Disappointment was the name of the game for Welshman Elfyn Evans on last weekend’s Tour de Corse in Corsica, his Fiesta WRC suffering a flat tyre almost within sight of the chequered flag when it appeared that he had victory in the bag. As it was Thierry Neuville in his Hyundai i20 WRC took the win and moved into the lead of the World Rally Championship. Current Champion Sebastien Ogier finished 2nd having battled all through the rally to persuade his Citroen C3 WRC to handle to his liking. The deflated Elfyn Evans finished 3rd. Actually Elfyn wasn’t totally deflated – he has the knowledge not only that he has gone well on the previous two rallies this season, he was the match for any of the top drivers in Corsica, a brilliant performance.
A puncture was also partially the reason for Kris Meeke’s poor result, although in another incident he damaged his Toyota’s rear suspension. There were only two stages on the Sunday leg and, knowing that he couldn’t get a decent overall result, the Dungannon man crawled through the first one to preserve his tyres and then was fastest on the second, the power stage, to pick up some bonus WRC points. Kris is still in the WRC points contention, but has dropped out of the top three in the points table which now reads Neuville 82, Ogier 80 and Ott Tanak 77. Estonian Ott did lead the rally early on but then dropped back when his Yaris suffered a puncture. He eventually finished 6th. Dani Sordo (Hyundai) finished 4th in the event after setting some cracking stage times. Suninen in the second M-Sport Ford was 5th.
For many onlookers one of the disappointments of the rally was Sebastien Loeb drifting his Hyundai sideways on the opening stage and slightly damaging the suspension. Although he eventually recovered and did set some decent times from the mid-point onwards, this was hardly the magic Loeb who won so many world rally titles. Apart from Elfyn Evans’ showing, Welsh fans were also heartened by the performance of Rhys Yates/James Morgan in ‘RC2’. This was Yates’ first Corsican outing and he did very well to bring his Fabia R5 home in 15th place o/a, just 4 minutes back from RC2 winner Fabio Andolfi, also in a Skoda.
Closer to home, on the North Wales Rally, Stanley Orr/Graham Henderson in their MK1 Escort had a very good run to take 4th o/a, 3rd in the British Historic Championship and tops in their category. Stanley, who is from Co. Down, commented afterwards: “I was well pleased to be on the pace after a couple of years away. We started well, but then on the 2nd loop, after the lunch break I was like a tired old man, didn’t switch on, but I knew that we were safe enough for the class win. I was wary as well about destroying the rear tyres as the stage was then quite abrasive and we only carry one spare.” Marty McCormack, who had Phil Clarke co-driving in his Mk2, finished behind Stanley, in 5th place. Adrian Hetherington/Ronan O’Neill in his RS1800 finished a couple of places further back. Marty reportedly had the mother and father of all overshoots on the opening stage, forgetting he hadn’t the brakes of his R5 on his Mk2 on gravel!
The next round for the British Historics is the Pirelli Rally, based in the historic little town of Brampton, with the stages through the classic Kielder Complex. Brampton, made famous when attacked by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, will suffer a different kind of invasion when the Pirelli Rally hits town on April 27th. The main street and cobble stoned square will be closed for the occasion. The town ‘elders’ promise they will give the rally a great welcome, as will the local traders who will have street stands. Some of the locals participating in the welcome include the local butchers Cranstons, the historic Howard Arms Hotel, the Co-Op and the local garage, Barnetts, who will have a display of old Land Rovers!
The welcome won’t just be for Historic rally competitors of course, the Pirelli is also a round of the British Rally Championship. Referring back to the North Wales Rally, in the ‘National B’ section Matthew Hirst/Declan Dear in their Mitsubishi took a fine win, with Marty McKenna/Martin Brady making their trip over worthwhile by clinching 4th o/a in their Fiesta WRC.
On the Cookstown MC Navigation Rally, Michael Reid/John Lindsay in their MG Midget had another win, finishing 42 points ahead of John and Jonathan Henderson in their Nissan Micra. Quinton and Tim Crean (Mazda MX5) were 3rd.
Looking forward to this weekend coming, there are two rallies on the home agenda – the Maiden City MC Donemana based Eakin Brothers Brian James Trailers based stage event this Saturday and the Tralee based Rose Hotel Circuit of Kerry on Sunday.
The Donemana event is a counter in the McGrady Insurance NI Championship. Derek McGarrity/Paddy Robinson heads the list, Derek opting to drive a Fiesta WRC. Derek McGeehan/Mark McGeehan in a Mini WRC are at 2 and Alan Carmichael/Ivor Lamont (Hyundai i20 R5) at 3. The top half dozen is then made up by Callum Devine (Fiesta R5), Manus Kelly (Hyundai R5) and Martin Cairns (Fiesta WRC). Such is the quality of the entry that any of the top ten could claim victory on this rally. In addition late entries include Desi Henry, who could certainly have an influence on the results. Top two wheel drive exponents include Kevin Eves (Corolla), Camillus Bradley (Escort) and Vivian Hamill (Escort). There are a host of other two wheel drive exponents who could take a share of the limelight. The drivers will tackle two fast but technical closed road stages in the Sperrins, each stage repeated three times.
In Kerry, East Cork’s Daragh O’Riordan, co-driven by Mikey Walsh in his Fiesta WRC heads the list, with Daniel Cronin at 2, Ed Synan at 3, while Mike Quinn, Padraig Egan and Ian Roche make up the top six. CoC Eoin Duffin has laid out a cracking series of classic stages for the event, which is based in Tralee’s Rose Hotel. Kerry is Round 2 of the West Coast series and the opening round of the new Mike Moriarty backed Kingdom of Kerry Rally Championship.
Further news this week is the former multiple Tarmac Champion Eugene Donnelly is to test the new Proton R5 with a view to contesting the 19th/20th Easter Stages, 3rd round of the Irish Tarmac Championship. The event’s administrative HQ is the Chimney Corner Hotel at Glengormley, but the physical centre will mostly be at the Dundrod Circuit pits. Reportedly all arrangements for the Wastewater Solutions backed rally are well advanced and there will be three stages repeated on each of the two days.
Brian & Liz Patterson