Catherine Collins reviews the weekend’s Rally action from both sides of the water
Happy New Rally Year on both sides of the Irish Sea this weekend, with the opening round of the British Rally Championship, Rally Sunseeker in Bournemouth and the first round of the Dunlop National Rally Championship hosted by Birr & District Motor Club, Co. Offaly.
Ireland driver Mark Donnelly and co-driver Dai Roberts in their Renault Clio R3 dominated the driving force at the Sunseeker not before a tight battle between Jarkkro Nikara/Petri Nikara in their Citroen DS3 R3T. No more than 4 seconds separating these two teams throughout until Nikara’s exit on SS11 after their engine lost power.
The exit of Nikara, meant a shot up in the rankings for Desi Henry & co-driver Niall Burns from fifth place to second in their DS3, and the Welsh contingency of Elfyn Evans/Andrew Edwards in their Ford Fiesta R2 taking the final spot on the podium.
With a change to the BRC rules this year to accommodate more junior drivers and make the whole rallying experience more cost effective, the rule change to welcome 2WD cars from the traditional 4WD cars, shows the car’s performance within classes will be closer and more competitive The results of the opening round speak for themselves in this. We look forward to the next round in Welshpool for the Bulldog Rally on March 23/24th.
Kerryman, Subaru WRC S11 driver Thomas Fitzmaurice with co-driver Fionn Foley have kicked off their pledge to dominate all rounds of the Dunlop National Rally Championship for 2012 by winning the opening round in Birr with just a 0.17 lead over Cork man Brian O’Mahony with John Higgins in the McKinstry Subaru WRC in second place. Monaghan’s Niall Maguire and co-driver Enda Sherry have claimed 3rd place 1.01 behind Fitzmaurice in first position.
Robert Barrable and co-driver Dermot O’Gorman has taken 4th position 1.17 behind Fitzmaurice in his Skoda Fabia S2000. The Abbeyleix head-quartered rally has been used by Barrable as a test for the S2000 before he competes in the IRC Circuit of Ireland on Easter Weekend. With a full house accommodated for this first round, we welcome the next instalment of the Dunlop National Rally Championship in Claremorris for the Mayo Stages Rally on March 11th.
Worthy mention in the Rally world this weekend is the 2nd round of the Rally America National Championship series, Rally in the 100 Acre Wood in Salem Missouri.
Monster Energy World Rally Team star Ken Block stole the show to win the Rally ahead of David Higgins/Craig Drew in second place.
This is the 6th win in a row for the Block with his next performance in WRC Mexico March 9-11th. Isle of Mann driver Higgins still reigns over the championship having won the Sno Drift rally in January ahead of Antoine L’Estrage who retired due to mechanical problems in the woods.
The Irish connection mastered the woods also, 2WD winner Chris Duplessis and Cork native co-driver Karl Atkinson stole first place with their Fiesta R2 in this new loving category. Duplessis & Atkinson are a team to keep eyes on for 2012 dominance. Duplessis was 7th Overall.