Mayo Stages Rally 2011 Local Competitors

Mayo Stages Rally 2011 Local Competitors

The 2011 Mayo Stages rally will go down in the history books as one of the toughest ever! With hail, sleet, snow and bucket loads of rain the elements were really working against the local competitors on their home stages. But this could not dampen their spirits, the resilient Mayo men and women battled on valiantly.

The first Mayo crew to cross the finish ramp at the McWilliam Park Hotel on Sunday evening were Colin & Michael Loughney, the Killala pairing finished in an excellent 17th overall and 2nd in class twelve. Colin was ecstatic at the finish, delighted to have finished what proved to be a very tough event. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the famous red Ford Escort though when it entered first service of the day after three stages it showed signs of an excursion, Colin takes up the story “We were passing a car that had gone off and was stuck in a hedge, Just as I thought we were gone by it I put the power on and the back of the car stepped out and hit the other car! Then the second stage we had another big moment. We were in second gear through a left right kink and the back of the car stepped out and touched the grass. I thought it was all over as we took both sides of the road with us, we were very lucky ” after that it was a steady run into the first service of the day.

After a fraught morning Colin was trying to take a steady approach to the next loop of 3 stages but it shows even when you are not on the limit accidents can still happen. Colin: “There was a fast approach into a chicane on stage 4 and the braking zone was extremely slippy. We locked up the brakes and were heading straight for the bales but somehow we found grip just as we neared them and I managed to get it around. We had a lucky escape. After clean runs over stage 5 and 6 Colin found himself in 19th overall and the highest placed Mayo & District Motorsport Club member. Now he just had to complete the final loop safely to claim one of his own personal best finishes.

Colin and Michael Loughney

The penultimate stage and all was looking good as they had a clean run but when they came to a stop car the wipers stopped working and then the gearbox came loose. It seemed like fate was conspiring against them but nothing could stop the Loughneys from finishing. They temporarily tightened the gearbox and made it through the final stage to be the fastest Mayo crew home.

Colin “I am delighted as it is my best finish ever!” and he had every right to be happy as they were the quickest Mayo crew in such challenging conditions and it was a credit to Colin & Michael and the team.

Next Mayo man home was James Culliney from Bekan, with navigator Andrew Grennan they finished in 23rd overall.

The pair had possibly one of most interesting drives of the rally. It all started well as there was just 5 seconds down on James Cassidy the class leader over the first stage. This was a very good time considering that the year before he only made it a mile into that stage before the car broke down. So he was happy to finish it. Stage 2 also went well, James sliding his immaculately prepared Ford Escort Mark 2 around the stage and was only 2 seconds slower than James Cassidy. The class battle was really hotting up.

Going into stage 3 there was only 7 seconds between the two James’s, but it all went wrong for the Bekan man, he was caught out on a very slippy section with the car sliding wide. James tried to correct it by applying the handbrake but it was too late.

He hit a rock which wrenched the steering wheel from his hands breaking his thumb in the process. Finally the car came to rest in a gate. Luckily there was not an awful amount of damage done and after help from spectators they got back on the road all be it loosing two minutes fifteen seconds in the process.
James fought through the pain on the road section back to service and once in service he and his team got to work on repairing the car.

The broken thumb seemed to have no ill effects on his stage times over the next loop as James reported that once the stage started and the adrenalin started flowing he didn’t even notice it. He decided not to take anymore risks and just get the car to the finish which he did, ending the day in an excellent 23rd overall and 3rd in class 12. James would like to thank Eugene Waldron & Associates and PC Plastering for there support.

The distinctive blue Toyota Corolla of Foxford’s Ambrose Gaughan had a tough day on the slippy stages but still managed to finish in 29th place overall. Ambrose who is navigated by Derek Molloy from Lahardane was hampered by a lack of heat in his tyres on the first three stages due to the cold conditions, This made him take a cautious approach and left him in 39th place overall after the first three stages. But the Mayo men were lucky to even make the rally as Ambrose had to call on Drifting legend Declan Munnelly to get parts from his gearbox to get the car up and running before the event. Luckily the car ran faultlessly throughout the rally and the team would like to profusely thank Declan for his generosity.

The dramas continued through stage 4 with the windsceen constantly fogging up in the immensely wet conditions. Then on stage 5 it looked like it was all over.

As Ambrose pushed through a tight right hand bend he was confronted with a silage bale in the middle of the road. The bale had been hit by a previous car and the marshals were struggling to get it back into position when Ambrose arrived. With no other option the Toyota ploughed straight through the bale. Ambrose was immediately fearful that the radiator might be damaged but when they got to the end of the stage it seemed that the damage was only cosmetic. A sigh of relief was had in the car and the pair were quite happy to make it back to the final service beside the McWilliam Park Hotel. Here they could do a few more checks before the last three stages.

Before leaving service Ambrose chose to use a soft compound tyre for the last loop which seemed to really work well as he climbed from 34th overall to a final 29th and 2nd in class 9 a brilliant result for the pair on there home stages. Ambrose would like to sincerely thank his navigator Derek Molloy, Declan Munnelly for his generosity and all his sponsors especially .

Ballinrobe man Ciaran Walsh was hot on Ambrose’s heals finishing just sixteen seconds behind the Foxford man. Ciaran with Shane O Brien on the notes had a surprisingly trouble free day.

After winning the junior section of the Galway International Rally in February there was high expectations of Ciaran for the rally, and he delivered. Finishing in 30th place overall a claiming 3rd in the Honda Challenge, in the process picking up €500 worth of prizes, it was a great day for the Mayo man.

Ciaran: “I had a steady run, I was loosing time in the middle loop of stages as I wasn’t pushing too hard, I wanted to bring the car home in one piece after last year” On last years event Ciaran had a big accident colliding with a tree so it was a real bonus getting to the finish with not even a scratch on the car. Ciaran was the fourth Mayo & District Motorsport Member to the finish the event.

Nial Morley from Knock was next Mayo finisher in at 51st overall. Niall with navigator Cormac Lyons had an eventful day. After stage 1 and the pair found themselves languishing in 76th place overall this was due to an overshoot and a spin on the stage, Not an ideal start to the rally but Niall battled on, climbing back up the leader board on stage 2. But all his good work was undone on stage 3 as they went off the road in sight of the flying finish loosing 2 minutes.dropped him back to 80th overall leaving him a colossal amount of time to make back in the afternoon stages, but that’s exactly what he did. He steadily made his way back up the time sheets finishing the day in 51st place overall a credible result.

Derek Bolton and navigator Trever O Connell, had a very up and down day. The pair suffering teething problems with the new Subaru Impreza WRC. Stage 1 was to set the tone for the day, with cold brakes and tyres at the beginning of the stage Derek put the car into a ditch, luckily an army of Marshall’s and spectators descended onto the car, they push and pulled and eventually got the pair back on the road loosing about 2 minutes. After being passed by slower cars while he was in the ditch Derek had trouble being held up by cars, this hampered his recovery. After a few trouble free stages he found himself in 68th overall a brilliant recovery from being as far down the order as 97th.

But stage 6 of the rally almost saw the demise of the Bo-Drive run Impreza, After passing a competitor who had gone off the road the back wheel of the car touched the grass verge at high speed. Derek: “I passed the car and i stayed a bit to close to the grass and once the back wheel touched it I was a passenger! We ended up sideways across the road with drains in front and behind us, I had to do a six point turn to get pointing in the right direction again!” After that stage we just got quicker and quicker I was getting a feel for the car and it was all starting to click but we ran out of stages” Derek finished the rally in 56th place overall and took first in class 15 a great result for the start of the new season with a new car.

Right behind Derek was John Duffy & John Egan. The John’s were in flying form with a new sponsor in the car was looking great at the start of the event and it was set to stay that way, as John didn’t put a foot wrong all day.first loop proved challenging as they had chosen the wrong tyres this severely compromised the grip levels in the wet conditions, leeding to the Honda Integra clouting a bale on stage 2 luckily no damage was done and the car came back to service in one piece.

It was an undramatic day for the pair, after a 12 month lay off from the sport John admitted to being a little rusty but was starting to get back into the swing of it over the final loop of stages. They finished the rally in 58th place overall.

In 66th overall were Brendan Corcoran & Jarad Gill after being as high as 57th a small error cost them fourteen minutes in penalties. As the timecard was handed out to be filled up at the end of stage 4 the pages got wet in the deluge that engulfed the stages. This lead to the pages getting stuck together and the pair using stage 6 time card instead stage 5 on stage 5. But this massive time penalty didn’t deter the Brendan he drove on and gained thirteen places in the overall standings to leave him in 66th overall.

The last Mayo crew to finish were Justin Ryan & Andy Walsh. It was a trying day for Justin, he showed great pace over the opening stages being as high as 63rd overall and beating much more experienced drivers like John Duffy. On stage 6 this was about to change though. On the start line of the stage he lost all gears, after a few frantic seconds the car was rammed into second gear and they set off into the stage.

With only the one gear it didn’t take long for them to be caught by the next car, and as they had lost both wing mirrors earlier in the day Justin could not see the car behind him. After holding the car up for a short period of time he saw a safe area to pull in in front of some houses, but unfortunately so did the car behind them, as Justin pulled in the car behind rear ended them and sent them careering towards the wall of the house. Luckily they didn’t hit the wall but there was substantial damage to the back of the car.

Considering that the car was stuck in second gear and now damaged in the rear Justin was ready to throw in the towel, but Andy was having none of it. They waited for the last car to go past and then they tried to complete the stage, luckily it was service just after the stage and Justin nursed the car back in. The team got to work temporarily fixing the car and it was just ready in time for the last loop of stages.

Justin and Andy finished in 69th overall after incurring a time penalty.

Unfortunately not all of the Mayo competitors were lucky enough to finish the event.

Eamon Walsh from Clarmorris was navigating for Stuart Darcy in his Mitsubishi Lancer. The pair had a flyer of a rally winning the Group N category of the rally and finishing 4th overall but there rally was to abruptly halt just after the finish of the last stage when the diff broke on the car stopping it dead in the road, It was a great shame for Eamonn as it would have been a great result but as the saying goes “That’s Rallying!”

Padraic Roche and Chrystal Culkeen were another crew who fell by the wayside. After Padraics excellent result on the Galway International Rally he was hoping to emulate that success in Mayo but it was not to be. They retired after 3 stages with gearbox problems.

Shrules Matthew & Noel Murphy retired less than a mile into the first stage. The WestTyre Toyota Corolla broke a timing belt, It was a great shame for the team and especially for Noel as it was his first time ever navigating.