Noel Smith became the third winner of a round the Peugeot Service Club Irish 205 Challenge with a hard victory in Clonmel last week. He and Dara Lyttle they emerged victorious after nine stages, beating Kenny English of Ballinasloe by six seconds.
The four crews still with a chance of lifting the title started the event and the drama unfolded from the start. Stage one was seven miles long and full of tricky spots to catch out anyone not fully awake. It started in a light drizzle and the first 205 Challenge crew in were the joint championship leaders and winners of the previous round Andrew Slattery/Donal Lynch.
Despite his caution Slattery was caught out when braking for a tight junction - the back of the car got loose, clipped a wall and turned the front wheel in against a stone, breaking a driveshaft and forcing them to retire. It is a huge blow to their championship hopes. The other crews got through unscathed and Smith set the fastest time by nine seconds from Norman Dunne/ Niall Gavin, who were a second up on Kenny English/Joe Bannerton.
English then pulled eight seconds back on Smith, who overshot a junction on SS2, but Dunne felt his engine was down on power for such a fast road and dropped 12s.
On the following test English beat Smith by 13s and moved into the category lead as the crews entered first service. Dunne was also pushing hard, but extracting his car from a ditch cost him more than eight minutes. Smith was fastest on SS4, closing the gap to nine seconds. Well fired up and knowing he needed top points, he went fastest again on stage six (SS5 was cancelled), taking 25s from English, who was furious with himself for spinning at a tight corner.
Smith's lead stood at 16s as they left second service and both threw caution to the wind over stage seven, where a single second separated them. The return to stage eight was crucial to the outcome when English spun and gifted his rival a further 10s. Smith felt he was home and dry then but English risked everything through the last stage. He was faster by 19s but missed out on the win by six. Smith deserved his first win and now looks forward to a final round title battle with English in Wexford next month.
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|Date:||Wednesday, May 22, 2013 at 6:12:21 PM|