FANTASTIC DOUBLE VICTORY FOR REID MOTORSPORT ON RALLY ISLE OF MAN Round six of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the Rally Isle of Man was a superb event for the Reid Motorsport team with Eugene Donnelly and Paul Kiely in their Reid Subaru...
FANTASTIC DOUBLE VICTORY FOR REID MOTORSPORT ON RALLY ISLE OF MAN
Round six of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, the Rally Isle of Man was a superb event for the Reid Motorsport team with Eugene Donnelly and Paul Kiely in their Reid Subaru taking overall victory, and James Cullen and Reba Graham in the Reid Mitsubishi Evo 9 taking Irish Group N victory and a fine seventh overall.
For Eugene Donnelly the rally was crucial for his championship hopes. "For us a win on the Rally Isle of Man was just what we needed for full points in our Irish Tarmac Championship assault, and to score our second consecutive win on the rally was superb."
Eugene started the rally in superb fashion leading after the first four stages on the Thursday evening and confessing to be much happier with his S12 Impreza. "We had a very constructive test the week before, and went back to our settings from Galway and worked again from there as we felt we hadn't progressed on the last three events, and Derek McGeehan and Eddie Corr did a fabulous job here and on the rally." But on Friday the real meat of this tough event started and the clouds threatened.
"Starting day two I was a little unadventurous with my tyre choice, going for a soft cut tyre as rain threatened, but Andreas Mikkelsen had a better choice on a medium slick and took some time. We also clipped a bank on the third stage out, damaging a tyre and we had to run two inters on the back for the Mines test, but I was confident that once we got back on the right rubber we would be able to take back time, as we weren't at ten tenths."
But Andreas ended his chances against a bank, and then championship leader Mark Higgins ended his chances by slipping into a ditch. It left Eugene with over a three minute lead on day two over Eamon Boland, and having to pace himself to the finish. "The Reid Motorsport team worked brilliantly. I had great information from Padraig and Richard Price in our gravel crew, and Ian Howard co-ordinated the team very well. They had a few things to sort out like a power steering belt which got damaged, and we had to hope it didn't slip until we managed to successfully acquire another belt."
Indeed they even had time to check out the local wildlife on the last day. "Then we had the fright of our lives on the second last stage coming round a flat 2 left and bang! I thought the car had blown up but a pheasant nearly went through our windscreen, and if it had of hit the grille we would have been out I think. We plan to do some more testing before the Ulster but it's difficult for me to find the time to do everything as it's hard to get the time to the proper testing and spend as much time in the car as some of our rivals would."
Eugene was also experimenting with his driving style using a little left foot braking on the fast stuff to stabilize the car, something which he felt was working. The next round is the Ulster International on August 31st. "I hope Mark is out in the WRC car on the Ulster as if I'm going to win the championship I want to win in proper, not in any way related to Mark being in a Group N car."
For James Cullen and Reba Graham seventh overall, third in Group N and first Irish Group N was a superb result after a trying year so far for James. "We have had three non finishes so far this year so a finish was very important for us to have any hope in the championship race. On the Isle of Man for once luck seemed to go our way, so maybe things are changing." Group N Irish Tarmac Championship leader Colm Murphy was absent from the Manx lanes, and second placed championship runner Kevin O'Donoghue was a very early retirement, but right from the word go James and Reba were on a fantastic pace, storming into the top ten.
"I really enjoyed the event. It brought back a lot of memories on those stages. They are fabulous stages, like the final stage of the event from Brandywell down, it would be hard to get a better bit of road."
It had been thirteen years since James had contested the Manx and on that occasion he was sixth overall and first in Group N ahead of Gwyndaf Evans, and this year he scored a similar result seventh overall and first Irish Tarmac Group N. "The boys at KG Motorsport have done a great job to rebuild the car in two weeks after my Jim Clark crash, get it to the finish in Donegal and now finish the Manx in one piece. We've had no major problems, despite having to revert back to our old suspension after an unsuccessful experiment in Donegal."
James now moves into third in the championship, just twelve points behind Colm Murphy in the lead. "Anything is possible and with points and a half in Cork it could still be possible to win the series, but we have to see how things go up to the Ulster."
For Shaun Reid and Damien McAuley the Rally Isle of Man was a new experience in the Reid Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo 9 but unfortunately their Evo 9 decided to quit on the start line of stage nine with gearbox and rear driveshaft failure. "Things were going fine for us up to that. We were getting our confidence back after our crash in Donegal, and we set some respectable times through the Castletown streets which were great fun to drive. It was annoying when the car broke down but we got it going for Super Rally on Saturday to gain a bit more experience for next year. I must admit the stages and organization were excellent, some really fast stuff" quipped Shaun.
The next outing for Shaun and the rest of the Reid Motorsport team will be the Ulster Rally starting on Friday August 31st in Armagh, with a possibility of Eugene contesting the Lurgan Park Rally on 11th August.