Mayo Stages Rally 2009
Press Release: Tues. March 3rd
Despite these recessionary times, the rally has attracted a near capacity entry, with in excess of 130 competitors due to take the start. The Mayo Stages Rally is once again part of three major series – the Dunlop National Rally Championship, the Border Rally Championship – which this year welcomes a new title sponsor in the form of Donegal based Henderson Auto Sport & Spares (HASS), and the 205 Challenge.
Clerk of the Course Jonathan Rice and his experienced team of officials have spent the last number of months hard at work preparing for this major sporting occasion. The result is a mouth-watering selection of stages that will test competitors to the limits, while showcasing some of the most beautiful scenery in the country. Using roads over the Sheeffry Hills and Partry Mountains in the south of the county, a total of eight stages run over three tests provide a total of 118 km stage mileage, enough to ensure plenty of thrills and spills before a winner is declared back at rally headquarters on Sunday evening.
Thanks To Sponsors
Mayo & District Motorsport Club would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the sponsors who have supported the running of this rally, in particular the stage sponsors Casey Autoworld Castlebar and Ballina, West Tyre of Ballinrobe, and Carney’s Quarry of Aughagower.
A Full Days Rallying
Behind Gareth are a trio of Subaru WRC drivers who look set to fight it out for championship honours this year. Leading the challenge will be reigning National Rally Champion Patrick Elliott. The Cavan man has never won in Mayo but in the past year has become the man to beat at National level. Victory on the opening round of the championship in Birr two weeks ago underlines his determination to claim back-to-back championships.
Running at three is former multiple champion Niall Maguire. The popular Monaghan driver has already won in Mayo in 2002 and 2004, and would dearly love to claim a hat-trick of victories. Behind Niall is Kildare’s Kevin Barrett, sure to be close by to pick up the challenge for victory should the leading drivers falter.
The Group N battle for showroom specification cars also promises plenty of action with Anthony O’Halloran from Clare hoping to build on his recent strong result in Birr. He faces strong opposition from the likes of Gary Jennings, Sean Flanagan and last year’s winner Danny McBride. Meanwhile the Modified runners will be putting on a show as always, with the Escorts of Trevor Mulligan and Russell Woods leading the fray.
Local Competitors To The Fore
But that’s just a sample of the many local competitors taking part; full details of all the crews, stage times and locations are included in the rally programme which will be on sale from Friday evening at all major service stations and shops in the Castlebar and Westport regions.
Press Release: Fri March 6th
Meanwhile, Maguire knows that he cannot afford to allow Elliott dominate to the extent he did in Nenagh. The former triple national champion lost time with suspension related problems on the first pair of stages and a puncture on the sixth test ended any hopes of reeling in Elliott. Maguire will again be co-driven by fellow Monaghan man, Enda Sherry.
The Dunlop title-chasing duo of Elliott and Maguire are the respective second and third seeds with Gareth MacHale heading the entry in the Opel Corsa S2000 car. The Dubliner had intended to compete in Nenagh but wasn’t in possession of all the necessary homologation papers.
Maynooth’s, Kevin Barrett in the McKinstry prepared Subaru WRC occupies the number four berth, he was fourth in Nenagh, like Elliott and Maguire, he is also aware that it will take a few events to raise the pace of the series.
Having led the Group N category after the first stage in the opening round, Fermanagh’s, Garry Jennings (Mitsubishi) will be very determined on making up for the disappointment of retiring on the second stage with a throttle sensor issue. Indeed, he is quite capable of securing a top three finish in Mayo. Clare’s, Anthony O’Halloran, also in a Mitsubishi, currently second in the Patterson’s RallyNews Group N category, had a steady run in County Tipperary and will be keen to stay the pace. Meath’s, Sean Flanagan (Subaru) has regular co-driver, Brian Duggan back on the pacenotes and they are seeded at number seven.
Forced to retire some two kilometres from the finish of the final stage in Nenagh, Brian O’Mahony (Renault Clio S1600) aims to get back amongst the points in Castlebar. The Cork driver, a former Irish national Class 6 champion and Irish and British S1600 champion, dominated the two-wheel drive element in Nenagh, it will be interesting to watch his progress in Mayo. His co-driver is Kiltimagh native, John Higgins.
Elsewhere, the Mayo entry also includes Eamonn Daly (Mitsubishi), John Cairns (Subaru), Trevor Bustard (Mitsubishi), local Mayo driver, Tom Moldoon (Mitsubishi), Jack Maguire (Escort Cosworth), Gary McElhinney (Subaru Legacy), Raymond Conlon (Corolla) and Anthony Hand (Escort). The S1600 Citroen Saxo of Andrew Bushe and the Mitsubishi of Paul Elliott are also on the entry list.
Post Event News:
The opening stage, Big Maum, fell victim of the weather when a hailstorm made the conditions treacherous and the organisers decided it wasn’t safe to run in competitive mode. On the second test, Barnaderg, Elliott set the pace, 13 seconds clear of Maguire with Gareth MacHale a further ten seconds behind in third. Elliott was also quickest on the third stage, despite an overshoot that cost him some ten seconds. He arrived at the Westport service halt with a 16 second advantage. Maguire admitted he struggled in the conditions while third placed MacHale was acclimatising to the Opel Corsa S2000. Kevin Barett in fourth had to back off towards the end of the third test amidst a heavy hail shower. Garry Jennings (Mitsubishi) was untroubled in fifth with local driver, Tom Muldoon (Mitsubishi) some 20 seconds adrift in sixth place. Reserve entry, Thomas Fitzmaurice (Mitsubishi) was next in a top ten that also included the Mk. 2 Escort of Anthony Hand; Danny McBride (Mitsubishi) and Jack Maguire (Escort Cosworth). Elsewhere, Brian O’Mahony (Renault Clio) lost time with fuel problems, he was 13th. overall while Trevor Mulligan onboard an errant handling Ford Escort, was down in 46th. place.
On the first run over Big Maum, S.S. 4, Elliott added a further three seconds to his lead with Maguire and MacHale completing an unchanged top three. Kevin Barrett moved to within six seconds of MacHale. Meanwhile, Jennings lost a few seconds when he experienced fuel problems at the start of the test.
Elliott spun on the fifth test and lost the front bumper of his Subaru, he was fortunate not to have experienced any further damage in the 360 degree spin. At service, he had no explanation, ” I really don’t know why it happened, I touched the brakes approaching a left hand bend and it just spun around. I didn’t see any oil, I was really very lucky and I reckon I only dropped about ten seconds.”
The resultant damage caused handling problems through Stage 6 and Maguire, who was fastest on both stages, cut the deficit to three seconds. MacHale, in third, reckoned the suspension was too stiff for the Mayo roads, he was also losing time on the fast sections of the stages. The Dubliner was a minute and 31 seconds off second spot and just a mere second ahead of Kevin Barrett, who remarked on the difficult nature of the stages.
Jennings remained in fifth – his Mitsubishi tended to flood at the start of the stages. Danny McBride also in a Mitsubishi, was next – 25 seconds further behind. O’Mahony made strong progress to move into seventh in a top ten rounded off by Fergal Costello (Mitsubishi), Thomas Fitzmaurice (Mitsubishi) and Jack Maguire (Escort Cosworth). Local hero, Tom Muldoon retired his Mitsubishi with a broken differential while Sean Flanagan (Subaru) lost several places with a spin on almost every stage.
On the penultimate test, Elliott gained a precious second on Maguire to lead by four seconds. He added two more seconds on the final test that gave him a six second winning margin. “Niall (Maguire) and myself had the wrong tyres for the final stages, we had full wets and the roads were dry. It was far from being a foregone conclusion, I had to battle hard against him (Niall). It was a hard rally to win and I suppose I didn’t make it any easier on myself either.” said a delighted Elliott at the finish.
Maguire took second and Barrett increased his pace to snatch a late third place. Elsewhere, MacHale was fourth on his debut in the Opel Corsa S2000 while Jennings took top points in the Patterson’s RallyNews Group N category. Danny McBride (Mitsubishi) overcame mechanical problems to claim sixth.
Brian O’Mahony (Renault Clio S1600) took seventh and top points for the inaugural rally.ie award for two-wheel drive competitors. Thomas Fitzmaurice (Mitsubishi), Paul Elliott (Mitsubishi) and Russell Woods (Escort) filled the remaining places in the top ten. The latter pair were separated on a tie-break with Elliott getting the verdict by virtue of being fastest on the final stage. Anthony O’Halloran (Mitsubishi) and Sean Flanagan (Subaru) improved on the final stages to take eleventh and twelfth respectively. Fergal Costello crashed his Mitsubishi out of seventh place on the final test. Mulligan (Escort) finished sixteenth.
Results for Top 10 places:
1 Patrick Elliott/Paul Goodman (Subaru Impreza WRC) 55m 22s,