Fisher leads Tarmac Championship after Killarney

The International Rally of the Lakes was the fourth round of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship and as usual the Killarney based event proved to be as tough and demanding as ever. There were sixteen stages over the two days and 2016 saw Anthony O’Connor take over as Clerk of the Course for the first time. One of the most notable changes was that the Molls Gap stage was not to open proceedings this year, with the tough Gortnagane stage beginning the event. This classic test is one that favours the brave and Alastair Fisher was the fastest of the championship contenders after that stage and by the end of the second stage he was still ahead, albeit being pushed hard by Sam Moffett. With the weather being most dry and sunny the speeds were high, although the morning stages had some loose gravel on junctions.

There was drama for Keith Cronin just before the start when the car refused to fire up properly and by the time he eventually got going it was inevitable he was going to incur a lot of road penalties. In the end he was penalised 19 minutes which put him well out of the running.  Joe McGonigle was another to hit problems with a puncture on the opening stage compounded by the car slipping off the jack and rendering it unusable. Fortunately a marshal was at hand to supply another and despite seven minutes lost, was still in the rally. The next two stages were a repeat of the Gortnagane and Banard stages and the championship leader Josh Moffett who had been fifth went too wide on a narrowing right hander and clipped a stone ditch which caused the car to roll into retirement. Stephen Wright and Owen Murphy were also in the top six after the fourth stage and going extremely well.

The crews then prepared to tackle a new pair of stages in the afternoon, Rockfield and Dromin. Fisher continued to set some excellent times but Moffett was proving very difficult to shake off with a handful of seconds separating the pair. By the end of the first day Fisher was holding a strong second behind rally leader Garry Jennings with Moffett still challenging for maximum points just thirteen seconds behind. Wright, Murphy and Aaron McHale were to top five registered crews overnight, while Joe McGonigle retired on the penultimate stage of the day after a spin damaged the radiator. Cronin was still running but still suffering from an underperforming car as he struggled to find the cause of the power loss. Callum Devine was setting some stunning times in his Opel Adam to lead class two overnight and was also ninth overall, just ahead of David Guest who was leading Group N.

The second day in contrast was very wet and foggy which made life difficult for the crews especially on Molls Gap and Beallaghbeama which were particularly badly affected by fog due to the elevation. With Donagh Kelly in the Focus WRC now ahead and pulling away, Alastair Fishers hold on second place became somewhat more straightforward when Moffett punctured on Beallaghbeama. This cost the Monaghan driver over thirty seconds and left him almost fifty seconds behind Fisher. Wright was still holding a comfortable fourth place, while Owen Murphy was getting used to driving the Skoda on the wet for the first time as he continued to acclimatise to his new car.

Over the remaining stages there was little change as despite backing off, Fisher did enough to take maximum points for the second event in succession to move into the overall lead in the championship. Sam Moffett was only 37 seconds behind Fisher by the end and rueing the earlier puncture, but still did enough to move into second overall in the series. Stephen Wrights best performance of the season moved him into third overall  just ahead of Josh Moffett, while thirteenth was Keith Cronin’s final position as he eventually got the car sorted on the latter stages, but he still drops to fifth overall in the championship.

Callum Devine took his third maximum score from the four rounds to date after another stunning performance which netted him eighth overall and moved him back into the lead of the 2WD category. William Creighton took twelfth overall to stay in contention, but there was misfortune for Marty Gallagher who went into the final stage just ahead of Creighton, only to crash out. Fraser Mulholland took third placed points after losing a lot of time on the first day, while John Byrnes in the Renault Clio retired on the second day.

David Guest was ninth overall and winner of Group N for the third time this season which extends his lead in the series, while Brian O’Keeffe who led the category after the first two stages was forced to retire. Guest currently holds a ten point lead over Gus Kearney with Peter O’Kane and Pat Kearney not too far behind.

Overall Standings after Round 4

1 – Alastair Fisher – 46
2 – Sam Moffett – 40
3 – Stephen Wright – 38
4 – Josh Moffett – 36
5 – Keith Cronin – 33.5

Modified Championship

Ross Marshall & Dave Robson from Scotland were the leaders of the Modified Championship going into this round, but an accident on Shanera put them out of the rally and also cost them the series lead. Davy Armstrong now leads the championship just two points ahead of Marshall with Wesley Patterson who didn’t compete in Killarney dropping to third. Eugene Meegan put in a superb drive to take maximum points in his BMW 1M to end a run of bad luck and get his championship bid back on track. Jack Newman was a new registration for the series before Killarney and finished an excellent second overall in an Escort, while last year’s Tarmac Junior champion John O’Sullivan took third place points in his Civic to move into fourth overall. John Bonner had been going extremely well on his first visit to Killarney but went off the road late on the first day while in fourth place.

Overall Modified Standings after Round 4

1 – Davy Armstrong – 36
2 – Ross Marshall – 34
3 – Wesley Patterson – 32

Historic Championship

Frank Cunningham continued his recent good form by collecting another set of maximum points following victory in the Historic category of the Rally of the Lakes. He had over five minutes to spare over championship rival David Goose with both drivers in Mk2 Escorts. Philip McKibbin, James O’Mahony and Donal O’Connor were others to score points as several of their championship rivals hit problems. Among those to retire from the event included Philip Wylie, Alan Watkins and Richard Hall.

Overall Historic Standings after Round 4

1 – Frank Cunningham – 42
2 – David Goose – 30
3 – Brendan McAree – 20

Junior Championship

The Junior Championship was into its third round and local driver Kieran O’Donoghue took an excellent win in the category and maximum points into the bargain. Kevin Horgan took second placed points following his non finish in West Cork. Championship leader Justin Ryan extended his lead in the series but Noel Murphy is still in hot pursuit. Diarmuid Hallahan scored his first points of the season while John O’Flaherty and Christy McCarthy were retirements.

Overall Junior Standings after Round 3

1 – Justin Ryan – 44
2 – Noel Murphy – 32
3 – Kevin Horgan – 26