BY MARTIN WALSH
BALLYLICKEY’s Daniel Cronin – in the Ford Fiesta R5 backed by Cronin’s Hardware & Agri Supplies – finished eighth overall in his maiden outing at Sunday’s Donegal Harvest Rally. After a cautious start and with his Killarney co-driver Shane Buckley, they regained six places during the six specials of the day.
Owenahincha’s co-driver Eamonn Hayes also made a first trip, in a World Rally Car where he was co-driver of Welshman Steve Wood, and they finished 29th.
The rally, which drew 133 participants, was won by Callum Devine (Ford Fiesta R5) from Derry and his co-driver Brian Hoy. They took on the challenge of Declan Boyle (Ford Fiesta WRC) of Donegal and his co-driver Cavan James O’Reilly, who finished at 9.7 seconds. Boyle’s car was prepped by former Timoleague resident Adam Platt of the Ap / Art Rally team. Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta R5) of Monaghan was 36.3 seconds behind in third.
The wet conditions made the stages even more demanding and many riders took a cautious approach. However, Boyle, who chose to drive his usual Fiesta WRC, quickly took a 2.7 second lead. Devine was second with Gary Jennings (Fiesta R5) 1.9 seconds further in third. It was a baptism of fire for Daniel Cronin. While scouting the stages the day before, he found the terrain so different from the stages in Cork and Kerry. It certainly wasn’t the place to try and be brave on his first competitive outing in the county. He spun in the second half of the stage and duly finished the stage on the outskirts of Donegal town in 14th position, 24.5 seconds off the lead.
Devine was the best in the second stage and took a 2.9 second lead over Jennings. Boyle lost time due to brake problems and slipped to third place, 7.4 seconds off first place. Five-time West Cork Rally winner Donagh Kelly was fourth. Cronin wins two places.
Both legs were repeated and the weather conditions continued to be a mixture of sun and showers. Devine kept the lead even though he got away at the end of SS 3 and lost five or six seconds. Boyle came in second and was only five seconds behind; The proof of his efforts came during the fourth stage when he slipped on an embankment where a wire mesh tore off the rear spoiler which was rendered to him by spectators. Jennings also appealed to onlookers who helped get his Fiesta right-hand drive back onto the road after slipping and landing on a hedge, his car was not damaged but wasted time saw him crash into the 34th place in the general classification. After making a few changes to the setup, Sam Moffett was able to push a lot more and he placed third ahead of Donagh Kelly. Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan (Ford Fiesta R5) were fifth. Meanwhile, Cronin made his way into the top ten, holding ninth place overall.
The battle for supremacy escalated as Boyle reduced the deficit to 3.8 seconds on the penultimate stage, but Devine extended his lead to 9.7 seconds on the final stage to secure the victory. Sam Moffett finished third with Cathan McCourt, Josh Moffett (Hyundai i20 R5) and Donagh Kelly completing the top six.
Eighth place is Daniel Cronin’s award.
“It’s a fair learning experience. Now I know I did the reconnaissance yesterday but I don’t think I have already done two stages as difficult as these. They were narrow and bumpy, ”Cronin said.
“As the day went on, we changed some settings and I had a good run in the last two stages, I was happy and at ease. We’re a little – well, maybe more than a little – outside of the boys at the top, but they have newer cars.
I was nervous this morning because of the rain. I hadn’t done any testing in the car before and didn’t like the set-up we had for the first two stages, but once we got them set it was a lot better.
Cronin’s next outing will be the Wexford Rally next week. He also hinted that he will be competing in the Kerry Winter Rally next month.
Meanwhile, Owenahincha co-driver Eamonn Hayes, on his first World Rally Car outing and accompanying Steve Wood, said: “It was a very difficult rally, I don’t think I’ve ever ridden on this type of road. terrain and conditions like this before.. It was nice to sit in a WRC, I guess the car was not tuned for this event, but it was nice. I think Steve would have preferred a smoother event , but it was great to be back. ‘