Maguire Dominates Mayo Stages Rally 2015
Monaghan’s Niall Maguire and Enda Sherry stormed to an emphatic victory on Sunday’s Hotel Ballina and Kennedy Motors Mayo Stages Rally, finishing just over a minute ahead of their nearest rivals Frank Wray and Kieran McGrath. Wray, finishing in a career best second place, was closely followed by Mayo & District Motorsport Club crew Aaron McHale and Paul McGee.
In a battle of sheer concentration, the victors would always be those who could best negotiate the scenic by-roads of North Mayo, in what was a rain soaked first loop. The opening stage twisted wildly around Kilcummin, however the drivers had little time to admire the view. Stage two started scenically through Lacken Hill before skirting Ballycastle. Kilfian hosted the third stage which proved the kindest to the drivers. Each stage was driven three times and a cumulative time decided the winners.
93 crews left rally headquarters at Hotel Ballina on Sunday and reassembled for service at Asahi plant. The conditions faced by contestants were challenging to say the least, heavy rain over the weekend had left the stages extremely testing for the drivers as muck and surface water provided extra obstacles on the course.
As expected, the World Rally Cars at the head of the field set the pace from the start, with Niall Maguire fastest on the opening test by 17 seconds, a lead he was not to relinquish throughout the day. Marty Toner and Sharon Clarke were the surprise early leaders of the unofficial two wheel drive modified battle in their Talbot Sunbeam, although it was clear from the start that this would be a closely fought contest, with the likes of Jonathon Pringle, Damian Toner & Pat Donegan all setting top ten stage times from the off.
By first service Maguire had established a lead of 40 seconds and professed himself happy with his pace, despite noting the difficulty of the stage in the wet conditions. Paddy McVeigh & Gary McElhinney in their newly acquired Subaru had been Maguire’s nearest challenger until they were forced to retire following a brush with the local scenery. Local honours were being upheld by Road Safety Ambassador Aaron McHale & Paul McGee in their Mitsubishi Evo as they were lying second overall, with Niall Maguire’s son Shane in third in another Evo.
The second loop of stages saw greatly improved conditions, with Niall Maguire continuing to extend his lead to over 50 seconds by the time they returned to Asahi for the final service. However, his closest challenger was now Frank Wray who had upped his pace in his Subaru WRC to climb to second overall. Maguire felt comfortable after the exit of McVeigh and hoped to see out the rest of the event at a steady pace. Local crew Aaron McHale & Paul McGee, who’s parents needed only to look out the window to see him pass, were still competing well and were keeping the pressure on Wray, lying a mere ten seconds behind. The modified battle was now being edged by Pat Donegan, with David Moffett and Jonathon Pringle nipping at his heels. Marty Toner had slipped back after a rapid start.
True to form, Niall Maguire and Enda Sherry set a fast but steady pace to consolidate their lead on the final loop, before duly returning to rally headquarters at Hotel Ballina to a warm welcome as event winners. Frank Wray & Kieran McGrath made no mistakes to take second, while Aaron McHale & Paul McGee were delighted to finish third overall on home soil. Shane Maguire was the group N winner in his Evo and finished fourth overall. In the battle for modified honours, Pat Donegan / Alan Keena in their Ford Escort finished just under 20 seconds ahead of the Toyota Starlet of David Moffett & Fintan Sherry with Jonathon Pringle / Martin Byrne in their Mark II.
Top local finishers other than McHale were Barry Cuffe & Aidan Gannon from Castlebar, finishing 20th overall third in class 11R in his Elvery’s backed Escort. Ballyhaunis man Shane Buckley had been the top local, running as high as 12th overall until his rally came to end on the penultimate stage. Belmullet man Shane Barry was on the notes for Padraic McGee and guided him to a class 1 victory and 22nd place overall. Kenneth McHale from Knockmore came home second in class 15 after a good run. Westport pairing David Healy & Stephen McGing finished second in class 1, following up their recent result in Birr. Club secretary John Duffy & John Egan from Claremorris won class 3 in his Honda Integra, fairing slightly better than Club Chairman Matthew Murphy with brother Ronan on the notes who managed to come home fourth in class 11R after an eventful day behind the wheel.
Tony Langdon & David Loughney in their Civic finished second in class six after setup issues hampered their day. Brian Lavelle, on his first time out, finished a respectable seventh in class 1 and 42nd overall in his Devers Garage backed Civic. Castlebar pairing Padraig Conneely & Liam Walsh finished third in class 11F for front wheel drive car. Experienced local navigator Jared Gill was calling notes for Stephen Kelly and they finished 48th overall and seventh in class 11R. Father and son crew Patrick McEveny Snr and Jnr, managed to bring home their Corolla fourth in class 11F on their first time out. David Moran and Robert Culliney finished third in class 10 in a Citroen Saxo. Killala’s Aubrey Carson and Mary McAndrew came home fourth in class 10, while Raymond Carroll with Crystal Culkeen on the notes hot on their heels in fifth in the class.
The Junior category had a number of Mayo entrants with Justin Ryan battling for the lead throughout the day and eventually finishing second. Stephen Doherty & Alan Moran from Foxford finished fifth in their Opel Kadett. Local woman Trisha Greavy on her return to rallying was happy to finish sixth. Mayo Young Drivers’ Champion Noel Murphy from Shrule eventually finished seventh despite visiting the scenery on stage one, using Rally 2 rules to re-enter the event.
Unfortunately, a number of local crews failed to complete all stages due to various issues. Event sponsor Ciaran Kennedy from Ballina with Paddy O’Hora will be disappointed to have bowed out early in the event after an off road excursion. Lacken man Colin Loughney & Seamus Murphy were unlucky not to finish in their Escort after engine problems. Michael Loughney, who had cousin Fergal Loughney on the notes, was driving a similar Escort to his Coin and retired due to similar technical problems. Father and son crew Ronan & Lorcan Moore had retire in the final loop following engine mount problems. Martin Cawley and Kenny Langan also had to retire with engine problems at the end of stage 3.
Once again Mayo & District Motorsport Club put on an excellent rally that ran right on schedule, testament to the huge effort put in by Clerk of the Course Padraic Roche and his team. In addition to their sponsors, the club would like to thank the residents and locals along the rally route for all their support and co-operation.
Photo credits – James Burke Photography
– Brendan Flynn