Kerry native Thomas Fitzmaurice won a dramatic Circuit of Kerry Rally, the third round of the Dunlop Rally Championship, in his Subaru WRC today after a tie break on the last stage.
Fitzmaurice secured his second win of the Championship when he and co-driver Fionn Foley finished level on time with Brian O’Mahony and co-driver John Higgins after today’s final eighth stage.
However, Fitzmaurice, who led the rally for seven out of the eight stages, was awarded the victory as he was fastest in the last stage as both crews finished on 53 minutes and 23 seconds for the day.
The local crew of Thomas Fitzmaurice/Fionn Foley (Subaru) won a pulsating Carlton Hotel Circuit of Kerry, the third round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship, after a tie-break with the similar Subaru WRC of Brian O’Mahony/John Higgins.
Niall Maguire/Enda Sherry, also in a Subaru WRC, were 32 seconds further behind in third. It was the fifth time in recent history that the rally was won in such circumstances.
Meanwhile, Frank Kelly/Liam Brennan (Ford Escort) won the Modified category to move into the lead of both the inaugural Dunlop National Mark 2 Escort Champions Trophy and the rally.ie category.
Victory in the Group N showroom class went to Eugene Meegan/Brian Sharkey (Mitsubishi EvoX).
On the opening stage, Headley’s Bridge, Fitzmaurice set a cracking pace to open up a lead of 14 seconds over the opposition. Maguire was second quickest – a mere second ahead of Barrett - with O’Mahony a similar timeframe behind in fourth.
Barrett, second on the road, remarked that the dust from Fitzmaurice’s Subaru hung in the Kerry air and was a problem. Maguire was untroubled as O’Mahony recalled a spin that cost him a few fleeting seconds.
Fitzmaurice topped the timesheets on Desmond’s Grave and arrived at the Tralee service park with a 23-second lead over Barrett. Maguire was three seconds further behind with O’Mahony in fourth - 37 seconds off the lead.
Frank Kelly (Escort) led the Modified category, the Tyrone driver nine seconds in front of his Donegal rival, Declan Boyle, they were fifth and seventh respectively, split by the Mitsubishi of late entry Eugene Meegan.
Colm Murphy (Subaru) admitted he was a little off the pace – he was eighth – eleven seconds behind Meegan. The final places in the top ten were annexed by Mike Quinn (Escort) and another late entry, Mark Donnelly (Mitsubishi). Quinn’s progress was stymied by brake troubles.
Elsewhere, having posted the sixth best time on the first stage, Roy White (MG S2000) slipped to 13th when his car stalled at a junction.
Having made some adjustments to the suspension, O’Mahony proceeded to punch in the best times for the repeat of both stages to move into second – eleven seconds behind leader, Fitzmaurice, who spun and lost vital time on SS 4. Maguire was third with Barrett in fourth reporting a slipping clutch.
In the Modified section, Frank Kelly was a slender second ahead of Declan Boyle. Colm Murphy (Subaru), who was seventh, led the Group N category – three seconds ahead of Eugene Meegan (Mitsubishi). Mike Quinn (Escort) in ninth continued to be hampered by brake problems. The top ten was completed by Mark Donnelly (Mitsubishi).
The afternoon stages on the outskirts of Tralee served up more exciting fare. On Stage 5, near Camp, O’Mahony and Maguire topped the timesheets, covering the stage in a time of five minutes and three seconds with Fitzmaurice, who clipped a chicane bale, a second behind as he continued to lead O’Mahony – the margin between them stood at ten seconds.
On Stage 6, O’Mahony was quickest, albeit by a second, to leave the deficit at nine seconds. Maguire was just three seconds behind in third, but Barrett retired when his Subaru overheated.
In the Modified category, Kelly led Boyle by four seconds with both drivers extracting the maximum from the Ford Escorts. Group N leader, Colm Murphy, slid his Subaru off the road on Stage 6 leaving Meegan at the top of the showroom category. Mark Donnelly was sixteen seconds further behind. Kerry drivers, Tommy Mason and Charlie Hickey, in Ford Escorts, rounded off the top ten.
O’Mahony set a scintillating pace and moved ahead on the penultimate test, he finished the stage ten seconds quicker than Fitzmaurice to move into the lead, albeit by a second with Maguire 15 seconds further behind in third.
In a dramatic final stage, Fitzmaurice was a second quicker than
O’Mahony, both had the same overall time, but with Fitzmaurice posting the fastest time on the final stage, he took the laurels on a tie-break. Meanwhile, Maguire, who punctured on the final stage, was third – 32 seconds behind.
Kelly won the Modified category after a great duel with Boyle, who was six seconds behind, edging out Mike Quinn on a tie-break for fifth overall. Group N winner Eugene Meegan (Mitsubishi) was seventh in a top ten that also featured the Escort trio of Tommy Mason, Frank Sweeney and Charlie Hickey. Mark Donnelly (Mitsubishi) retired with transmission woes.
There were joint winners in the Dunlop Drive of the Day - West Cork’s Jason Roycroft/Nicole O’Shea (Honda Civic), and Donegal’s Adrian Cannon/Niall Morley (Honda Civic).