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2003 Downhill House Mayo Stages Rally - 9 Mar 03

Posted: March 10, 2003 10:59 PM - 28662 Hits

Round 1 - 2003 Dunlop National Rally Championship
Round 1 - 2003 Quinn Group Border Championship
Report Tracey Powell

Unsettled conditions greeted the 131 starters of last Sunday's Downhill House Hotel Mayo Stages, which opened the new season. Thankfully the roads dried out somewhat for the first cars on this years Mayo Stages Rally. Former Donegal International winner, James Cullen, was driving one of the O cars, in a Honda Civic, and he thought that the drivers who fitted slick tyres were brave and would score the fastest times. Eugene Donnelly overcame the conditions and the strong opposition to take the first major prize of the year.
Photo: Seamus Counihan

Posted: March 10, 2003 10:59 PM

There is certainly more success to come form the Derry driver, who intends to do the Circuit of Ireland next. In achieving the hard-earned win, the S! ubaru Impreza WRC driver with navigator Paul Kiely, opens his account in the Dunlop National Championship after winning the National Forestry Championship and the West International 2002 Rally last year. Michael Barrable put up a real challenge to Eugene Donnelly, in a Subaru Impreza WRC. A delighted Donnelly said at the finish on the grounds at Downhill House Hotel "It was certainly a tough rally the conditions were very difficult." He praised the Mayo and District Motorsport Club Ltd. saying "it was a very well run rally." He was delighted for his brother Charlie who finished 3rd in Eugene?s previous car a Toyota Celica.

The day began with newly honored Mayo Man of the Year, Ray Collins, officially waving off the first batch of cars from the Connacht Gold Mart, Ballina, at 11:00 a.m. From there No. 1 seed and reigning Dunlop Champion Niall Maguire (Subaru) led the cortege towards Moygawnagh to tackle the first loop of three Special Stages which led them around the scenic area of Kincon, Lackan and back towards Ashai for Centralised Service.

With the pre-rally favourite and West International winner Eugene Donnelly starting second the pressure was on Niall Maguire from the start, "Eugene Donnelly will be hard to beat; he is a fast driver who goes very hard and will be on a high after victory in the 2002 West International Rally". Donnelly meanwhile was setting the pace, closely followed by Maguire and Barrable. Niall Maguire said "I feel under pressure for grip, I should have had cuts in the tyres to counteract the mud". Michael Barrable said "I'm still blowing out the cobwebs, I feel the conditions are brutal slippy".

As the weather conditions improved in the afternoon so did the whole pace of the rally, with the battle at the front intensifying. On Special Stages 4 and 5, 6 at Rathnamagh, Kincon and Lackan Donnelly was quickest, he was leading by 40 secs at the end of stage 6.

On Special Stage 5 National Champion Niall Maguire emerged from stage 5 with his Subaru misfiring and retired. No. 6 seed Patrick Elliott damaged the rear of his new Impreza, he reported the car aquaplaned into a corner and hit the bank, and was lucky to keep going. No. 5 seed Jim Harrison lost his concentration, or rather more his co driver Harvey Bell, who admitted that when he passed the stationary David Armstrong's Escort WRC he was far too late with the next pace note call, a 90 left long over gravel, and the lovely new Impreza smacked into a stone wall. They then had overshoots on the following junctions, so did well only to lose about 30s.

Local entrants who finished well included: John Duffy (Crossmolina) and John Egan (Meath) finished third in Class 7 in an Astra. Tom Muldoon and Eoghan Cunningham (Westport) finished second in Class 11 in a Corolla. Paul and Brian Cleary (Kiltimagh) finished third in Class 5 in a Micra. Pat and Eddie O?Hora (Killala) finished second in Class 10 in an Astra. Ian McDonnell and Tom O?Dywer finished second in Class 7 in a Peugeot 205. Pat and Karen Price (Dublin) took the best unplaced Mayo and District Motorsport Club Ltd. crew award. Sean McHugh (Bekan) and John Rowland (Crossmolina) finished 35th overall in a Subaru Impreza, while Crossmolina?s Killian Duffy sitting with Derrick Jobb finished 17th overall in a Mitsubishi Evo 5.

Despite the bad weather conditions, the event attracted huge numbers of visitors to the area throughout the weekend. Clerk of the Course, Michael Noone, was delighted in how things went and expressed his thanks to everyone involved and especially :

Downhill House Hotel and Eagles Leisure Club and the Manager Michael McKeigue.
The Traders in Ballina.
The B&B's in Ballina.
Tony Kerins of FAS.
Nora Conlon of Moy Valley Resources.
The Stage Sponsors.

The club would like to thank the following bodies that provide support to the rally:
The Garda Siochana.
Mayo County Council.
The Civil Defence.

A big thanks to the residents on the route and also to all those who allowed the rally organisers use their facilities the NCT Centre, Connacht Gold Co-Op, Ballina Livestock Mart and the Asahi Plant just to mention a few.

 1 (2) Eugene Donnelly/Paul Kiely (Subaru Impreza WRC)		52:35
 2 (4) Michael Barrable/Dermot O'Gorman (Subaru Impreza WRC)	53:24
 3 (7) Charlie Donnelly/John Conway (Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD)	53:55
 4 (5) James Harrison/Harvey Bell (Subaru Impreza WRC)		54:33
 5 (10) Adrian McElvaney/Paul Goodman (Subaru Impreza WRC)	54:50 
 6 (6) Patrick Elliott/Martin Cahill (Subaru Impreza WRC)	55:13
 7 (12) Sean Gallagher/Liam Costello (Escort RS Cosworth)	55:32
 8 (8) Kieran Shaw/Crawford Henderson (Ford Escort WRC)		56:48
 9 (30) James McCann/Paul McCann (Escort RS Cosworth)		57:02
10 (15) Seamus Leonard/Gerry McVeigh (Subaru Impreza Sti)	57:13
11 (17) Aaron MacHale/Damien Connolly (Mit. Lancer Evo 5)	57:29
12 (37) David McNulty/Martin McGarrity (Escort RS Cosworth)	57:30
13 (16) Andrew Stewart/Fabian McShane (Mit. Lancer Evo 6)	57:32
14 (51) Patrick Boyle/Martin Sherlock (Escort 2.0)		57:49
15 (32) Norman Armstrong/Liam Doherty (Escort 2.0)		58:00
16 (40) Dominic McLoughlin/Cyril Donnellan (Peugeot 205 RWD)	58:04
17 (29) Derrick Jobb/Killian Duffy (Mit. Lancer Evo 5)		58:14
18 (28) Shaun Gallagher/Paul Nagle (Peugot 206 XSi)		58:34
19 (38) Willie Fannin/Brendan McCabe (Mit. Lancer Evo 6)	58:40
20 (41) Adrian Quinn/Lisa Mangan (Mit. Lancer Evo 6)		58:44

Topics: Mayo Stages Rally 

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