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Down Rally - 18 Oct 08

Posted: October 22, 2008 4:33 PM - 11786 Hits

Round 9 - 2008 Northern Ireland Rally Championship

  • McCloskey/O'Regan win Down Rally

Photo: Roy Dempster

Conor McCloskey keeps title hopes alive with FM Contracts Down Rally victory!

Posted: October 22, 2008 4:33 PM

Kilrea's Conor McCloskey sealed victory at this year's FM Contracts Down Rally, round nine of the Pacenotes MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship, while Strabane's Sean Devine retired his Impreza WRC and Cookstown's Glenn Allen failed to start the event.

Devine, who could have sealed the 2008 championship title had he claimed victory at the Castlewellan based event, trailed Conor McCloskey from the start. Five seconds slower on the first stage, Devine lost more time on stage three when he was slowed by another competing car that had lost a wheel.

Suddenly, McCloskey's advantage was increased to a seemingly unassailable 41 seconds, but on the following stage he stalled, losing 23 seconds! Devine and navigator Damien Duffin were fastest through stage five, leaving a 16 second margin between the two crews with two stages remaining.

Stage six, Drumkeeragh, proved to be the championship leader's downfall. Once again, Devine was thwarted by another competitor that was stuck in the middle of the stage. He tried to drive around the stricken car but spun and damaged his Impreza's steering. The stage was later cancelled and although Devine was able to make the finish, he was unable to complete the final test.

Devine's retirement allowed Conor McCloskey and Francis Regan coast through the final Tollymore stage, claiming victory by more than one minute. The result sees McCloskey move to the head of the championship standings with one round remaining, but when 'dropped' scores are taken into account, McCloskey and Devine are on even terms.

Championship regulations state that competitors may discount their three lowest scores from their championship tally. Devine has three no-scores, while McCloskey has two. Taking McCloskey's lowest score of eight points into account, both men enter the final round on a total of 84 championship points.

In the Sunoco Fuels Group N category, Cathal and Eoighan Rogers boosted their production category championship hopes by taking victory in their class as well as second overall. They finished 30 seconds in front of John Walker and Dessie Wilson, while PJ Gillespie and Mary O'Kane were fourth ahead of Alan Carmichael and Ivor Lamont.

The Superdrive two-wheel-drive category saw James Kennedy and John Rowan take the spoils with seventh overall. They sealed the championship title in the process, while Shane McGirr and Neil Connolly finished ninth overall ahead of Glenn Williamson and Keith McEvoy.

The final round of this year's Pacenotes MSA N.I. Rally Championship takes place on Saturday 1 November with the Ballymena based Townparks Glens of Antrim Rally. The event sees a return to closed road stages in the County Antrim area, and provides a perfect setting for the title shoot-out between 22-year-old Conor McCloskey and Sean Devine. More details are available from the official championship website at www.nirally.com!

Posted: October 19, 2008 8:08 PM

Video Clips

Posted: October 19, 2008 8:02 PM

McCloskey wins Down Rally.

Posted: October 19, 2008 7:56 PM

Conor McCloskey and Francis Regan sealed victory at this year's F&M Contracts Down Rally; round nine of the Pacenotes MSA Northern Ireland Rally Championship, after Championship rival Sean Devine retired his Impreza WRC one stage before the finish.

Devine, who was trailing event leader McCloskey at the Castlewellan based event, damaged his Impreza while trying to drive around another stricken competitor on the Drumkeeragh stage. Although he was able to reach the end of the test, damaged steering forced him and navigator Damien Duffin to retire from the event.

Their retirement took the pressure off Conor McCloskey and Francis Regan, who had led the Rathfriland Motor Club organised event from the opening stage. Despite stalling their Ford Focus WRC on stage 4, they had led Devine going into that fateful Drumkeeragh test. In the end, they went on to spray the victory champagne at the finish in Castlewellan’s lower square, with Cathal and Eoighan Rogers winning the production class with second overall and John Walker and Dessie Wilson in third place.

Top 2-wheel drive performance of the day came from the Mark 2 Escort of James Kennedy and John Rowan who finished a fine seventh overall ahead of the 1400 Toyota of Shane McGirr and Niall Donnelly in ninth. Indeed McGirr would have been within 1 second of Kennedy had it not been for a 30 second road penalty being added to his overall time.

Best of the local finishers was Damien Hynds and John Magilton in 8th, Emma McKinstry and Kenny Hull in 13th after a day of mechanical woes, Downpatrick’s Christian Cochrane and Conor Lavery in 19th, and a class and Championship win for John and Gavin Devlin in 21st. Castlewellan’s Micheal McMullan and Barry Savage survived to finish a creditable 26th overall on only their second event.

In NI Championship terms, the overall result sees Devine and McCloskey enter the final round of the season on equal points, ensuring the championship battle will go down to the wire in Ballymena.

Championship regulations state that competitors may discount their three lowest scores from their championship tally. Devine has three no-scores, while McCloskey has two, but taking his lowest score of eight points into account, both men enter the final round on a total of 84 championship points.

Round 10 takes place in two weeks time with the Ballymena based Townparks Glens of Antrim Rally.


Posted: October 19, 2008 7:55 PM

Full Results

Posted: October 18, 2008 8:51 PM

Entry List

Posted: October 14, 2008 8:02 PM


Posted: October 14, 2008 7:53 PM

The fight to claim the Northern Ireland Rally Championship crown moves to the Forests of South Down for the Rathfriland Motor Club’s F&M Contracts Down Rally on Saturday 18th October.

Sean Devine and Damien Duffin, who are chasing a first NI crown in their Subaru Impreza WRC, head the entry list, and the NI Championship when the crews arrive in Castlewellan on Friday evening.
It was Devine who won the inaugural Down Rally in 2005, finished 2nd to Kevin Lynch in 2006 and retired with suspension failure in 2007 while chasing eventual winner Richard Cathcart in 2007.

Behind him at number 2 is the tried and tested Toyota Corolla WRC of Glenn Allen and Damien Connolly. The 2007 Champion will be hoping for better luck this year after the ‘off’in Rostrevor Forest that put him out of the event in ‘07.

Devine and Allen will both be looking in their mirror for 22-year-old Conor McCloskey. The number 3 seed is fresh from his maiden win on the Bushwhacker Rally on September 27th and will be hoping that he can continue his pace on an event that he has never competed on.

With the Championship class 2 leader Neil McCance competing on the clashing Evo Challenge round in England, the top production spot goes to Down Rally regular Donagh Kelly at number 4 with Cathal Rogers and Banbridge’s Emma McKinstry rounding off the top 6.

Running ahead of the main field this year will be the smaller capacity cars, and all eyes will be on Oran Donnelly’s unique rear wheel drive Fiesta and the Vauxhall Corsa of Dermot O’Hagan.
Donnelly heads O‘Hagan by a scant 1 point in the championship standings and both will enjoy the best of the road conditions out front and could well embarrass some of the competitors in the higher classes.

This year’s local interest includes Banbridge’s John and Gavin Devlin, Christian Cochrane, David Hynds and David Walsh from Downpatrick, Ballykinlar’s Sean Warnock and Castlewellan’s Micheal McMullan.

So it will be Oran Donnelly and Paul Hughes who will lead the field the short distance from the start in Castlewellan to the first of the tests in the Tollymore Forest Complex at 8.30 on Saturday morning

The event will comprise of seven challenging stages throughout the day with centralised service in Castlewellan Forest Park. The finish is planned for around 4pm in the Lower Square, Castlewellan.

An Event Spectator Guide can be downloaded from the rally website in the run up to the event and free Stage Maps will be available from the Rally HQ (Kings Inn), Eurospar and Lennon’s JET Filling Station in Castlewellan.

Top Ten Entries:
Sean Devine / Damien Duffin. Impreza WRC
Glenn Allen / Damian Connolly. Corolla WRC
Conor McCloskey / Francis Regan. Focus WRC
Donagh Kelly / Kevin Flanagan. Mitsubishi Evo 9
Cathal Rogers / Eoighan Rogers. Mitsubishi Evo 9
Emma McKinstry / Kenny Hull. Impreza WRC
PJ Gillespie / Mary O’Kane. Mitsubishi Evo
Raymond Mason / Peter Martin. Mitsubishi Evo 9
John Walker / Dessie Wilson. Mitsubishi Evo 9
Alan Carmichael / Ivor Lamont. Mitsubishi Evo 9

Event Website

Posted: January 28, 2008 10:43 PM

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