Galway International Rally 2012

Gass times for Darren with victory on Galway International Rally

Mayo competitors feature strongly

Cathal Doyle
Photos by Sean Hassett and

Armagh driver Darren Gass claimed his first international rally victory by the narrowest of margins on Sunday’s Galway International Rally, with a number of Mayo competitors also recording strong results on the opening round of the 2012 Tarmac Rally Championship.

Traditionally a two-day event, the Safety Direct Galway International was shortened to a day rally for 2012. In doing so it attracted one of the strongest entries seen on Irish events in some years, with large crowds thronging to the stages based around Headford in the north of the county, following the opening spectator special stage through the City centre.

A host of new drivers debuted new cars on the event, not least among them five times former champion Eugene Donnelly, The Derry man, with Paddy Toner co-driving, had one of the latest generation World Rally Cars, a MINI John Cooper Works WRC at his disposal, but had to give second best early on to reigning Tarmac and National rally champions Tim McNulty and Paul Kiely. The Meath driver, competing in his familiar Subaru WRC, had established a comfortable lead until the fifth of the ten stages when he clipped some bales at a chicane. He continued, but with damaged steering and suspension, was unable to maintain his earlier pace. Donnelly was also in trouble with a puncture on the following stage, allowing Darren Gass and his Monaghan co-driver Enda Sherry, competing in an older Subaru WRC, to move ahead.

With one stage to go, Gass had overtaken McNulty for the lead, but Donnelly, now some seventeen seconds back was on a charge, having taken chunks of time off the young Armagh driver on the previous two tests. His challenge fell just short though; despite another fastest time by 15.8 seconds on the final stage, Gass managed to hang on by a mere 1.3 seconds, to record the biggest result of his career to date. McNulty brought his ailing Subaru home in third ahead of the leading Group N competitor Gary Jennings from Fermanagh. Donegal’s Declan Boyle won the National section of the rally, while English visitor Ernie Graham was victorious in the Historic category. (Click on photos to enlarge)

Local competitors keep Mayo flags flying

The top Mayo finisher was David Carney from Aughagower who, with co-driver Ray Fitzpatrick, finished 15 overall in the International Rally, and the leading competitor in a Citroen C2 R2. Competing in the National Rally, Shrule brothers Matthew and Noel Murphy pushed hard all day to finish 33 overall and 6 in class in their Toyota Corolla TwinCam, a lack of power their biggest gripe on the day.

Finishing just four places behind them were a delighted Justin Ryan from Headford and his Ballinrobe co-driver Andy Walsh. Debuting a new Honda Civic, they got progressively quicker throughout the day as they fine-tuned the handling of their car, to finish a strong 9 in class 16, Andy even finding time to update Mid-West Radio on their progress in between stages! Also going well were father and son team Adrian and Aidan Fahy from Ballinrobe who had a new engine and gearbox fitted to their Ford Escort, and were happy to get to the finish in 50 overall and 6 in class 13.

Bekan’s Sean McHugh and his co-driver Liam Healy from Achill had been having a strong run, up to 21 overall in the National Rally, before the Achilles Heel of their MBW M3 Compact – a broken driveshaft – brought early retirement on the eighth stage. Mechanical failure in the form of a broken gearbox was also the cause of retirement after four stages for Claremorris co-driver Seamus Coffey in the Subaru of John McGeehan.