James McGreal did on Sunday what he has been threatening to do for a while — he took overall victory on a round of Mayo and District Motorsport Club’s Loose Surface Autocross. It marks a significant milestone for the popular Foxford man, a long time competitor and Mayo Motorsport Club stalwart, who counts the 2000 Border Rally Championship title among his many achievements. Only last year he had feared that his days of competing might have been over after sustaining a back injury following an accident on the Galway International Rally.
Thankfully a full recovery was made, and on Sunday’s event, driving his self-prepared Subaru Impreza, McGreal was on inspired form, setting fastest times on each of the three runs to finish nearly four seconds ahead of his nearest challengers.
The second round of Mayo and District’s 2009 Loose Surface Autocross series was held as usual at Harrington’s Quarry near Swinford, and attracted a strong entry of nearly 50 competitors including a large contingent from Northern Ireland. The Mayo venue is highly regarded as one of the best autocross tracks in the country, and once again clerk of the course Brendan Walsh and his team had laid on a challenging circuit to test drivers to the limit.
With McGreal storming to a highly popular local win, the runner-up spot was taken by Fermanagh visitor Gary McBrien, winner of last month’s opening round at the same venue. Keeping it in the family, Gary’s brother Sean finished in third position, the siblings sharing the same Mitsubishi Evo 6.
Tyrone’s Brian Dunlop was fourth overall and the highest placed runner in class four in his Ford Escort. He finished just ahead of the similar car of Walter Burke, the local club member from Williamstown a former winner of the event. Another multiple former winner was sixth overall, Conor Kelly from Tyrone having to be satisfied this time with class three honours in his Nissan Sunny. And demonstrating the popularity of the event, two further visitors made it a worthwhile trip from the east of the country, Maynooth’s Ciaran McCullagh winning class 2 and taking seventh overall ahead of Oldcastle’s Lauris Zdanovcis by a mere 0.6 of a second. Benny Quinn and Mervyn Galbraith rounded out the top 10 finishers, while Longford’s Tommy Donlon, a regular visitor to the Mayo track, took another victory in class one.
Other local competitors to score strong results included Alan Moran from Foxford who finished third in class one, while in class three Peter Conroy from Kilmaine, Headford’s Allen Higgins and Eoin McGreal from Castlebar fought it out to finish second, third, and fourth in the category.
But this was undoubtedly James McGreal’s day. Receiving his trophy at the prizegiving he thanked Frank Harrington and his staff for the continued use of their excellent venue. Reminiscing that it was about 15 years since his last overall success at a Mayo Autocross event, he promised to be back to defend his title on the next round in July. If he can replicate Sunday’s form, few would give odds on another 15 year wait.