Armagh, 6th September: Oliver Stanley from Durrow, Co. Laois has won both the fifth round of the 2003 Ford Ireland Focus Rally Championship and Class A7 outright at Ulster Rally today. With the series reaching the halfway point the...
Armagh, 6th September: Oliver Stanley from Durrow, Co. Laois has won both the fifth round of the 2003 Ford Ireland Focus Rally Championship and Class A7 outright at Ulster Rally today.
With the series reaching the halfway point the competitors started to approach each event with the championship in mind. Both John Foley (Midleton) and Colm Murphy (Limerick) with two non-finishes each had to attack from the start in order to score maximum points. The weather played a large part in proceedings as all the crews were greeting with rain from the very start, which made the Ulster lanes extremely treacherous and slippery due to the farming harvesting season.
Disaster struck for Colm Murphy in the Kingdom Fastfit Focus immediately, as he experienced power steering failure, he limped through the first loop of stages incurring penalties for lateness. John Foley in the ASA Marketing Ford Focus started to set the pace, setting fastest Focus times on the opening two stages however his success was short-lived as his Focus developed engine problems and he retired at the first service of Day One. In true sportsman's ship John donated his Power Steering Pump and Belt to Murphy in service allowing Colm to re-enter the challenge. With Foleys demise Gabriel Martin (Dublin) in the Colton Motors Ford Focus moved into the lead with Oliver Stanley second and Murphy now down in third nearly two minutes adrift. Day one saw the crews tackle another three-stages in the Armagh area with Gabriel extending his lead from Stanley.
Day Two saw the crew's tackle nine special stages in the Sperrin Mountain range. Murphy decided to attack and flung his Focus at the Saturday stages; in an ultimate do or die mission he started to reel in the leaders at an alarming rate. Gabriel's lead was short lived, as on the second stage of the day he was unable to challenge Murphy as he started to experience fuel starvation problems once again. By stage nine Murphy had moved into the lead and was pulling away from the chasing pack. Oliver Stanley now secure in second with David Delaney in the Scotframe Ford Focus third, Gerry Keyes (Crecora) in the P J Matthews/O'Dwyer Steel Ford Focus fourth. The status quo remained until the finish however there was a sting in the tail as after a stewards meeting, Murphy was disqualified as he had entered a control from the wrong direction. Disqualification handed the win to Stanley.
"Colm really put the fight up to us here this weekend, however I was always driving with the championship in mind. We were leading the Championship coming here and I was no going to risk not finishing. I have driven all year with the sole aim of winning the series and I cannot afford to throw it all away at this stage," said Oliver.
"We are disappointed that Colm was disqualified, he put in a superb drive on the event despite the terrible conditions. However rules are rules and have to be adhered to, it is tough decision but I am sure that he will redouble his efforts to succeed in the remaining events," said Tom Collins, Championship Director.
The next round of the 2003 Ford Ireland Focus Rally Championship sees the crew's head to the Clare Stages Rally based in Ennis on the 21st of September.