A year ago Kevin Barrett was the runner-up who had to watch as Melvyn Evans sprayed the victory champagne on the finish ramp of the 2010 Mayo Stages Rally. Twelve months on and there was no watching from the sidelines. This time around the genial Kildare man not just won the Mayo Stages Rally, he dominated it.
A measure of his commitment could be seen from his time on the opening test Woodstock near Irishtown. Last year, this stage proved the difference between Evans and Barrett who was unable to match the Welshman’s times on any of the three runs. By the end of the first stage in 2011, the rest of the field knew that Barrett and co-driver Sean Mullally meant business. They had set a time 25 seconds faster than their nearest challengers Niall Maguire and Enda Sherry.
By the end of the first loop that gap was extended to 47 seconds, and from there on it was just a case of keeping the Subaru WRC on the straight and narrow. While Maguire mounted the occasional counter-attack, Barrett never allowed the Monaghan man get too close, and while all around complained of wrong tyre choices, the number one seeds sailed serenely on to victory celebrations back at the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris. Game, set, and match to the Kildare/Limerick pairing. Maguire struggled with tyre choices all day as did the man who finished third, Seamus Leonard, in another Subaru. At least they finished though, the fourth member of the Subaru WRC clan Adrian McElvanney on his return to rallying after an extended absence was forced to call it an early day when his gearbox cried enough.
The conditions were the talking point throughout the day, rain and sleet combining with muddy roads to make it extremely slippery for competitors. One of the first to get caught out was Welsh visitor Phil Collins who failed to get to the end of the first stage in his pristine Escort. It left the way open for Austin McHale to claim the award for the Rally of Legends Champion, and the five times Tarmac Champion did not disappoint in his wonderfully liveried Xtravision BMW M3, getting ever quicker throughout the day to finish in a more than creditable 11th overall.
In what was a difficult day for two wheel drives, Camillus Bradley’s Escort was the highest placed non-4WD after long battles with the similar class 14 cars of Declan Boyle and Trevor Mulligan. Ahead of them Trevor Bustard was fourth and the winner of Group N, but that was only after Stuart Darcy, who had last year’s clerk of the course Eamonn Walsh from Claremorris co-driving, suffered the cruel disappointment of a differential failure – as they went past the finish of the final stage. Rallying can be a cruel sport sometimes. The Sligo Pallets Drive of the Day Award went to Meath’s James Cassidy and John Norris for their fastest time in class 12 on Special Stage Three, while among the five winners of the Honda Challenge who each won prizes to the value of €500 was Ballinrobe’s Ciaran Walsh. Brothers Colin and Michael Loughney brought their Ford Escort home in 17th place to claim the prize for the highest placed Mayo and District Motorsport Club finisher.
Foxford student wins national motorsport competition
Following a close and tense battle in the final round, Sean Hynes from Foxford has been chosen as the winner of Ireland's first Become a Racing Driver Competition. The UCD student impressed the judges while setting extremely fast times throughout, but such was the level of competition that he had to rely on a tie breaker before being declared the winner. Hynes will now go on to race for a full season in the Irish Formula Sheane Championship courtesy of competition organisers Mondello Park and Sheane Cars.
Formula Sheane is Ireland's fastest one-make single seater championship with all drivers racing identical cars built by Sheane Cars in Wicklow. The prize drive including all entry fees, race expenses, race licence course and race wear, provided by Murray Motorsport, is valued at more than €15,000.
Sean Hynes had to battle past almost 100 other drivers to take the prize. The competition consisted of two rounds, round one saw a number of qualifying days run, from which 12 finalists were chosen. The finalist then battled it out once more for the ultimate motor racing dream of a full championship season's racing, free of charge. Sean Hynes now has an exciting year ahead of him where he will have to adapt quickly to the demands of racing wheel to wheel with some of Ireland’s fastest drivers including Become A Racing Driver competition supporter and Today FM radio star Anton Savage.
The first step for Hynes will be to pass his Motorsport Ireland Licence course following which he will begin a programme of test days with his new Formula Sheane race car. These days will include driver instruction from professional driver coaches and the chance to get plenty of pre season mileage.