The 6th round of the Triton Showers National Rally Championship brought crews out west to the Sligo Stages Rally and amongst them a strong troop of Cavan Motor club members went in search of valuable points for both that and the Sligo Pallets border championship as well.
With the current crop of mark 2 men in the club leading the way of the modified men in the national all eyes were on the three way fight between Pringle, Armstrong and Kiernan to see who would take the spoils in the gateway city. The day started less than ideal with the crews waking up to damp and slippery conditions under foot after overnight showers.
The opening stages would put the competitors under a lot of pressure with most people having a big moment somewhere along the line. Jonathan Pringle and Martin Byrne were only 4 junctions into the first stage when a big 5th gear slide along the lake disrupted the Bailieborough team’s rythem and saw them slot in behind Gary Kiernan and Niall Tierney after the opening loop. Further down the field it was Latton man Justin Smyth who was putting on his standard giant killing performance against alot more powerful opposition in the little 1400 escort. Just behind him and also leading his class was Thomas Wedlock who was navigating for Alan Atcheson in the Volvo powered Mk2.
A bad start for Maudabawn man Brendan O’Reilly with Finbar Smith on the notes had the crew languishing down in 6th in class 9 and 68th overall after a few issues with the car. In even worse trouble was the fellow class 9 crew of Gene Mc Donald and Paul O’Hare who suffered a gearbox malady on the opener and would suffer huge time losses to leave themselves virtually last on the road and with a lot of work to do.
On the second loop the 3 Cavan crews would continue to do battle and keep pace with the leaders as they were never separated by more than a handful of seconds in the very changeable conditions with scorching sun one minute to heavy humid conditions and then heavy showers made tyre choices a nightmare for the day. Armstrong still continued to command the lead of this trio from Kiernan with Pringle 3rd and eyeing up his chance for a big push on the final loop of the day. Justin Smyth continued to embarrass the more powerful machines to lead class 9 and occupy 26th overall.
In the Juniors it was Oldcastle man Gary Mc Namee who teamed up with Cork’s Ella Ryan once again as they would take chase after local man Cormac Phelan in their trusty Civic, looking to get a good points haul from the weekend after a torrid time of late they would be delighted with 2nd in the Juniors after the opening loop.
Over the final stages it would all kick off with Kiernan launching a scathing attack on Armstrong and with Pringle chasing him up to both overhaul Chris by a handful of seconds on the 7th stage. On the next stage it would be Jonathan Pringle who would put the Jones Engineering Escort into the lead of the Cavan battle ahead of Kiernan in the Kiernan Milling car with Armstrong in the CA Events Hire car keeping a close eye on Gary with only half a second between them. With a big push around the famous lough Gill and keeping out of trouble where the likes of Marcus Gronholm have floundered over the years it would be Pringle with Martin Byrne on the notes who would take the class 14 win and finish as top Mk2 on the day with Gary Kiernan coming home second ahead of Chris Armstrong by just 1.1 seconds. With this Jonathan now equals Chris on points in the Mk2 National Championship and reinforces his lead in the border championship with 2 rounds to go in each.
In class 12 it would be a good day all round for Alan Atcheson and Thomas Wedlock who took the class victory after a tough fight with Marty Toner for the opening loop. Also taking home the class spoils were Justin Smyth with James Mc Eneany on the notes in the class 9 escort and with an impressive 31st overall at the finish of the day.
Further back Brendan O’Reilly and Finbar Smith finished what would be a tough day in the office to come home 6th in class, further back would be Gene Mc Donald and Paul O’Hare who were forced to Rally 2 after a transmission problem but were glad of the finish and a few miles under the belt at the end of the day.
In the Juniors it would be 2nd overall for Gary Mc Namee and Ella Ryan in their Honda Civic after a long and competitive day.
Next up for the crews of the National and Border is the Galway Summer Stages Rally in a few weeks time.