Killarney co-driver Noel O’Sullivan was the top Kerry competitor in the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally over the weekend, and while he and driver Callum Devine finished fifth, a chronic misfire in their Volkswagen Polo Rally2 ruined their chances of a better result on the opening round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
he 2022 Rally of the Lakes winner ended day one in seventh place. The third seeds for the rally were expected to be much further up the leader board but the misfire, which only occurred while in fourth or fifth gear, hampered progress.
Their mechanics eventually found the source of the problem – a lack of fuel pressure – and while it allowed the Kerry/Derry crew to make an attack on the Sunday stages near Loughrea, the damage was done.
Still, they set respectable times over the Sunday run and started to climb back up the leader board. By the end of the rally, they were in a fierce fight with Killarney Historic Rally winners Jonathan Greer and Niall Burns.
Devine and O’Sullivan held fourth place entering the final stage in East Galway but Greer and Burns were 2.1 seconds quicker over the 14.76-kilometre stage to take the position by 1.5 seconds.
Without a doubt, one of the drives of the rally belonged to the Killarney crew of Conor Murphy and Sean Collins. The Ford Escort team eventually finished third overall in the National section and 12th on combined times. They were in a fierce battle with the Armagh/Galway crew of Jason Black and Karl Egan.
A faulty alternator hampered progress on Sunday but, sportingly, Black offered to tow them back to the Loughrea Mart service park to keep them in the rally. Black said that he was only returning the favour after a similar fate befell his Toyota Starlet earlier in the event and Murphy towed him back to base. Just 12.1 seconds separated Black and Murphy after 14 difficult stages over the course of the two days.
Another local driver to impress was John McCarthy. Probably better known as one of Kerry’s top co-drivers, the Lawlor’s Cross man was on his first day out in his ex-Barry Meade Ford Escort. He and co-driver Kieran O’Donoghue got progressively quicker over the two days and by the end of the weekend, they were setting class-winning times.
They were 13th fastest in class 13 on the opening stage but by the finish of the rally, they had climbed to fourth.
“I am delighted,” said McCarthy. “This is my first day out in this car.”
He hopes to tackle the Circuit of Kerry on April 2 but has ruled out an attempt at the West Cork Rally, the next two-day event on the Irish calendar, because it is calving season on the farm.
Glenflesk’s Bob Moran and his West Cork co-driver, Eoin Collins, lost over six minutes on the final Saturday stage when the throttle cable broke on his Ford Escort. They eventually finished fourth in class but Saturday’s problem easily cost them a podium finish in their class.
Fossa’s Sam Leech was in a battle “with myself”. This time last year he relied on Rally 2 and possibly even Rally 3, 4 and 5 rules, if they existed, to get to the finish. The Opel Corsa driver was the only competitor in class 10 but after a trouble-free weekend, he was determined to make amends for last year and the class award was, merely, a bonus.
Gearoid Reagan and his local co-driver Brian Martyn were on their first Galway International Rally together. They took second in class 22. The Honda Civic crew survived a lurid 360-degree spin during the Sunday run but, otherwise, reported a trouble-free run over the two days.
In the historic section, Cork driver Luke McCarthy and his Healy Pass co-driver Brian Duggan failed to get their tyre choice right for most of the weekend.
“It was fun but not very fast,” explained Brian, as they eventually took ninth in the popular category.