for their promotion of the event in the weeks preceding the championship opener!
Action shots with thanks to CRS Rally Pics