GASS GOES WORLD CLASS Seventeen year old Darren Gass, co-driven by Conor Foley, took a fine class win on World Rally Championship hopeful event, Rally Ireland, this weekend. Like the rally, the pair represents both north and south of the ...
GASS GOES WORLD CLASS
Seventeen year old Darren Gass, co-driven by Conor Foley, took a fine class win on World Rally Championship hopeful event, Rally Ireland, this weekend.
Like the rally, the pair represents both north and south of the border, and like the event they were full of expectation for a good result. The first stage on Saturday morning was tricky, the bumps catching many of the drivers unaware, but the youngster from near Armagh stayed in touch with his nearest Super 1600 rival. "The car was all over the place." said Darren, "We thought we'd got a good suspension setup, but the bumps were really bad at speed and I was surprised we weren't further behind."
Back at service the Crozier Motorsport mechanics were unaware of the drama that was about to unfold. But when Darren arrived at Enniskillen on just three wheels, they had little time to consider the cause and set about repairing the badly damaged rear suspension. "After the first stage I had no confidence, "explained Darren, "and part way through the second stage the car snapped sideways and spun us off. We seemed to spin for ages and we were lucky not to roll." He continued, "We ended up missing everything but landed about 35 feet off the road. The lads think a suspension joint broke and the wheel wedged under the rear arch. But whatever caused it we had to drive the rest of the stage and back to service on three wheels."
With the maximum allowed twenty minutes service time elapsed, the Castrol backed Fiesta was sent on its way with a full complement of wheels. But the team had no time for suspension adjustment, so Darren and Conor eased their way through the next pair of stages, dropping more time when the car stalled at the start of stage three.
With almost ten minutes lost early in the day, the battle for the lead of the class had become a battle to stay in the rally. But stage five was to prove that in rallying you should never give up. The class leader, O'Mahoney, dropped an almost equal time after he crashed, leaving them exactly one second ahead of Darren and Conor going into the final stage of the day.
The conditions on the final pair of stages had been terrible, torrential rain meaning wet tyres were the only choice. The suspension now sorted, Darren had chosen an open Kumho pattern and he used the final stage to lay down the gauntlet to O'Mahoney, setting a time 44 seconds quicker than the astonished Puma driver. 30th overall at the overnight halt was scant reward for the efforts of the pair, but after lying plumb last at the end of stage two, it was some comfort to have re-taken the class lead.
With more rain and another 66 miles of slippery, bumpy stages before the finish, Darren took the sensible decision to take it easy on day two. Showing maturity beyond his years, he set about consolidating his class lead by pushing just enough to keep his concentration. Conor guided the pair through the stages and the methodical approach yielded some top twenty times, popping in an event-best thirteenth quickest on the final run back to the finish in Sligo.
Taking the class winner's award Darren commented, "That was the most difficult event I've ever done. Apart from the last stage, the shortest was about fourteen miles long and the car has been a real handful. It wasn't made any easier by the bumps, the muck and the weather, but looking back it was a great experience." He added, "The event deserves to be included in the WRC programme, the organisers have done a fantastic job and it's a proper challenge for the drivers."