Fisher leads #ITRC after opening round in Galway
Third place in the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally was good enough to give Alastair Fisher & Gordon Noble maximum points in the opening round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac championship. Despite having to give way to the superior power of the World Rally Cars of Garry Jennings and Roy White who finished first and second overall, the young Fermanagh driver still had over thirty seconds in hand over his nearest rivals Sam Moffett & Karl Atkinson after two days rallying in the Athenry and Tuam area. Fisher was never led by his R5 peers over the weekend despite the best efforts of Sam Moffett who could never get quite close enough.
Robert Barrables long awaited comeback saw him take a satisfactory fifth place overall and score third place points as he acclimatised to his new Fiesta R5. By the end of the event his times had become much more competitive and he will get quicker with more time in the car. Stephen Wright also performed very well over the weekend and is in fourth place in the championship, while Josh Moffett hopes of a better result were ruined by a puncture on the opening day and he only edged past the Skoda Fabia of Joe McGonigle on the final stage to leave the top five championship placings all held by Ford Fiesta drivers.
Not everyone had a good weekend in Galway, as Jonny Greer had performed very well on the opening day in his Citroen only to suffer a couple of punctures and without enough spares he had to withdraw. Tomas Davies from Wales suffered a similar fate while Aaron McHale went off the road on the penultimate stage of the opening day. Brendan Cumiskey also lost a lot of time on the opening day when he visited the scenery for a few minutes.
The six Sunday stages were badly curtailed by a severe frost which left the roads very treacherous and the first pair were cancelled, while two of the remaining four were drastically shortened. This meant very little change in the leader board on the second day as all of Saturdays survivors were determined to score points on the opening round.
Group N was won by Stephen Hernon from William Mavitty with both drivers having to drop into Rally 2 having retired on the opening day. William Creighton took maximum points in the R2 class after his closest championship rival Marty Gallagher went off the road on the opening day. He did however re-join under Rally 2 to take championship points while Andrew Burke won class 3 in his Citroen DS3.
Provisional Points after Round 1
1 – Alastair Fisher 17
2 – Sam Moffett 14
3 – Robert Barrable 12
4 – Stephen Wright 10
5 – Josh Moffett 8
The modified championship has a very strong list of registrations this year and at the top there was a tremendous battle between the Escorts of Gary Kiernan and Damien Tourish. Kiernan overturned a 24 second overnight deficit to record victory by 31 seconds over his Donegal rival after some excellent driving in very difficult conditions. Kevin Eves was spectacular to watch in his Toyota Corolla while Patrick McHugh also drove extremely well to take fourth place. The pair of BMW 1Ms came fifth and sixth in the hands of Eugene Meegan and Richard Whelan as the cars were a handful in the slippery conditions. Other drivers to get good results included Jason McSweeney and Vivian Hamill, while Pat Donegan, Tom Flaherty and Ed Murphy all retired over the weekend.
Provisional Modified Points after Round 1
1 – Gary Kiernan 17
2 – Damien Tourish 14
3 – Kevin Eves 12
4 – Patrick McHugh 10
5 – Eugene Meegan 8
The historic rally was very competitive and saw a few lead changes before Ernie Graham took control and took victory by just over a minute in his immaculate Escort Mk2. Gareth Lloyd moved his way steadily up the field over the weekend to eventually finish second ahead over Keith McIvor who had held that position overnight. David Goose, Frank Cunningham and Barry Jones were the other championship registered finishers. Current Historic champion, Frank Cunningham had been off the road on the third stage and completed the event in Rally 2. Mechanical problems forced out John Coyne and Andy Johnson on the opening day with the latter leading overall at the time of his retirement.
Provisional Historic Points after Round 2
1 – Keith McIvor 19
2 – Ernie Graham 18.5
3 – Owen Murphy & Barry Jones 17
5 – Andy Johnson & Gareth Lloyd 14
Only four crews took part in the rally, but significantly all were registered for the championship. Cavan’s John McCabe took a very impressive win by almost a minute and a half from last year’s runner up Justin Ryan. Third place went to Noel Murphy just 20 seconds behind Ryan with the first three cars all being Honda Civics. Jenna McCann in her Fiesta was fourth just over twenty seconds behind Murphy and it promises to be a very competitive season ahead.
Provisional Junior Points after Round 1
1 – John McCabe 17
2 – Justin Ryan 14
3 – Noel Murphy 12
5 – Jenna McCann 10