Cavan Motor Club crews took the overall title and two class wins in the Border Rally Championship on the Donegal Harvest Stages on Saturday.
Thomas Carolan and Declan Smith sealed the outright victory with a tough drive to class nine success, while Mark Wedlock/Adam Kinkade won class and Brendan O'Reilly/Damien McCabe took the class nine championship.
It was a great day for Cavan crews as Patrick Elliott/Paul Goodman finished second in the rally and now just need third or better on the final round of the National Rally Championship, in Skibbereen on October 25, to win that title for the second year in succession.
But Saturday was Carolan and Smith's day, tough though it was. Typical of Donegal, it started damp and cleared up by the time the Tierworker, Moynalty crew got to the first stage, where they decided they'd be a bit cautious.
"We were happy enough with the time and started pushing on stage two," said Thomas, who ended up battling James Greenan/Danny McCloskey for class honours, though the Donegal duo were seeded much lower than the Cavan men, making it difficult to keep an eye on their times.
"He took 20s out of us on the first stage, but we took a lump back on two and were ahead again on three," said Thomas.
On SS4 he and Declan were 30s quicker than their previous run, but lost the benefit of it when the lower crews got a notional time following a crash that blocked the stage. They were still pushing hard, and went half a minute quicker than before on SS5 too and got to service some 90s ahead of their class rivals.
The cushion was useful as Mark Smith and Gerry Buckley of M&S Motorsport discovered the tube on back axle was broken. They welded it up and warned the lads "to take it handy and bring it home".
They followed instruction and dropped two seconds on SS7, but then the service crew rang to say they were then 23s behind Greenan/McCloskey. "There was no worrying about the axle at that stage, it was all or nothing," said Thomas, and he proved it by going 31s quicker on SS8 than the earlier run over it.
"The last stage was long straights and then last few miles were tight… we had five or six seconds [over their earlier time], there was nothing left in it." The mechanics had tired to contact them to say they had regained the class lead, but they didn't see the message till after SS9, and their time there was 14s quicker than Greenan's.
It was enough to seal the championship title, but it didn't come easy; on SS2 they lost 15 or 20s behind a slower car and more time when they caught a car with mechanical trouble. "But were thought we were comfortable up till stage five or six, till we got a phone call from Gerry and from Noel Lappin to get the foot down.
"It was definitely a great result. We didn't think at beginning of the year that's the way it would turn out. We had trouble in Sligo - there was something in the [petrol] tank, but we finished and still got points, so it was all to play for at the end in Donegal."
Carolan and Smith were second in class on Mayo despite a misfiring engine, won in Monaghan and Cavan, and were second in Newry and Mourne, though "for that you need to have the car set up for short sprints and hills".
They started rallying in 2004 when they bought their MkII Escort in Autotrader and upgraded it from bumper to bumper, including fitting a 1400 Vauxhall 16v.
Last year they won their class in the Border, National and Midlands championships. This year they've already gone one better and are in the running for the overall Midlands title on the GSMC Mini Stages Rally at Baltinglass this weekend.
Next season they'll probably defend their Border title and hope to do the Galway International, as the last time out there their engine blew up while they were 19th overall on the national section.
Niall Maguire won the Harvest Rally, 22s ahead Patrick Elliott to set up a title decider in the West Cork Hotel Fastnet Rally in Skibbereen on October 25.
Kevin Barrett set the pace at the start but retired and allowed Maguire into the lead, two seconds ahead of Elliott, who was quickest on SS3.
Jennings was fastest on four as Maguire went 14s faster than Elliott to reclaim top spot, adding 10s more on SS5 and a single second on the sixth test to lead by 21 seconds at the final service halt. "I couldn't get into the groove on that first stage this morning, but since then, I've been going much better," Niall said, while Elliott, conscious of his championship bid, was content in second.
He took a second from Maguire on SS7; Maguire gained two on the penultimate test and they recorded the same time on the final stage, so Maguire won by 22s.
The Wedlock from Drumgoon family were happy too, as Mark and co-driver Adam Kinkade won class 13 in the Border Championship, adding to Mervyn's third overall on the Clubman Stages Rally at Lough Navar, Co. Fermanagh last week. Another Drumgoon crew, Brendan O'Reilly/Damien McCabe, won class 9 of the Border Championship, making it a great weekend for rallymen from that corner of the county.
Harvest Rally results:
1. N. Maguire/E. Sherry (Subaru WRC) 1h. 19m. 11s.
2. P. Elliott/P. Goodman (Subaru WRC) 1h. 19. 33s.
3. S. Leonard/J. McCafferty (Subaru WRC) 1h. 20m. 18s.
4. K. Kelleher/P. Robinson (Mitsubishi Evo) 1h. 20m. 56s.
5. D. Gallagher/P. Garry (Ford Escort) 1h. 21m. 54s.
6. D. Boyle/B. Boyle (Ford Escort) 1h. 21m. 55s.
7. C. Bradley/D. O'Neill (Ford Escort) 1h. 21m. 56s.
8. E. Ferry/D. Heena (Ford Escort) 1h. 22m. 33s.
9. G. Harris/J. McElhinney (Subaru) 1h. 24m. 14s.
10. P. Kirk/P. Ward (Mitsubishi) 1h. 24m. 20s.
Dunlop National Rally Championship after round nine: 1. N. Maguire 150pts; 2. P. Elliott 136pts; 3. G. Jennings 105 pts; =4. K. Barrett & K. Kelleher 102 pts; 6. T. Fitzmaurice 85 pts.
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|Date:||Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 12:47:43 PM|