A giant killing performance from Daniel McKenna and Andrew Greenan in their Ford Escort not only clinched them top honours on the national event, but placed them 5th overall among the international contenders on one of the world’s oldest and most iconic rallying events.
Spanning two days at the start of Easter, we recently brought you the story of the Irish Tarmac Championship contenders who competed on this year’s Circuit of Ireland rally, but with these cars making up less than 20 of the almost 80 entries, with a small handful of modified and historic cars registered to collect Irish tarmac points in addition, it is actually the national rally that keeps such an event alive.
It’s the place to be for all vehicles not eligible for the FIA specified international categories, which includes a vast array of non-homologated, right-hand-drive R5 cars, as well as the R5+ cars and also many drivers who don’t possess an international rally driving licence.
Then there is the plethora of MkII Escorts, a couple of BMW’s, some Subaru Impreza’s and Toyota’s, a Honda Civic and even a Mazda MX-5 all battling hard on the stages.
For Donegal driver, Daniel McKenna, it was far from plain sailing on this year’s Circuit of Ireland national rally, as despite maintaining his lead from the outset, the Ford Escort crew were pushed hard across 119 competitive stage miles by Glengormley driver, Derek McGarrity.
At the helm of a newly acquired Volkswagen Polo R5, McGarrity, who was navigated by Graham Henderson finished a mere 2 seconds behind the winning crew.
Such was the pace that their closest rival, Alan Carmichael and Arthur Kieran’s in their Hyundai i20 R5, were 1 minute 15 seconds behind in third place.
Fourth place went to Niall Henry and Barney Mitchell in their Ford Fiesta, who beat Carmichael on stage one, but were left knocking at his door for the remainder of the rally.
It was a family affair to round off the top five with Derek’s son, Michael Mcgarrity, navigated by Damien Garvey in their Ford Fiesta R5 carving their way through the field after finishing 16th on the opening stage.
The top ten was finished off with Joe Hegarty (Ford Fiesta R5), William Carey, John Delvin and Camillus Bradley (all in Escort MkII’s), and a hard charging Colin Price (Toyota Starlet).
The historic rally was dominated by James Ford and Neil Shanks in their Ford Escort, as they lead from start to finish. Richard Hall and Declan Campbell held onto second overall, some 40 seconds behind the leading crew in their Ford Escort RS 1800.
After a slow start to the rally, Andrew bush and Ivor Lamont climbed to third overall in their Vauxhall Chevette HSR on stage five, a place they held onto right to the finish, whilst nipping at the heels of Hall who was just 18 seconds ahead.
The Ford Escort crew of Jimmy Mills and Ashley Trimble finished fourth after an event long battle with Luke McCarthy and Brian Duggan in a similar Ford Escort. With 2 minutes separating the top five cars, the pace dropped considerably moving down the field.
The top 10 was rounded off by Fintan McGrady, Berian Richards, Craig Macwilliam, Drew Wylie, and John Adams, all of whom were driving Ford Escort’s. A shout must go to my personal favourite, a Talbot Samba Grp B historic car, driven faultlessly to a class win by autotesting master, Jonni McDaid.
Words and Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY