The final round of the Sligo Pallets border rally championship saw the crews head to the traditional north west curtain closer with the Donegal Motorclub’s Harvest stages rally bringing as much excitement to the region as the international in June.
This year would see the HQ move to the Griannan Hotel in Burt at the base of the innishowen peninsula, there would be 3 tricky tests repeated 3 times during the day in changeable conditions that would leave Tyre choice a lottery and the smallest slip in concentration punished severely by the stone walls and banks.
With a number of Cavan crews making the trip and even more to hang out of the hedges to support them it was going to be a competitive affair with a number of awards still to be decided.
The day started treacherously with the opening stage being covered in a slimy layer of morning dew on the road that made things a little interesting for a few crews to say the least. Bailieborough man Gary Kiernan fresh off the back of his Billy Coleman nomination would opening his day in 8th with Niall Tierney as ever ably guiding him around. Stephen Mc Cann would get his day off to a steady start in the A Plus skip hire evo 9 with 22nd overall through the opener. Gene Mc Donald and Kevin Reilly would get off to a good tart to lead class 9 from Brendan O’Reilly and Damien Mc Cabe in their similar escort after stage 1
Heading for first service and Mc Cann had made a push to get up the front with the conditions suiting the Evo 9 a little better than the escort of Kiernan which would see Mc Cann leapfrog into 6th place by half a second from Kiernan. Wesley Patterson would be ahead of both of them though in 5th having a tight battle with Gary Mc Phillips for the class 14 lead In the class 9 battle it would be Gene Mc Donald who would fortify his lead of the class and slot into 68th overall with Brendan O’Reilly slipping back to 5th in the class.
With the stages starting to dry but still having the odd slippy patch which Cavan stages winner Peader Hurson found on the 5th corner of stage 4 to his detriment. Gary Kiernan would regain the initiative of being the top Cavan crew to enter second service now in 4th place overall and with eyes on he podium with the stage continuing to dry for the afternoon. Stephen Mc Cann would stay put in 6th overall trying to sort out minor electrical gremlins that would give the 9 an intermittent miss.
Gene Mc Donald would continue to drive the wheels off the little class 9 car and find himself and Kevin Reilly in a credible 57th overall and a commanding lead in the class. Brendan O’Reilly and Damien Mc Cabe would enter service still 5th and having a good battle for 4th.
On the middle loop the Juniors would start their assault on the stages with Virginia man Kevin Cole with Matthew Kirwan on the notes taking the reins of Noel Lappins’s 1400 escort and thy were using it to great effect to lie 2nd in the juniors against much more powerful opposition after the opening 3 stages.
On stage 8 Gary Mc Phillips would hit trouble thus allowing all to move up a plae this would promote Kiernan and Tierney to 3rd and holding off the hard charging Wesley Patterson who would have a good day hovering around the 4th, 5th place overall area and lead class 14 in his usual hard charging but ultimately smooth style with Johnny Baird calling the notes. The cruel faith of rallying would strike again heading for the final stage as 2nd placed man Joe Mc Gonigle would suffer engine troubles and gather huge time penalties on the road section putting a podium beyond his reaches. This promoted Kiernan and Tierney to 2nd overall an a fantastic result with fellow club member Wesley Patterson 3rd overall. Stephen Mc Cann would struggle home in 6th still a good result against technical troubles. Gene Mc Donald took the in in class 9 with Kevin Reilly and 43rd overall with Brendan O’Reilly and Damien Mc Cabe 5th in class and 71st overall.
Things wouldn’t work out for Kevin Cole in the juniors though with a crankshaft breaking on the penultimate stage and halting their progress but they had proven a point to the rest of the junior competitors that the 1400 was not to be sniffed at