Nutt Takes Sixth Killarney Historic Rally Victory, McRae Wins Post-Historic Category, Keenan Takes Classic Honours
Dessie Nutt took his sixth victory on the Killarney Historic Stages Rally today, with a troublefree run in the same Porsche 911 which brought him all of his previous successes on the event. For navigator, Geraldine McBride, it was her fourth win on the rally, which was this year supported by Failte Ireland's Sports Tourism Initiative. Scotland's Jimmy McRae won the category for Post-Historic cars in another 911 Porsche, while Dessie Keenan took the honours in the Classic category in a Ford Escort.
Mist, rain and extremely slippy conditions greeted the crews on the first stage of the rally, Molls Gap, and a number of crews crashed out of the event in the opening miles. While the rain abated as the day progressed, the roads remained very wet across all nine stages of the rally. Nutt took the lead early on and was never to relinquish it, his only concern being the detail of his own pace notes on the Healy Pass stage.
English visitor Steve Smith was closest to Nutt at first, but he then lost about half a minute when he came on another competitor's accident on the Cod's Head stage. Boston-resident Galwegian, Frank Cunningham then took over second place, but Smith moved ahead again when Cunnigham struck a pole on the second run through Cod's Head in the afternon. Cunningham's Mini sustained minor damage following that incident, but he was then to crash his out of the event entirely on the next stage over The Healy Pass. Smith eventually emerged as runner-up, with Mervyn Johnston taking third place. The Killarney & District Motor Club crew of Jimmy Devane and Eddie Cronin upheld local honour in eighth place, a repeat of their result on this event last year.
Jimmy McRae took a dominant victory in the Post-Historic category, eventually winning by over four minutes in his Remax Properties supported Porsche 911, as many of his rivals fell off the road or encountered mechanical problems. "The weather's been a bit dodgy, but it has been a very good rally", said McRae.
Behind McRae, the leaderboard changed constantly, as various drivers came to the fore only to encounter problems. Twice former Post-Historic category winner, John Farrell, crashed heavily on the first run through Cod's Head. Graham Samuel, on his first visit to Killarney, occupied second place for a time, but went off the road on the Healy Pass. Another of the visiting drivers, Chris Browne, was on course to take the runner-up spot, only to pick up a puncture soon after starting the penultimate stage - he had no option but to stop and change it, and lost four minutes. He recovered to finish sixth.
Killarney's Todd Falvey and his Millstreet-based co-driver, Dan Barry, took no chances and eventually claimed second place in the Post-Historics in another Porsche 911. Kevin Flanagan, a former winner of the category on this event as a navigator, drove his Mini into third place.
The Classic section saw the local crew of Dave Slattery and Ger Somers hold the lead initially, but Dessie Keenan moved in front after stage two, and displayed remarkable pace throughout the day in his Ford Escort RS. The 2004 Irish Tarmac Group N champion, reverting to rear wheel drive having spent the year in a four wheel drive Mitsubishi, built up a considerable lead as the rally progressed, and the cushion to his nearest rivals was to prove very useful when the Monaghan driver had to stop and replace a broken fan belt on the second last stage. The margin to the chasing pack was large enough to ensure that he remained in the lead despite the delay, and he made sure of victory with another fastest time on the final stage.
Pre-event favourite and defending Classic title holder, John Moynihan, crashed out of the rally on the opening stage, while clutch failure accounted for Kieran O'Neill (another former winner) and Mike Moloney. Martin Freestone, in his first year contesting the Classic section having previously won the Post-Historics, also went out with accident damage. Dave Slattery maintained second place to the finish, the difference to Keenan at the finish only eleven seconds following the latter's late dramas. Pat Donegan took third place in the Classics, and was follwed home by fellow Escort drivers, Pat Bonar, Liam Wall and James Coleman. Last year's Classic runner-up, Killarney man Kevin O'Donoghue, was hampered by a loose gearlever and finished down the order.
The 2004 Killarney Historic Stages Rally is organised and promoted by Killarney & District Motor Club, and sponsored by Failte Ireland; Randles Hotels, Killarney & West Cork; EPS Environmental Products Division; McAuliffe Developments; O'Leary's Expert Electrical, Killarney; Moriarty's Londis, Farranfore and Killarney Crystal.
<pre> Results - Historics (Pre - 1968) 1: Dessie Nutt, Geraldine McBride (Derry) Porsche 911 1.38.19 2: Steve Smith, Phil Spurge (England) Porsche 911 1.39.16 3: Mervyn Johnston, Richard Hyland (Fermanagh) Mini Cooper S 1.41.20
Results - Post-Historics (1968 - '74) 1: Jimmy McRae, Pauline Gullick (Scotland, England) Porsche 911 1.35.12 2: Todd Falvey, Dan Barry, (Killarney, Millstreet) Porsche 911 1.39.33 3: Kevin Flanagan, Adrian Parry (Wicklow) Mini Cooper S 1.40.11
Results - Classics (1975 - '79) 1: Dessie Keenan, Enda Sherry (Monaghan) Ford Escort RS 1.32.45 2: Dave Slattery, Ger Somers (Killarney) Ford Escort RS 1.32.56 3: Pat Donegan, Damien Garvey (Meath) Ford Escort RS 1.33.32