Ross and Arron Forde were denied a finish on the opening round of the World Rally Championship when mechanical problems hampered their assault on Rally Ireland.
The brothers were back behind the wheel of their Global Group Ireland-backed Suzuki Swift for the Sligo-based tarmac event, as the WRC returned to Ireland after a year out in 2008, and enjoyed a largely trouble-free run on the opening two days of the event, pushing their lesser-powered machine to the maximum against the higher-specification Super 1600 models.
They were up to 27th overall and lying seventh in the Junior World Rally Championship standings - having received one of the host nation's wild card entries in the category - when disaster struck with just four stages to go on the final day. The team remain unsure as to the exact cause of the problem, but the Fordes were left nursing a broken gearbox on stage 16 – the Arigna test – which eventually forced them out of the rally.
“We were gutted to be robbed of a finish on our home event," said 25-year old driver Ross, “We had been trying really hard and, although we couldn't make too much of an impact against the faster cars, we were happy and on course for a good result. The weather was a bit crazy and there was lots of standing water on the first two days but, when it dried up on Sunday, we only managed to get one full stage in."
Despite the disappointing end, the brothers were impressed with what they had found on their WRC debut.
“The rally was fantastic and well organised," Ross continued, "The JWRC crews were really friendly and were offering us loads of advice on settings and tyre compounds, so it's a credit to their series. I'd also like to thank the lads from Galway Mini Centre who serviced for us and did a great job even when drenched by the rain.”
The Fordes will be back in action when round one of the Fiesta Sporting Trophy UK kicks off on the Cumbria-based Malcolm Wilson Rally on Saturday 7 March, and will be contesting the entire series as reward for winning the 2008 Billy Coleman Award.