Craig Breen claimed victory in the Corrib Oil Galway International Rally, but while his win in the first round of the 2019 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship was expected, it didn’t come easy for the 29-year-old and his Killarney co driver Paul Nagle.

The Waterford ace took his Ford Fiesta R5 to a 14.4 second victory over ten stages from the similar car of Fermanagh’s Alastair Fisher with Monaghan’s Josh Moffett another 33.7 seconds further behind in third to complete an all Fiesta top three.

Huge crowds turned up to watch race and they weren’t disappointed in what was a rip roaring opening to the new ITRC season.

It was the third stage before Breen moved into the lead and the fifth stage before he set a fastest stage time. That time saw him reclaim the lead after it was initially held by Fisher, and Breen had to use all his World Rally experience to pace himself through the typical Galway terrain and conditions.

Fermanagh’s Gary Jennings in a Subaru World rally led at one point, with his car coping better than the R5 brigade as he bid for his third Galway success

However, on the sixth stage Jennings slid off the road and out of the rally joining Monaghan’s Sam Moffett, who did likewise on the first loop, ending his rally

Breen, on slick tyres despite the wet conditions, went on to win but paid tribute to the pace of the rivals led by Fisher, who made his return to the series, and defending Irish champion  Moffett.

Jon Armstrong overcame high water temperatures and a burst shock in his Fiesta R5 to claim fourth place from Desi Henry’s out of sorts Skoda Fabia and Jonny Greer’s Fiesta,  completing the top six.

But it was Craig Breen lit up the roads of County Galway to take the win, with the promise of more to come in the Irish Tarmac Championship as he and Nagle are likely to compete in round two of the series the West Cork Rally next month.