After seven tough stages on the opening day of the Orchard Motorsport Cork 20 International Rally based in Millstreet, championship leader Garry Jennings is halfway there in his quest to land his maiden Tarmac title. Jennings is currently holding second place behind leader Daragh O’Riordan in his Fiesta WRC while his closest pursuer, Donagh Kelly, currently lies in third place overall in a day that had its share of drama. With weather that was more akin to the middle of summer than early October, Declan Boyle stormed into an early lead with a stunning time on the opening stage, Knocknakilla, in his Subaru Impreza WRC. He was a full fourteen seconds clear of Daragh O’Riordan who, despite being out of the running for the championship, is looking to win this rally for the third time in a row, a feat not achieved since the legendary Billy Coleman over 40 years ago. Garry Jennings took third place despite having a narrow escape early on the stage when he nearly went off the road. Sam Moffett had problems on the third junction of that stage when he spun and damaged his exhaust as conditions were quite tricky with a lot of dampness under the trees.
Over the next two stages O’Riordan was quickest taking a few seconds from Boyle, but it was the Donegal man who took another large chunk of time on the fourth stage to extend his lead to just over 40 seconds as a frustrating year looked to be finishing on a high note. However it went badly wrong for Boyle on the fifth stage when a suspension problem caused the car to run wide and get stuck on a bank, which cost him over five minutes and dropped him completely out of the running. This promoted O’Riordan to the lead but despite an unhealthy engine Jennings refused to let him out of his sight, and as the day drew to a close only sixteen seconds separated the pair. Donagh Kelly had some problems of his own in the Focus during the day but still holds third place overnight, less than 40 seconds off the lead and knowing that any slip up from Jennings could land him the title.
After a troubled start Sam Moffett moved back up the field and still has an outside chance of the title if trouble were to befall the leading trio, while Stephen Wright and Josh Moffett are still battling for Group N supremacy. Wright currently holds the advantage by over a minute as a puncture and mechanical problems early in the event stymied Moffetts efforts. The modified challenge also had its share of drama with Frank Kelly and Fergus O’Meara both tied at the top of the standings going into the rally. O’Meara cut a corner too tight and damaged his steering on the first stage while Kelly rolled at the end of the third stage which left the advantage with Noel O’Sullivan in his 1300 Escort. However both Kelly and O’Meara have been able to get their cars fixed and are competing under super rally rules tomorrow which means the title will still go to the wire. James O’Mahony is the new Irish Tarmac Historic Champion as Wesley Patterson chose to run in the Modified category, and the Volvo driver is still running despite some cosmetic body damage after an ‘off’. With nine more stages tomorrow around the Millstreet area, including the classic Gortnagane, there could yet be a sting in the tail of the Irish Tarmac Championship for 2013.
T.R.O.A. Press & Media Officer
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