BREAFFY HOUSE HOTEL MAYO STAGES RALLY 2002 Castlebar, County Mayo - 10th March, 2002. MAGUIRE MASTERS MAYO STAGES RALLY Hail, rain and high winds greeted the 131 starters of last Sunday's Breaffy House Hotel Mayo Stages Rally, which opened the...
BREAFFY HOUSE HOTEL MAYO STAGES RALLY 2002
Castlebar, County Mayo - 10th March, 2002.
MAGUIRE MASTERS MAYO STAGES RALLY
Hail, rain and high winds greeted the 131 starters of last Sunday's Breaffy House Hotel Mayo Stages Rally, which opened the new rally season. Monaghan based haulage operator, Niall Maguire, overcame the severe conditions and the strong opposition to take his first major prize of the year. There is certainly more success to come for this former National champion.
In achieving the hard-earned win, the Subaru Impreza WRC driver with navigator Paul McLoughlin, opens his account in the 2002 Dunlop National Championship. Overseas entrant James Harrison put up a real challenge to Maguire, in a similar spec LHD Subaru, hired out from Kenny McKinstry Motorsport. In fact, London based Harrison, co-driven by Harvey Bell led this 12 Special Stage event after the first quarter, but in the end had to succumb to Maguire's superior experience over the West of Ireland tarmac to clinch victory by 22 seconds.
A delighted Maguire said at the finish on the grounds at Breaffy House Hotel "It was certainly a very tough rally. We put on wets (tyres) in the morning and they lasted the day so cold were the surfaces. I was surprised to win, I thought before the start if we made the top 5 it would be good. It's hard to say how good the car is, so difficult were the conditions. But you always enjoy the rally you win and it was a very well organised event."
As this event is also a counting round of the Four Seasons Border Series, it's 1999 Champion, Davy Armstrong came on strong towards the end in his Kumho shod Escort Cosworth to take third overall.
Omagh based Trevor Cathers was drafted in from the lengthily reserve list to start 19th and finish 4th in a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer EVO with Glenn Allen taking a creditable fifth spot in his newly acquired Escort WRC.
Best local finisher was Rory O'Connor partnered by Francis Kenny (Ballyhaunis) in a Snappy Cameras backed Ford Escort WRC, 15th overall and 3rd in Class 8.
The day began with newly honoured Mayo Man of the Year, Johnny Mee, officially waving off the first batch of cars from Rally Headquarters at the Breaffy House Hotel, Castlebar, at 9:30 a.m. From there No. 1 seed and reigning Dunlop Champion Paul Harris (Subaru) led the cortege towards Newport to tackle the first loop of four Special Stages which led them around the scenic area of Nephin Mountains and Lough Conn via Lahardane and back towards Glenhest for Centralised Service.
With the pre-rally favourite and former Mayo Stages winner Eamonn Boland not starting, there seemed to be less pressure on Harris, but the Letterkenny man remained cautious "as any one of the Top 10 were in with a shout of taking the win," he said.
Resulting from the horrendous weather, there were many incidents and accidents. One of the first to go out was No. 4 seed Tim McNulty whose Subaru went off the road and into a bog. Next big name to retire was none other than the aforementioned Paul Harris who had a 360 degree spin and with the back end of the Impreza clipping a bank. As the transmission was damaged his day's action was over. Maguire meanwhile was setting the early pace, closely followed by Harrison and Cathers. "This is not easy, the car is aqua-planning everywhere," commented Niall at service. "I've switched the anti-lag to reduce the power," he added.
Much fancied front runner, Michael Barrible, struggled in his new car, the ex Richard Burns Subaru Impreza 2000, losing over five minutes on Special Stage 6 with a puncture.
As the weather conditions improved in the afternoon so too, the whole pace of the rally, with the battle at the front intensifying. On Special Stages 5 and 6 at Lough Feeagh (Newport) and Derryhillagh respectively, Harrison was quickest and then on Special Stage 7 at Tonacrock (Lahardane) and Cloghbrack, Maguire topped the time charts to take a 15 second lead.
Eventhough dry patches were appearing on large stretches, the asphalt remained quite slippery as a lot of mud had been thrown on to the road from all the traffic.
Local hopeful Rory O'Connor encountered numerous spins in the Escort WRC but matters did improve somewhat before arriving back here in Breaffy. Current Border Champion, James McGreal from Foxford took the Mayo & District Motorsport Club Award for best local finisher. In the Nissan Sunny GTiR, James finished 26th overall with new co-driver John McGeehan (Williamstown).
Mentioning co-drivers, Crossmolina teenager Killian Duffy brought home Derrick Jobb (from Tyrone (18th overall) in a Rochford Motors supported Mitsubishi.
Despite the severe weather conditions, the event attracted huge numbers of visitors to the area throughout the weekend. Clerk of the Course, Michael Noone, was delighted in how things went and expressed his thanks to everyone involved and especially Breaffy House Hotel, Togher Tyres, Volex and Stage Sponsors Fleet Inn Killybegs; Judge's Honda Car Sales, Ballina; Kelly's Statoil Service Station, Ballina and Togher Tyres, Castlebar.