Thousands flock to Galway Rally as Gathering 2013 begins

British Rally champion Keith Cronin from Cork was the winner of this year’s Safety Direct Galway International Rally.

Cronin and co-driver Marshal Clarke in their Subaru WRC took the title in this year’s eight-stage event after overtaking five-times Irish champion Eugene Donnelly who led on the opening two stages.

Organisers, the Galway Motor Club, says this year’s rally attracted the biggest crowd in many years with thousands of spectators lining the east Galway route. It was the first event to mark the Gathering 2013 with entries from Irish based crews from Australia, New York, Canada and Britain.

The rally, which began with the traditional ceremonial start in Eyre Square on Saturday, boasted a record 10 World Rally Cars in action, including Subaru, Mini, and Ford.

The opening stages were fiercely contested with less than a minute separating the top 10 competitors. Eugene Donnelly held a slender lead over the rest of the field, but that lead had been whittled down to a fraction of a second after the second stages around New Inn.

In the final three stages in New Inn, Monivea and Caltra, Cronin took the lead and went on to claim his first international rally victory in Ireland.

Locally John Joe Fleming and Robbie Ward from Galway finished in eighth place overall in their Focus WRC to win the coveted Brian Thornton Memorial award.

Tom Flaherty and Patrick Curley from Galway were third in the National Rally and Stephen Hernon and Jeff Case flew back from Canada to compete, finishing fourth.

In the Historic Rally, Ray Cunningham and Adrian Cusack from Galway claimed second in a Mini Cooper, while the Novice Award went to the Galway-based Polish Crew of Marcin Mleczco and Thomasz Bachor in their Opel Corsa.

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