STATOIL GALWAY INTERNATIONAL RALLY IRELAND RESULTS

Extracts from Brian and Liz Pattersons Rally bulletins......

1st Bertie Fisher / Rory Kennedy (Impreza) 2.13.29 2nd James Cullen / Ellen Morgan, (Escort) 2.14.33 3rd Liam O'Calaghan / James O'Brien ( Toyota ) 2.18.10 4th Eamon Bolan / Damien Morrissey (Escort) 2.18.11 5th Stephen Murphy / Mickey Morrissey (Escort ) 2.19.10 6th Trevor Cathers / Gordon Nobel (Impreza) 2.21.05 7th Mickey Farrell / Anthony Nestor (Legacy) 2.22.42 8th Willie John Dolan / Dylan Jones (Impreza) 2.29.26 9th martin Ward / Linda Conroy (Escort) 2.30.18 10th Damien Keenan / Cathal McCartin (6R4) 2.30.36

Very wet weather conditions dominated the Statoil Galway International Rally. The treacherous conditions meant the superior traction of four wheel drive cars had a distinct advantage. Last years winner Frank Meagher set the early pace 2 seconds faster than James Cullen with Bertie Fisher a mere 3 seconds behind James in third place. Bertie had a small spin which jammed the back bumper against the exhaust pipe and it started to melt and smoke.

Bertie decided to back off as he was not sure what was causing the smoke. On special Stage 2 Bertie got the hammer down and by the end of special stage 3 he was leading James Cullen by 13 seconds. Former winner of this event Austin McHale had fuel metering problems in his Toyota Celica GT4, although he managed second quickest time on SS Austin was already talking about withdrawing from the event. Another former winner Kenny McKinstry retired on SS 6 when the drive shaft on his Escort RS 2000 disintegrated. Frank Meagher's Escort Cosworth also broke a drive shaft which in turn broke a brake calliper, added to an earlier turbo failure Frank's defence of his title was not looking good. Bertie caught Meagher on SS 6, and lost 7 seconds to James Cullen, oil from Frank's Escort sprayed on to Bertie's windscreen which hampered his efforts to get by. Liam O'Callaghan was finding his new Toyota Celica GT4 a handful in the dry conditions. In the wet Liam was much happier with it's handling. Andrew Nesbitt Crashed out on SS 4 while tying for 5th place with Austin McHale. Stephen Murphy lost two minutes with an "off" on SS 1, by the end of Saturdays run Stephen charged back into the top ten and 6th place.

Berti Fisher, eased back ever so slightly over the last special stages, James Cullen lost a minute with his small accident, and commented about stage 13 Holly Park, "It wasn't as bad as I thought, the mud noters made it out to be the worst stage of the rally, but it wasn't so bad. Bertie went on to tell us that he had a big spin at the end of stage 12, but otherwise every thing was OK. Second placed James Cullen told us "I reckon that both of us, Berti and myself, are easing off now. Funny enough if anything it has become more dangerous trying to steer a middle line, and I can see Berti's lines where he is understeering and slithering close to the bank. The Donegal man want on to tell us about his stage 11accident..... The Escort. understeered into a muddy square right and off course, I was going "very hard" I almost got away with it but I didn't see a big rock in the grass verge. That's what smashed the wheel. Liam O'Callaghan was having communication problems with his service crew, which saw him start SS 13 on slick tyres instead of wet tyres. Spins were to be the order of the day for Liam but he managed to hold on to third place by a margin of just 1 second despite a determined charge from Eamon Boland.

PRESS RELEASE By Brian G. Thornton

Martin Ward and his co-driver Linda Conroy of Loughrea were the best of the 17 Galway crews among the 49 cars which finished the Statoil Galway International car rally last Sunday. Scoring a first-time victory in the 23 year history of the event was Balllnamallard driver Bertie Fisher, with Rory Kennedy as co-driver, In their Subaru Impreza 555. They had survived a small fire after an altercation with the bank only 75 yards into the first special stage at Loughrea, which caused the rear bumper to melt with the heat of the exhaust pipe, and later as the weather conditions worsened, put the front of the car up on a ditch in a lane, losing time while he reversed out. Overnight, Fisher's lead was a mere 16 seconds from 'Donegal driver James Cullen and his co-driver Ellen Morgan. But Cullen understeered at a muddy corner and hit a rock, smashing a wheel, so with three stages remaining the gap had widened to 74 seconds, and the line-up for the finish was well established. Loughrea Can be doubley happy as Robert Ward, Martin's son navigated John Joe Fleming into eleventh position. However they only discovered miscalculation in their times after the results had been posted as final.

Other Galway finishers were Pat Spain/Padraic Ryan, 13th overall and class winners; Micheal Walsh/Torsten Schmidt, 22 o/a, 3rd in class; Sean Keenan/Stevie O'Riordan, 23 o/a and class winners; Tom Moran/Pat Leahy, 25 o/a; Martin Flnnerty/John Coughlan, 32 o/a; Gerard and Tommy Martyn, 36th o/a, Dave Feeney/Ger O'Connell 38th o/a; Joe Donoghue/Richard McGaugh, 39th o/a; Mike Bird/Ann Lynskey 40 o/a and class winners in Ann's first-ever rally, Michael Lyster/Niamh Grogan, 41 o/a; Declan Sylver/Stephen Dooley, 42 o/a; Dean Lafey/Michael Doherty, 43o/a; Gearoid Walsh/Niall Cunningham, 44 o/a; Pat Kelly/Aidan Tannian, 45 o/a; and Tommie Duggan/Billy Casey, 48th o/a.

Notable retirements Included Austin McHale whose Toyota Celica had fuel metering problems; Kenny McKinstry, broken driveshalt, Andrew Nesbitt's crashed his Toyota Celica on stage 7; John and Paul Dempsey, Escort Cosworth blown turbo; Frank Meagher, last year's wlnner, who first had a blown turbo and later a drive shafl failure took out a brake caliper. In all, there were 49 finishers from the 99 starters in the main even, plus nine historic cars led home by John Coyne/Martin Dolan, Porsche 911.

The rally will be shown in the RPM Motorsport series on Network 2 and UTV at about 11.00 pm on Thursday February 29th The event attracted the largest crowd so far seen tor the Galway International, and reputedly greater than for many other car rallies in Ireland, even during the summer months, and was testimony to the efforts of the Galway Motor Club in attractlng such a high powered entry to the west of Ireland