John McGlaughlin and co-driver Crawford Henderson emerged from the final stage of this weekend's Hotel Kilmore Stages Rally to win round five of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge Ireland.
After an intense, day-long battle, they overhauled leaders for most of the event Neil McCance/Sean Ferris in the closing stages to record victory in what was their debut in the highly competitive series for
Group N Mitsubishis.
Eight of the 12 registered Evo Challenge crews entered the Cavan-based rally, which hosted the first one-round, one-day event in this year's Irish Evo Challenge calendar - both previous rounds being double-headers.
Utilising a traditional one-day Irish tarmac event format, the rally comprised three stages run three times, with each loop split by a 20-minute service halt.
McCance/Ferris carried on from where they left off last time out and went straight into the lead following the first of the day's nine stages.
McGlaughlin/Henderson followed just five seconds behind and set the scene for the battle that was about to unfold. The gap between the two leading cars increased to seven seconds on SS2, but was back to four on SS3, as McGlaughlin reported he was getting used to having more grip than he was previously used to, this being the first event using Pirelli tyres.
Looking to record his first finish of the year, 2008 Evo Challenge Champion Brendan Cumiskey, with stand-in co-driver Andrew Grennan, got off to what he regarded as a steady start and held third place when cars entered the first service halt of the day. Already he was 50 seconds behind the leading pair and realised that it would be difficult to get back on terms.
William Mavitty/Keefe Kilcoyne were fourth and frustrated to have lost time in the first loop when their car's front brakes overheated. Another crew slowed by mechanical issues were fifth-placed Stanley Ballantine/Donnacha O'Callaghan, when a sticking throttle on the first stage caused a few heart-stopping moments and they then took things steady until they could get the car back to the service area for further inspection.
For Michael Murray it was a welcome return to the Evo Challenge – this year with co-driver Brian Daniels. With it being his first event the season he admitted to being a bit rusty and he clipped a straw bale on SS2. After almost a full rebuilt following an off on the previous event, Tom White/Robert Murphy were concerned that their car appeared to be down on power, but that didn't stop them from having a spin on stage one.