After a demanding two days when the drivers had to deal with some appalling conditions, Donegal cousins Declan & Brian Boyle took their first ever International rally win on the Colm Quinn BMW Galway International Rally in their Subaru Impreza WRC. After completing the 13 stages of the opening round of the Clonakilty Black Pudding Irish Tarmac Championship, they had 25.5 seconds to spare over the reigning Tarmac Champion, Garry Jennings, with Rory Kennedy in the co-driver seat in their Impreza WRC.
On a shortened pair of stages, completed three times on the first day, there was very little to choose between the top five overnight with Boyle holding a slender advantage over Jennings and Eugene Donnelly holding third place in the Mini WRC. Donagh Kelly and Sam Moffett were battling it out for fourth place but only 25 seconds separated all of the drivers overnight. With the first stage on Sunday being the infamous and tricky Black Road, drama was to be expected and it duly arrived, with Donnelly crashing out on the latter part of the stage with Boyle continuing to lead.
Over Lough Cutra there was very little change other than Jennings closing the gap to just 0.2 seconds behind Boyle, but on the following stage, Brady’s Yard, the rally swung Boyle’s way decisively, when Jennings hit a flood and ended up in a field. The excursion cost him 40 seconds and dropped him back to fourth place behind Donagh Kelly and Sam Moffett. Despite an excellent time on the Black Road stage from Jennings when he pared back Boyle’s lead by 13 seconds and moved back to second, he would still need Boyle to hit trouble to have a chance of victory. Boyle held his nerve to take the maiden International win with Jennings second and Donagh Kelly edging Sam Moffett for third place on the final stage.
In Group N, Colm Murphy led the category for a long time until he damaged a wishbone on the Black Road stage, which left Stephen McCann to take the honours, with Eugene Meegan just seven seconds behind. Martin Doherty eventually took third place in Group N, with the top three separated by less than 40 seconds. The Modified Championship saw Declan Gallagher open his campaign with maximum points in his Toyota Starlet after a fearless performance all weekend. Once Peadar Hurson was forced to retire his Escort WRC on the first day, the Donegal man proved unstoppable despite the best efforts of Wesley Patterson in his Escort. The eventual winning margin was just over two minutes with Martin Donnelly in the Corolla WRC almost three minutes further back. Ed O’Callaghan, Brian Brogan and Pat Donegan all retired from the event.
Ray Cunningham won the Historic category in his Mini to move into the championship lead after two rounds, with Brendan McAree bringing his Porsche home as second registered competitor and the red Porsche of John Spiers coming home third. The Modified Championship now moves to the West Cork Rally for its second round, while the main Championship and the Historic Championship are back in action at the Circuit of Ireland Rally in April.
Motoring editor - The Clare Champion
Former Chairman and voting member of Irish Motoring Writers' Association