Monday 18 December 2017

Like father like son for Gareth

Murphy helps MacHale keep it in the family with first Tarmac title

GARETH MacHALE and co-driver Brian Murphy emerged victorious after a rally-long battle with Tim McNulty in Cork last weekend. His victory was enough to clinch a maiden Irish Tarmac championship title 27 years after his father Austin won his first championship crown. Murphy claimed the co-driver's title for the third time alongside MacHale having sealed two titles alongside Austin in 1997 and 1998.

Knowing he only needed third place to secure the championship MacHale's strategy was to keep Tim McNulty in his sights, but when McNulty collided with a hedge on SS13, upsetting the handling of the car, MacHale sensed potential victory and capitalised on his rival's misfortune.

The Rathcoole ace emerged victorious by a mere 1.9 seconds to repeat his 2009 Cork victory and also take his maiden Tarmac championship title.

Robert Barrable and co-driver Damien Connolly added the Irish Citroen C2R2 crown to the British title he secured one week earlier. The Swords/Monaghan winning crew and championship leader Marty McCormack -- a last-minute entry after his plan to concentrate on the French world championship round was thwarted because of administrative issues -- fought for victory until the Draperstown driver was forced into retirement with a broken drive shaft on the penultimate stage. His performance in winning the two titles should warrant a wild card nomination for this year's Billy Coleman Award.

The 23-year-old Swords star faces a busy October as he tests the JRM-run national EvoX -- the car Alistair Fisher drove to second place overall on Rally Yorkshire -- in two weeks time. He will contest the Pirelli Star Driver shoot-out on the following two days in an Impreza N15 and rounds off his testing schedule at Prodrive where he will assess a Subaru N16 before making a final decision.

Craig Breen is another youngster who faces a busy few weeks ahead. Third place overall in Cork was sufficient to give him the runner-up berth in the Tarmac series. He will now concentrate on the British Pirelli star Driver shoot-out at the Sweet Lamb Complex in mid-Wales where he will drive a Subaru N15 and the Pirelli Star Driver Global Final shoot-out in Spain where his mount will be a Fiesta R2.

p Donegal MC attracted an oversubscribed entry for the Jackson's Hotel of Ballybofey Harvest Rally on Saturday. The nine-stage event -- the final round of the popular Hass Border championship -- has attracted over 160 entries, including seven juniors.

The top trio of Niall Maguire, Seamus Leonard and Garry Jennings -- all in WRCs -- will battle between themselves for overall honours but most interest will centre on the modified class which has attracted all the main Escort Mk2 drivers, including Galway winner Gary McPhillips, Camillus Bradley, Wesley Patterson, Manus Kelly, Declan Boyle, Adrian Hetherington, Paul Barrett, James Cassidy, Damien Gallagher and Gary McElhinney.

Subaru-mounted Shane Maguire faces a tough challenge from Donagh Kelly, Danny McBride and Pat Kirk -- all in Mitsubishis -- for Group N honours.

p The Garda Siochana MC has cancelled the Germaines of Baltinglass mini-stage rally scheduled for October 17 as it received only 39 entries for the event -- a poor return for the club which has always championed the clubman's cause.

p The Killarney Historic Stages rally scheduled for early December will be the first round of the 2011 Irish Historic Tarmac Rally championship. The inclusion of the Kenmare-based event gives Historic competitors a six-round series based on all the Irish international events and ends in Cork next October.

p Former British champion Russell Brookes will launch the Carrick-on-Suir MC Halloween Historic rally to-morrow night.

New to the calendar, the event will include some of the classic stages in County Waterford that featured in Circuit of Ireland rallies of the 70s and 80s.

Brookes along with Coleman and Jimmy McRae -- names synonymous with the glory years of the Irish Tarmac series -- are among the early entries so far received.

p Kildare MC will bring the curtain down on the racing season when it runs the final meeting of the year at Mondello Park on Sunday.

It is one of several club events listed for the weekend that includes the Birr &DAC navigation trial which starts from the Community Centre in Dunkerrin -- the heritage village six miles south of Roscrea -- on Saturday night.

Kerry MC are organising an autosolo at Tralee Racecourse Ballybeggan on Sunday, while Wexford MC has planned an autotest meeting at Wellingtonbridge and the Tipperary club is holding a 4x4 trial at Dualla Cashel, Co Tipperary on the same day.

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