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Galway Summer Rally - 31 Aug 03

Posted: September 2, 2003 9:04 PM - 5497 Hits

Cunningham Higgins Galway Summer Rally 2003

Round 8 - 2003 Dunlop National Rally Championship
Round 3 - 2003 West Coast Rally Championship

Report: Martin Walsh. Photos: Seamus Counihan
Eugene Donnelly has moved into the lead of the Dunlop National Rally Championship courtesy of his victory in the Portumna based Cunningham/Higgins Galway Summer Rally. Donnelly and co-driver, Paddy Toner (Subaru WRC) finished the nine special stages with a one minute and three second victory over defending Dunlop champions, Niall Maguire/Paul McLaughlin. Adrian McElvaney/Paul Goodman, also in a Subaru WRC, were third - a further 22 seconds in arrears.

Posted: September 2, 2003 9:04 PM

Top seed and pre-event Dunlop National Rally Championship leader, Michael Barrable crashed out on the opening stage where the pace was set by British driver, Jim Harrison. Barrable's Subaru got out of line after a jump and crashed into the parapet of a bridge. Meanwhile, Harrison, also in a Subaru WRC, set a time of eight minutes and 50 seconds for the 10.6-mile Tiernascreagh stage. Eugene Donnelly, who had two albeit brief off road excursions, was a further 13 seconds adrift - the handling of his Subaru transpired to be erratic after one of the excursions. A trio of drivers shared third - Niall Maguire and Patrick Elliott in Subaru WRC's and the Escort WRC of David Armstrong. Adrian McElvaney was sixth on the early leader board that also included John Spain (Toyota Celica), Jay Jordan (Escort Cosworth), J.J. Fleming (Subaru WRC) and the Escort Cosworth of Sean Gallagher.

Although Harrison extended his lead over Donnelly by a second on S.S. 2. a puncture on the third stage dropped him outside the top ten. At the first service halt in Portumna, Donnelly led Maguire by 31 seconds with the defending national champion, Maguire remarking that the pace was very quick. Elliott was third - some six seconds behind with McElvaney slotting into a comfortable fourth - a further two seconds in arrears. John Spain set a strong time on the third stage to move up to fifth with Davy Armstrong next on the leader board, he was held up briefly when he encountered the punctured Subaru of Harrison. Galway's J.J. Fleming in seventh admitted to being a "bit rusty" while Sean Gallagher (Escort Cosworth) moved up two places to eighth. The BMW M3 of Denis Cronin and the Escorts of Sean Lyons rounded off the top ten. In Group N, Mark Courtney held a two second advantage over the similar Mitsubishi of Derek Jobb.

Defending Dunlop champion, Niall Maguire was the pacesetter on stage four where Donnelly's car had a spongy brake pedal, nevertheless, he was still second fastest through the stage. Harrison, who lost twenty seconds with a spin on S.S. 4, set the pace on the next stage and Donnelly was best on S.S. 6 to lead at the second service by 40 seconds.

Adrian McElvaney moved into third while fourth placed Patrick Elliott had a problem with the accelerator of his Subaru. John Spain, despite crashing into a wall on the fourth stage, was fifth some seven seconds ahead of a hard charging Jim Harrison. Sean Gallagher with a problematic anti roll bar was seventh from J.J. Fleming (Subaru WRC). Denis Cronin led the rear wheel drive category, his BMW was ninth with Anthony O'Halloran, almost a minute adrift in tenth place.

On the closing loop, Donnelly retained his composure and duly took his sixth win of the Dunlop series. Harrison actually set the fastest times on the three final stages. Afterwards, Donnelly remarked "I suppose it was a little easier when Michael Barrable went off. However, Jim (Harrison) had a great rally and with six fastest times, he certainly pushed hard. I'm delighted with this win."

Maguire, who completed the last loop without the benefit of the anti-lag system was second as Adrian McElvaney won the battle for third even though the throttle of his Subaru stuck open on a number of occasions. Harrison completed a spirited recovery to claim fifth with Denis Cronin (BMW M3) finishing as the highest placed rear wheel drive exponent. He edged out the Toyota of John Spain, who was only a second in arrears. Sean Gallagher lost time on the final stage when a cracked exhaust led to a rubber flap catching fire and smoke entered the cockpit of his Escort Cosworth. Sean Lyons (Escort) and the Opel manta of Anthony O'Halloran completed the top ten.

1. E. Donnelly/P. Toner (Subaru Impreza WRC) 1h. 10m. 16s.
2. N. Maguire/P. McLaughlin (Subaru Impreza WRC) 1h. 11m. 19s.
3. A. McElvaney/P. Goodman (Subaru Impreza WRC) 1h. 11m. 41s.
4. P. Elliott/M. Cahill (Subaru Impreza WRC) 1h. 11m. 49s.
5. J. Harrison/H. Bell (Subaru Impreza WRC) 1h. 11m. 52s.
6. D. Cronin/H. O'Sullivan (BMW M3) 1h. 13m. 09s.
7. J. Spain/P. Egan (Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD) 1h. 13m. 10s.
8. S. Gallagher/F. Kenny (Escort RS Cosworth) 1h. 13m.

Dunlop National Rally Championship - 
positions after Round 8: 
1. E. Donnelly 138 points; 
2. M. Barrable 126 points;
=3. A. McElvaney & S. Gallagher 88 points; 
5. J. Harrison 79 points; 
6. N. Maguire 64 points.

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