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irish tarmac rally championship

Cronin Puncture Halts Lakes Dominance

Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin have finished in fourth place in the Assess Ireland Killarney International Rally of the Lakes in the M O'Brien Group of Companies/Lyons of Limerick/Shane Casey Electrical Services Ford Fiesta Rally 2.  

They were fastest on ten of the event's fourteen stages, but the time loss incurred when they picked up a puncture on Saturday evening cost them the rally lead, and ultimately, the victory.   They remain at the head  of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship leaderboard, albeit by a reduced margin, heading to the next round, the Donegal International Rally, in seven weeks time.

The opening stage on Saturday morning saw Callum Devine and Noel O'Sullivan take the early advantage in their Volkswagen Polo GTi, finishing the famous Molls Gap test 2.8 seconds faster than Cronin and Galvin.  Eighth seeds, Eddie Doherty and Tom Murphy, were the surprise package, taking third fastest time in their Skoda Fabia, two further seconds back.  Circuit of Ireland winners, Matt Edwards and David Moynihan, had a tentative run to sixth fastest, twelve seconds off the lead in a Fiesta.  Cronin and Galvin then went quickest on the second stage, the Healy Pass, to take over the lead, but the overall difference to Devine and O'Sullivan was just .4 of a second heading to the first Service in Castletownbere.  Edwards and Moynihan were much closer to the pace of the leaders over 'the Healy', finishing the stage just .2 of a second off Devine and O'Sullivan, and moving two places up the overall leaderboard, to fourth.

The next two stages on the edge of the Beara peninsula, Cod's Head and Ardgroom, saw Cronin and Galvin stun the opposition, going fastest by an astounding 8.3 and 18.2 seconds respectively, to open up a comfortable lead of almost half a minute.  By contrast, the margins between Devine, Doherty and Edwards (who had moved up to third overall) were much tighter, just tenths between all three on Ardgroom.  

Cronin and Galvin added another 3.3 seconds to their advantage over Devine and O'Sullivan on the second run over the Healy Pass, and held a comfortable half minute lead at the second Service.  A further 3.1 seconds were added to the margin when the action moved back to Cod's Head.

The second visit to Ardgroom, the penultimate test of the day, saw them pick up the front left puncture that ended their chances of taking a third win in the Tarmac Championship this year.  They chose to drive through without changing the wheel, but the time loss dropped them to sixth on the leaderboard.  "It came early in the stage, I thought I heard a click on a left hander, there was no big impact or anything, we drove on it, then I could see it on right handers, the car was starting to nose on a little bit, it was just a slow puncture," said Cronin.

They were fastest again on the final stage of the day, Kilmakillogue, and gained one place back, but any chances of the overall victory had evaporated.  Devine and O'Sullivan now held the overnight lead, 14.4 seconds ahead of Edwards and David Moynihan, with Doherty and Murphy a further 13.5 seconds in arrears in third.

Sunday's action east of Killarney consisted of two loops of three stages, where the large margins seen on Day One were not expected to be repeated due to the tighter nature of the roads.  Cronin and Galvin continued to clock in fastest times, by .9 of a second on Gortnagane, seven seconds on Meentoges and one on Ballintourig.  Given their pace, the overnight gap of just over half a minute to fourth placed Jonathan Greer and Niall Burns had been a realistic target, and the outcome became inevitable when the latter crew punctured on Meentoges.  

Cronin and Galvin were again quickest on the second run over Gortnagane, by 8.5 seconds (14.3 faster than their own time on the same stage earlier), but thereafter they eased back when it became obvious that there were not enough competitive kilometres left to catch third placed Doherty and Murphy.

In the battle for the overall victory, Devine and O'Sullivan added tenths to their advantage on the first two of the Sunday tests, but Edwards and Moynihan then chipped away at the difference over the remaining four.   However, it was not enough to deny Devine and O'Sullivan their third 'Lakes' win in row, but the margin at the end was just 7.9 seconds.

"The speed on the stages was absolutely incredible," said Galvin at the finish.  "It was just a pity how it worked out for us. We weren't in great form last night, it goes like that sometimes, but there's plenty more to come.  I'm looking forward to the next one, it was a mighty weekend."  The attention of the Killarney and District Motor Club crew will now turn to the Jim Clark Rally in Scotland, which forms round three of the British Rally Championship, at the end of this month.  

Irish Tarmac Rally Championship positions after four of seven rounds (unofficial):

Keith Cronin, 72 points

Matt Edwards, 58.5

Callum Devine, 41

Josh Moffett, 39

External Credits:

Images - D Harrigan/Elaine Ní Shé.


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