Melvyn Evans and Sean Mullally have won the Larsen Circuit of Ireland National Rally outright, giving Evans his second consecutive maximum points score in the Richard Egger Insurance MSA Asphalt Rally Championship.
The pair set fastest time on the opening stage of the two-day event and, by the time the cars filed into the finish in the main street of Dundalk, the winning margin had stretched to almost three minutes. This result, obviously, consolidates Evans' lead of the series at this stage but there is still a great deal of work to be done if he is to remain there until its conclusion at the end of October. Mullally, meanwhile, was unable to contest the opening round on Epynt, but has now opened his account in the best possible way.
David Mann and Alun Cook were second overall in their Impreza WRC, treating the at-times technically difficult stages with the respect they deserved. Following on from their top three finish on Epynt, both Mann and Cook move up a place in their respective categories and, as past winners of the next round on the Isle of Man, will relish the opportunity to improve still further in early May.
Defending MSA Asphalt Rally Champions David Kynaston and Andy Russell brought their Audi A3 Quattro home in third place, in spite of losing four minutes on the second stage of the rally with throttle cable problems. Apart from this aberration, the car behaved impeccably, allowing 'DK' to maintain his second place in the points while Andy still leads the Co-drivers' section.
The 'Star' of the rally, certainly in MSA Asphalt Championship terms, was Roger Donnan who, with Kim Baker guiding him through the stages, brought his Ford Puma S1600 back in an excellent fourth place. This earned him the 'John Horton Motorsport Management Star Performance' salver and was more than enough for him to take a class win, ahead of the Fiat Punto 1600S of Rod Bennett and Henry Richardson who, at one point, had to take to a roadside bank in an attempt to dislodge a rock that had become jammed under the sumpguard. Luckily, the planned excursion was successful and they were able to carry on unhindered.
Sandwiched between the two 1600cc cars was the sole survivor of the usual Class B11 battle – the Ford Escort MkII of Pete Hughes and Chris Evans. They, too, returned to the mainland with a class win on the event, as well as maximum Championship points. Not so lucky, though, were Ian Copping/Dave Rowley or Meirion Evans/Paul Wakely. After a fraught run-up to the rally, Copping's challenge only lasted for one complete stage before he was sidelined by mechanical woes while, having already creased one corner of his pristine Escort, Meirion Evans joined him on the list of retirements shortly afterwards.
After an early departure from the Tour of Epynt, Chris Rice brought his re-fettled Group N Impreza to the Circuit in the hope of putting his season back on track and was rewarded with a successful outcome, while young Scotsmen Ross Hunter/Eildon Hall had a troubled Irish debut in their Mitsubishi Lancer EVO4. Their challenge was blunted by several broken driveshafts which transformed the car firstly from four-wheel to front-wheel drive only and then, as a result of further damage to the front, rear-wheel drive. Hunter must have spent much of the rally trying to remember how to drive the Lancer! However, more valuable experience – and points! – were the rewards for their efforts.
The rally had hardly started before the tales of woe began to filter through… Mark Jasper/Don Whyatt were the only representatives of the Legend Motorsport team in their MG Metro 6R4 and, having missed their booked ferry, arrived at Scrutineering by the skin of their teeth. However, worse was to come as the car's gearbox cried 'enough' on the opening stage of the rally and, consequently, was soon being transported back towards Dun Laoghaire and home…
Both Washington James/Dai Roberts and David Hardie/John McCulloch had failed to make the finish line on Epynt and, unfortunately, the roads of Ireland were not to provide any change in their fortunes. The Darrian's gearbox gave up the ghost on SS3, while the Subaru only lasted one stage more. Their luck must surely change for the better soon...
The next chance for all Richard Egger Insurance MSA Asphalt Rally Championship contenders to move their seasons forward will be on the Manx National Rally on 8/9th May – another tough, but very popular, event.