An extraordinarily close finish saw Walter Burke from Williamstown take victory at the Mayo and District Motorsport Club’s loose surface autocross event on Sunday. The Ford Escort driver defeated James McGreal from Foxford by the smallest possible of margins — a mere one hundredth of a second.
A healthy field of 40 competitors had assembled for round four of Mayo Motorsport Club’s popular autocross series held at Harrington’s Quarry near Swinford, with all eyes on James McGreal to see if the Subaru driver could repeat his victory of the previous round. The Foxford man wasn’t long getting into his stride, setting a fastest time of 4:26.07 on the first of three timed runs. He was less than half a second up on nearest challenger, Andrew Mackarel from Fermanagh, with the class two Vauxhall Nova of Maynooth’s Ciaran McCullagh an incredible third overall — this despite breaking an engine mount, and up against much more powerful machinery.
Walter Burke languished in eighth place at this point, but things were to get worse for the Williamstown man. Clipping a bank, he failed to set a time on the second run, pulling out with damaged steering. McGreal, meanwhile, was on a mission, taking a whopping 15 seconds from his first effort. Nobody could live with his pace, the Mitsubishi of Martin Tynan from Clones now the nearest rival, but nearly six seconds behind — a lifetime in motorsport terms.
On to the final run, and when McGreal pulled another two and a half seconds out of the bag to set a time of 4:08.24, most assumed that victory was his. That was to ignore former winner Burke however. Fired up after the disappointment of his second run, and with the Escort now back to full health, Burke positively flew around the course, stopping the clocks at 4:08.23, nearly 23 seconds faster than his opening attempt. Victory was his, but it couldn’t have been closer.
Andrew Mackarel took third in his Mitsubishi, albeit over four seconds adrift of the leading duo, with James Lannon from Boyle in another Mitsubishi fourth. Martin Tynan was fifth ahead of the leading class six buggy of Joe Cullen from Wexford.
The top 10 was rounded off by Michael Sweeney from Boyle in another Mitsubishi followed by the leading class two car, the Peugeot 205 of Padraic Cawley from Coolaney. Behind him Ciaran McCullagh had failed to set times on either the second or third runs, but his effort from the opening test was still good enough to net ninth overall and second in class two. Another Mayo competitor was 10th, Shrule’s Matthew Murphy putting in a fine drive in his Toyota Corolla to win class three in the process.
Other award winners included Ballinrobe’s David Walsh and Mervyn Fahy, first and second in class four double-driving the same Opel Astra, while in class one Sean Mullervy beat his Drumlish team-mate Eamonn Brady by just over half a second in their shared Honda Civic. The Chris Culkeen award for highest placed Mayo Motorsport Club competitor went to Justin Ryan from Headford.