What a great weekends rallying with a few twists in the running and a lot of casualties on the way (52 cars started and 25 finished the event), with big name Andrew Nesbitt a possible winner for the event crashing out on stage 3 (Friday) and spending the night in hospital with 3 broken ribs whilst his co-driver had concussion. The biggest controversy of the weekend however was the Derek McGarrity case where he had been caught supposedly illegal recceing before the official period for that started thus getting disqualified form the event, though he appealed this ruling and was therefore allowed to run the event as appeal pending so it will be interesting to see how that works out. A very good win for Mark Higgins with Comber man Mike Gibson on the notes with him and Mark really showed his class at this event with great but careful driving all weekend and a broken exhaust which heated inside the car up so much to melt his boots to the floor and fill it with fumes didn’t stop him instead made him go harder to get to the end of the stages to get away from the smell and fumes.
Donnelly got a well deserved 2nd place and if it hadn’t have been for a puncture loosing him 2 mins then he was in contention for the top spot but it was a tall order and I think he was happy to settle for 2nd place overall which in such an old car is something to be proud of. Kevin Lynch had a puncture on Saturday morning which put him well down the field and then he retired later in the day. Austin McHale drove consistently to get 3rd place despite clutch problems and an oil leak in his Focus WRC. In Grp N Dessie Keenan took the victory from Dickie Curran who set fastest times in his class on 7 or so of Saturday’s stages though Dessie had done enough on the Friday and has now gained the points to win grpN honors in the Pirelli Irish Tarmac Championship with 1 round still remaining!
So all in all a great weekends tight rallying and so many pictures to show this and credit has to be given to the locals who put up with the massive crowds all weekend, and also major credit to the organisers as the spectator vantage points have really taken a change for the better over the past few years and access and maps are getting better year by year, so I can’t wait for next years event.
The top 12 standings at this the end of the 2004 Ulster International Rally – UNOFFICIAL LEADERBOARD AFTER STAGE 19 (final stage)
1st (6) Mark Higgins/Mike Gibson (Focus WRC) 188.8.131.52
2nd (5) Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Corolla WRC) 2.01.01.8
3rd (8) Austin MacHale/Brian Murphy (Focus WRC) 2.03.07.9
4th (11) Tim McNulty/Eugene O’Donnell (Impreza WRC) 2.03.19.7
5th (9) Eamonn Boland/Francis Regan (Impreza WRC) 2.03.20.1
6th (10) Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin (Focus WRC) 2.06.24.0
7th (3) David Higgins/Daniel Barritt (Accent WRC) 2.07.28.4
8th (14) Gwyndaf Evans/Huw Lewis (Puma) 2.07.42.2
9th (30) Guy Wilks/Phil Pugh (Ignis) 2.07.43.6
10th (22) Sean Devine/Brendan Connor (Impreza WRC) 2.08.22.1
11th (17) Dessie Keenan/Enda Sherry (Lancer N) 2.08.26.2
12th (25) Dickie Curran/Gary Lyons (Lancer N) 2.08.50.2