DECLAN AND BRIAN BOYLE retained their Donegal Harvest Stages Rally title after a day of big drama on the Inishowen tarmac.The Lettermacaward cousins had 1 minute and 35 seconds to spare by the end of the nine stages of the An Grianan Hotel-sponsored event.
The Boyles, who have had something of a frustrating first year in the WRC Fiesta, could ease the ante after Peadar Hurson, the early pace-setter, failed to get off the start line at stage 4 because of clutch trouble.
From there, the Boyles assumed charge and they were fastest on each of the final six stages of the rally.
“It’s good to finish on a high and win the local Harvest Rally. Thank God we made it. To do it in front of your local people is great.
“We said after Galway (when they slid off on the opening stage) that we’d approach it a wee bit differently.
“It’s not just about driving or navigating – it’s about using your head, controlling yourself and not doing stupid things.”
The experienced Hurson was 11.9 seconds in front at the first of the day’s visits to service and had been some 8 seconds quicker than the Boyles on stage 3, where he really laid down the gauntlet but the Subaru wouldn’t start on the line at the beginning of the second loop of the stages.
Joseph McGonigle from Muff was fifth at last weekend’s Cork 20 International Rally and he was well on his way to finishing second before the S2000 Skoda broke down on the penultimate stage.
McGonigle, with Ciaran Geaney from Falcarragh on the notes, was enjoying his run around the home event, but he reported mechanical issues with the Skoda after coming off the eighth stage.
Gary McPhillips and McGonigle had been locked in an intense battle for the second spot when McPhillips had to pull out on stage 8 and McGonigle’s event didn’t last much longer as a leaking water pipe put paid to his hopes of a podium finish.
It all meant that, when breath could finally be drawn at the end of special stage 9, near Killea, that County Cavan’s Gary Kiernan and Niall Tierney were in second spot after a superb day of action in the Escort.
Kiernan had been a real dark horse all day, his lowly starting position on the road meaning there was little talk until the closing stanza. Kiernan was also deservedly given the Dunlop Drive of the Day award.
Antrim’s Wesley Patterson, also in a MK2 Escort, who had Letterkenny man Johnny Baird alongside him, was in third, only 4.5 seconds adrift of Kiernan.
Daniel McKenna and Gordon Noble, in the Kelly’s Toyota GT86, were fourth and the winners of class 14 with Damien Toner and Denver Dafferty in fifth.
Cloghan’s Damien Tourish (7) and Letterkenny’s Damien Gallagher (9) finished inside the top ten with mechanical trouble forcing Brian Brogan, the Donegal Motor Club’s Chairman, off on stage seven.
Tourish won class 13 while the Group N honours went to Gary Cairns, who had just 4.4 seconds to spare on Aidan Wray.
Letterkenny man Liam Doherty and Peter Byrne took honours in class 11R while Ballybofey’s Mark Ewing was tops in class 2. Manorcunningham’s Michael McCollum, with St Johnston’s Michael Pearson on the notes, were winners of class 15 and Dunfanaghy’s Kieran McGinley won class 1 with Ramelton duo Shane and Ciaran Carr taking the spoils in class 10.
In the Junior Rally, Tyrone’s Keelan Maguire won by 4.1 seconds from Martin Swinburne of Monaghan in second with Michael Boyle and Dermot McCafferty third in the Civic. Michael is Declan Boyle’s son and was competing for the first time.
The morning stages had been wet with crews reporting slippery conditions, but the surface dried out thereafter.
It was a smooth event, bar one incident that saw stage 5 cancelled for some of the crews, who were given alternative roadbooks to advance them onto stage 6.
“It’s been a good day all round,” said Clerk of the Course Leonard Watson. “It had everything you’d expect and more.”
“It’s been a very exciting day,” Damien Crawford of the Donegal Motor Club said.. “It was a fantastic day’s motorsport and there’s great craic here. Rallying in Donegal has rarely been in better condition.”
Full results can be obtained here: http://results.shannonsportsit.ie/results.php?rally=DH15
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