Murphy wins the crown for the inaugural FIFRC at the West 2002 International Rally in Galway. GALWAY, 9TH NOVEMBER 2002: Colm Murphy from Athea, Co. Limerick has won the inaugural Ford Ireland Focus Rally Championship having secured a...
Murphy wins the crown for the inaugural FIFRC at the West 2002 International Rally in Galway.
GALWAY, 9TH NOVEMBER 2002: Colm Murphy from Athea, Co. Limerick has won the inaugural Ford Ireland Focus Rally Championship having secured a hard fought second position on the final round of the series at the West 2002 International Rally.
The atmosphere at the start of the event was electric as mathematically any of the top five crews still had a chance of winning the title if the others failed to finish. However Colm Murphy in the Shine Group Ford Focus was favourite to take the title entering into the final round, after two consecutive victories, he only had to finish second to win the Championship.
The West 2002 International Rally greeted the crews with atrocious weather conditions, torrential rain and extremely treacherous slippery stages with a lot of stonewalls. Oliver Stanley (Durrow) knew he had to win in order to deprive Murphy and proceeded to attack on stage one, however three miles in it went all wrong as Oliver got caught out under braking and slid up a bank, beaching his Ford Focus. Luckily there were enough spectators to push the car back onto the road, but the resulting time loss dropped him to fourth and handed Murphy the lead.
Colm set the early pace and was able to find the correct balance between outright speed and respect for the slippery conditions. Brendan Kelly (Longford) despite recent setbacks started well setting joint fastest stage time on the opening stage. Stanley started to fight back brilliantly setting fastest Focus stage time on stage four and joint fastest time on stage five. Colm responded setting fastest Focus time on stage six to increase his lead over Stanley to fifty two seconds. Oliver fought back but could not reduce Murphy's lead and by stage eight Murphy had increased his lead to one minute two seconds.
The final four stages of the West 2002 International Rally were to be held in darkness and this was really going to be the sting in the tail for all the crews. Disaster struck for Murphy as half way thought he stage the gear linkage worked its self loose costing Colm over two minutes and dropping him to second position. Colm managed to fix the problem on the road section and proceeded to set fastest Focus time on stage ten. However stages eleven and twelve were cancelled depriving the competitors of the last final battle of the year.
Hamilton Bell (Hillsborough) survived a tough day with a throttle sensor problem to finish third on the rally and secured third position overall in the 2002 Ford Ireland Focus Championship.
"We were unlucky not to win the final round of the Championship in Galway, we were in seventeenth position overall and had a great lead built up. Our strategy had worked brilliantly and I had over a minutes lead on Oliver. However the gear linkage problem cost a lot of time and we were lucky to be able to fix it and finish the rally. It is a dream come though but it has been an extremely tough Championship we have experienced the highs of victory and the lows of not finishing, of having victory in our sights and then to have it snatched from under our noses. However I have enjoyed ever second, the Ford Focus is absolutely fabulous the car having not missed a beat all year. I would like to thank Ford Ireland, Protec Promotions Ltd and Pirelli tyres for a brilliant season" said Colm.
"The final outcome of the 2002 Ford Ireland Focus Rally Championship could not have been closer as only three points separated Colm and Oliver after five gruelling rounds. Both Colm and Oliver have secured two victories each but Colm has two second place finishes whereas Oliver only had one. It was a thrilling battle all year but unfortunately there can only be one winner" said Declan Foley, Ford Focus Brand Manager.
"The 2002 Ford Ireland Focus Rally has been one of the most exciting Motorsport Championships in Ireland this year. There has been a great battle all year between Colm and Oliver, with Brendan Kelly and Cathal O'Reilly also mixing it at the top of the leader board. The Ford Focus has proven to be an exceptional rally car; the Ford Focus Championship Car has won Class seven outright on the last three rallies of the championship. In fact Colm ran as high as seventeenth overall at the West 2002 International Rally and lead the national section of the Ulster Rally." said Tom Collins, Championship Director.