Monaghan’s Niall Maguire and Enda Sherry stormed to an emphatic victory on Sunday’s Hotel Ballina and Kennedy Motors Mayo Stages Rally, finishing just over a minute ahead of their nearest rivals Frank Wray and Kieran McGrath. Wray, finishing in a career best second place, was closely followed by Mayo and District Motorsport Club crew Aaron McHale and Paul McGee.
In a battle of sheer concentration, the victors would always be those who could best negotiate the scenic by-roads of north Mayo, in what was a rain soaked first loop. The opening stage twisted wildly around Kilcummin, however the drivers had little time to admire the view. Stage two started scenically through Lacken Hill before skirting Ballycastle. Kilfian hosted the third stage which proved the kindest to the drivers. Each stage was driven three times and a cumulative time decided the winners.
Ninety three crews left rally headquarters at Hotel Ballina on Sunday and reassembled for service at the Asahi plant. The conditions faced by contestants were challenging to say the least, heavy rain over the weekend had left the stages extremely testing for the drivers as muck and surface water provided extra obstacles on the course.
In the battle for modified honours, Pat Donegan and Alan Keena in their Ford Escort finished just under 20 seconds ahead of the Toyota Starlet of David Moffett and Fintan Sherry, with Jonathon Pringle and Martin Byrne third in their Mark II.
Top local finishers other than McHale were Barry Cuffe and Aidan Gannon from Castlebar, finishing 20th overall, third in class 11R in his Elvery’s backed Escort. Ballyhaunis man Shane Buckley had been the top local, running as high as 12th overall until his rally came to end on the penultimate stage. Belmullet man Shane Barry was on the notes for Padraic McGee and guided him to a class one victory and 22nd place overall. Kenneth McHale from Knockmore came home second in class 15 after a good run. Westport pairing David Healy and Stephen McGing finished second in class one, following up their recent result in Birr. Club secretary John Duffy and John Egan from Claremorris won class three in his Honda Integra, faring slightly better than club chairman Matthew Murphy with brother Ronan on the notes who managed to come home fourth in class 11R after an eventful day behind the wheel.
Tony Langdon and David Loughney in their Civic finished second in class six after setup issues hampered their day. Brian Lavelle, on his first time out, finished a respectable seventh in class one and 42nd overall in his Devers Garage backed Civic. Castlebar pairing Padraig Conneely and Liam Walsh finished third in class 11F for front wheel drive car. Experienced local navigator Jared Gill was calling notes for Stephen Kelly and they finished 48th overall and seventh in class 11R. Father and son crew Patrick McEveny snr and jnr, managed to bring home their Corolla fourth in class 11F on their first time out. David Moran and Robert Culliney finished third in class 10 in a Citroen Saxo. Killala’s Aubrey Carson and Mary McAndrew came home fourth in class 10, while Raymond Carroll with Crystal Culkeen on the notes hot on their heels in fifth in the class.
The Junior category had a number of Mayo entrants with Justin Ryan battling for the lead throughout the day and eventually finishing second. Stephen Doherty and Alan Moran from Foxford finished fifth in their Opel Kadett. Local woman Trisha Greavy on her return to rallying was happy to finish sixth. Mayo Young Drivers’ Champion Noel Murphy from Shrule eventually finished seventh despite visiting the scenery on stage one, using Rally 2 rules to re-enter the event.