Finnish star Mikko Hirvonen with Jarno Ottman co-driving took victory in the National section of the West Cork Rally after a very impressive performance in difficult conditions. Gary Kiernan & Darren O’Brien led for most of the event and were over twenty seconds to the good when the engine of their Escort failed. It was a crushing blow to the Irish crew who led from the start and set some very impressive times in the poor weather. Damian Toner & John McGrath survived a big overshoot on the third stage to finish second overall in what was the drivers first attempt at West Cork. Local crew Conor McCarthy & Gavin Sheehan were in third place in a Mitsubishi Lancer after a steady drive all weekend.
There were some other big name casualties over the course of the weekend, none more so than John Dalton & Gwynfor Jones who hit the same bank as Desi Henry & Manus Kelly and retired their Darrian T90 GTR on the spot. Damien Tourish damaged a front strut towards the end of the first stage and had to complete the remainder of the event in Rally 2. Vivian Hamill and Brian Brogan had both retired with an excursion and multiple punctures respectively by stage 3. Eddie O’Donnell crashed out on stage 2, ECU problems forced Tom Flaherty out on the same stagewhile a broken throttle cable and then a broken differential accounted for Ray Breens Metro. John Bonner crashed out on Stage 6 as the drying roads and increased pace took its toll.
Wayne Evans retired his Escort overnight with persistent clutch and gearbox problems having been as high as fifth at one point. Frank Kelly rolled out of the event on the second day while lying in fourth place and Phil Collins also put his Escort off the road. Among those to benefit from the high retirement rate was Richard Moore who drove an excellent rally to finish fourth overall followed by David Condell in fifth place both in Ford Escorts.
Top 10 Overall:
1 – Mikko Hirvonen / Jarno Ottman Ford Escort Mk2 2:00:20.7
2 – Damian Toner / John McGrath Ford Escort Mk2 2:01:55.9
3 – Conor McCarthy / Gavin Sheehan Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 2:03:23.7
4 – Richard Moore / William Lynch Ford Escort Mk2 2:03:44.2
5 – David Condell / Paul Kelly Ford Escort Mk2 2:05:31.9
6 – Kevin O’Donoghue / Colin O’Donoghue BMW M3 2:06:03.7
7 – Conor McCrossan / David Burns Skoda Fabia S2000 2:06:18.6
8 – Kevin Horgan / Stephen Horgan Subaru Impreza 2:06:50.6
9 – JR McDaid / Aodhan Gallagher Ford Escort Mk2 2:06:53.7
10 – Mark Dolphin / Brian Quinlan Ford Escort Mk2 2:06:55.4