It was a day of high drama on the narrow roads of North Monaghan as Daniel Mc Kenna and Andrew Grennan won the 2012 Hillgrove Hotel Monaghan Stages Rally on Sunday last. This was the second counting round of the Sligo Pallets Border Rally Championship which drew a full entry of 131 cars, the first full entry of this years rally calendar. An action packed event that saw only 5 of the top 10 making the finish ramp including non-finishes form all three WRC cars, which started. This event had it all and certainly lived up to its pre-event billing of “Finland on tarmac”. Mc Kenna/Grennan eventually took the rally win from Sam Moffatt and James O’Reilly in their EVO 9 with Maurice Moffatt and Jason McKenna just edged back to third on the final 30km stage in their Starlet.
But that is only the tip of the iceberg! With only 67 finishers from 131 starters this was most definitely a finisher’s rally as most of those who were lucky enough to cross the finish ramp had their own good luck stories to tell. CoC Dessie Keenan and his team provided three action packed stages, which had it all. Stage 1 was a fast flowing stage with many flat crests on open roads. The first half of stage 2 ran through the famous Bragan mountain and then descended down towards Scotstown finishing with the infamous tight and twisty Aghnameena lane. Stage 3 simply had all the ingredients of the perfect stage, narrow sections to start with, straddling the border along Roslea, then opening out to fast flowing sections towards Bellanode village. The spectacle of two flat crest/jumps then up to a chicane and a hair pin right has to be the talking point of the rally as thousands of spectators descended on this usually quiet north Monaghan village. One could be forgiven for thinking they were actually in Finland such was the commitment of all drivers over these jumps, much to the delight of onlookers.
Top seeds for the event were indeed local Bellanode man Niall Maguire and his regular navigator, Enda Sherry. They had led the event up until stage 7 when their gearbox packed it in while holding a one-minute lead. Earlier in the day number 2 seeds Seamus Leonard retired his Subaru WRC on ss1 while Donagh Kelly and Kevin Flanagan slid their newly acquired WRC impreza off the road on ss3. These miss-haps only meant one thing, a titanic battle to the end between two of Irelands top escort men and locals, Daniel McKenna/Andrew Grennan and Gary McPhillips/Mark Tierney. By Gary’s own admission they were caught sleeping on the opening loop, dropping 32 seconds to Mc Kenna after three stages. Not to be outdone Gary and Mark put the “shoulder to the wheel” on the middle loop, recording fastest times on all three stages over McKenna. Indeed on ss6 running water after heavy rainfall made conditions treacherous and Daniel/Andrew nearly threw it all away with a big overshoot on the hairpin at Greenfield eggs, which resulted in the back of the escort being extensively damaged. Gary and Mark were also caught out on the surface water here and ended up alongside Daniel who had got out to access the damage. Both crews got back on track and its was a side by side battle to stage end. Going into the final stage the scene was set for a battle royale as Mc Phillips led by one second with the now infamous 30km Bellanode stage to run. Unfortunately though it was not going to live up to it’s billing as Mc Kenna passed the stricken red escort which suffered suspension failure and Gary and Mark were forced to limp to stage finish and drop back to 14th o/a. A cruel end after a titanic battle with Daniel Mc Kenna and Andrew Grennan coming out on top on this occasion to be crowned 2012 Hillgrove Hotel Monaghan Stages Rally winners.
With Sam Moffatt and uncle Maurice 2nd and 3rd respectively it was Shane Maguire and Marty McGarrity who came home in 4th o/a to take a splendid group N class win. Shane was locked in a battle with young local rival Josh Moffatt with regular navigator Domhall Lennon on the notes and eventually came out with a 17 second winning margin over the Combilift and PQE backed EVO. Donegal cousins Declan and Brian Boyle had to settle for 6th o/a but did enough to take the class win as Mc Kenna and Moffatt were in the top 3, this despite a puncture early on. Camillus Bradley was next up in 7th o/a and 2nd in class 14 ahead of John Mc Quaid and Seamus O’ Connor in 9th o/a and 3rd class 14. Not taking away from the tremendous drives from the front-runners, Kieran “Bilko” McCarra and Colm Murphy could surely be singled out for a drive of the day award also. 5th fastest stage time on the opening stage reflecting Bilko’s intentions for the day and indeed he remained inside the top 6 up until stage 7, eventually dropping back to 8th o/a and taking a class win by almost two and a half minutes. Oldcastle’s Mickey Curran rounded off the top 10 with Mickey Conlon and Darren Mc Cague 11th and 2nd class 13. Emyvale’s New Holland Agri. man Barry McKenna had Clones busman Raymond Conlon on the notes and they had much better luck on their home rally compared to recent events with a 17th o/a finish and 3rd in class 13. Jim Mc Kenna and Thomas Treanor finished 12th o/a as Arthur and Mac Kierans made it two wins from two starts in class 12. Eamonn Mc Guigan was 2nd in class 12 ahead of Hugh Mc Quaid and Chris Melly in 3rd. Gerard Mc Quaid and Gary Quinlan finished 18th o/a and 4th in class 13. Class 11 saw no fewer than 13 non-finishers out of a starting 25 as Carrickmacross brother’s Johno and Padraig Doogan had a testing day which paid off with a class 11 win. Indeed they were contemplated retiring in first service with alternator belt problems but eventually their persistence paid dividends. David Moffatt and Andrew Spears also had their problems as they limped to the end of stage 3 with a broken alternator bracket, coupled with a slight off towards the end of the day but were also rewarded for their efforts with 2nd in class 11. Seamus Doherty and Peter Byrne rounded off the top three in class 11. Class 10 was another to suffer many casualties but it was Patrick Kiernan and Darren O’Brien who kept it together to take the class win. Aaron Mc Quaid and Aidan Coyle had led class 10 through the early stages to eventually finish 2nd and 31st over-all. Father and son team of Sean and Fintan Sherry rounded off the top 3 in class 10 in their Pizza D’or and Mc Aree Eng. backed escort.
Donegal’s Barry Mc Gill with last minute replacement Paul Clarke on the notes also made it two wins from two starts in this years border championship with a class 9 victory. Cavan’s Brendan O Reilly with Mark Hamill on the notes were 2nd class 9 ahead of Aaron Duffy and Michael Donnellan. The only finisher’s in class 8 were Ciaran Marron and Damian Connolly. Rodger Kennedy and Wendy Blackledge were the sole finishers in class 7. Donegal natives Joe Mc Gonigle and Ciaran Geaney had a blistering drive to a class 6 win and 15th overall in the citreon C2R2 ahead of the similar car of John Lynch with Liam Branley 3rd. Sligo Pallets crew Andrew Mullan and Elaine Doherty finish 3rd in class 4 and 13th o/a behind the hard charging youngsters Maguire and Moffatt. Mark Ewing won class 3 ahead of Longford men Packie Duffy and Micheal Reilly in the type R civic with Johnny Leonard 3rd in a fiesta. Adrian Cannon brought his civic across the finish ramp with a class 2 win ahead of Stephen Bradley in 2nd and Trevor Mc Connell 3rd, also in civics’. Class 15 which caters for group A and N cars out of homologation was won by Scotland’s Jim Sharp in a group A subaru (who incidentally is currently leading the Scottish rally championship) with local man Stephen Hagan on the notes. Andy Mackarel and Richard Cassidy were consistent as always and it paid off with 2nd in class 15 in the EVO 4. David Leonard rounded off the top 3 in a Lancer.
Other local men who can count themselves lucky to even make the finish after a demanding day include David Smith/Adrian Flynn who were 4th in class 11 with Damien Sherry/Weazel Currie 5th class 11. Colin Currid and Ballyhaise man Adrian Foley were 4th class 9 in a nova while Cavan’s Phillip Smith and Warren Carleton were 5th class 2. Seamus Connolly and Gary Mc Crudden were in the scenery on a few occasions but managed to make the end nevertheless. Indeed it has been suggested that this crew were the unofficial entertainers of the rally, putting on a show at every opportunity and winning the Sligo Pallets Drive of the Day award for their efforts on ss5.
Unfortunately that’s where the good luck stories end as a plethora of locals failed to finish this demanding rally for one reason or another. Niall and Enda were out on ss7 with gearbox issues while leading. Next big casualties were Rodney Wilton and Conor Mc Mahon who crashed their brand new escort out in spectacular fashion at the first junction of the event. Mac McKenna and John Loughran had an uncharacteristic off on ss4 while Shane Mc Girr and Jack Maguire also failed to make it home. Enda Mc Nulty and Paul Sheridan had the all new class 13 escort on show but mechanical gremlins were never too far away throughout the weekend. Darren and Nicola Mc Kenna were forced into retirement, as their twin cam was not firing on all cylinders throughout the day. Ryan Loughran and James Mc Carville ended their rally with a slight off as something broke in the front suspension while leading class 11. Martin Mc Phillips and Ciaran Tynan also failed to make the finish as they encountered electrical problems on ss5 and their clutch gave up on ss6. James Cassidy and Karen Kelly were the first crew to throw in the towel as their alternator packed in before the start of the first stage. Cathal Mc Glone and Damien Doherty also failed to make the finish, as did Martin Tynan and Fintan Clerkin when their gearbox cried enough. Donal Crossan and Damien Mc Cabe were also on the non-finishers list as were Michael and Declan Tynan with back differential woes.
Michael Carroll and Martin Connolly were also non-finishers in their class 3 fiesta. Michael Carbin and Evin Hughes’ hopes of a good finish on their local event were dashed as the head gasket went on the 205. John and Niall Kelly were back out in a white twin cam and getting back up to speed but were forced to retire on ss6 with mechanical problems. Barry Treanor and Colm Connolly didn’t make the end, nor did Cathal Sheridan with Donegal woman Loretta Kelly on the notes as the gearbox in the nova gave up. David Smith and Austin Hamill failed to take the 106 home while Justin Smith and Gregory Mc Quillan were also heading home early while leading class 9 in their escort. Cootehill’s Gerry and Aaron Mc Intyre retired at second service with clutch failure while Tullyvin man Adam Kinkade and Dominic “Bart” Mc Ardle also retired their civic making it a bad day all round for the Cavan men. Ballybay’s David Dixon and Darren Gilliland made a welcomed return to the stages but there hopes of a finish were short lived as they failed to make first service. Tommy Boylan and Mark Deery didn’t make it round the final loop of three stages in their G3 escort.
So that’s the gist of an eventful 2012 Hillgrove Hotel Monaghan Stages Rally which has threw up many a talking point for all the right reasons. Well done to Daniel and Andrew on an epic win, reportedly the first escort to win in Monaghan for 24 years. Hard luck to Gary and Mark and no doubt their day is hopefully not too far away. Well done to CoC Dessie Keenan and his hard working team on running a fabulous event on perfect stages. Not too many competitors can say they have done 30km stages’ and by all accounts their experience of it was fantastic. A special word of thanks to our main sponsors, Colm and Audrey Herron of the Hillgrove Hotel and Spa for their continued support. Thanks to all the marshal’s, medical and rescue services and anybody who contributed in any way to keep the Monaghan Stages Rally at the fore in the Irish Rally calendar.
Monaghan MC Stages Rally Top 10:
1/ Daniel McKenna/Andrew Grennan (Escort) 109m 23s
2/ Sam Moffett/James O’Reilly (Lancer Evo 9 Gp N) 111m 45s
3/ Maurice Moffett/Jason McKenna (Starlet) 111m 50s
4/ Shane Maguire/Martin McGarrity (Impreza Gp N) 112m 38s
5/ Josh Moffett/Domhnall Lennon (Lancer Evo 9 Gp N) 112m 57s
6/ Declan Boyle/Brian Boyle (Escort) 113m 19s
7/ Camillus Bradley/Crawford Henderson (Escort) 113m 38s
8/ Kieran McCarra/Colm Murphy (Civic) 113m 45s
9/ John McQuaid/Seamus O’Connor (Escort) 114m 00s
10/ Michael Curran/Sean Hayde (Escort) 115m 00s
Group N Production class:
1 Sam Moffett/James O’Reilly
2 Shane Maguire/Martin McGarrity
3 Josh Moffett/Domhnall Lennon.
Motorsport Ireland National Night Navigation Prize Giving
National night navigation prize giving for the 11/12 season past will take place on Saturday 28th April at 8.00pm sharp in the Heritage Hotel, Portlaoise. All award winners are asked to be present or send a representative. There will also be an open forum meeting prior to prize giving, this is important as it is a chance for competitors to voice their opinions on all aspects of the sport with a view to improving it for the future.