Barrable emerges victorious from the Pirelli Rally dust
Robert Barrable and Damien Connolly held their nerve on the Pirelli International Rally this weekend to take victory on the second round of the Citroën Racing Trophy and with it move to the top of the one-make championship table.
Their victory was by no means a foregone conclusion though, as the conditions on the opening Friday evening stages were very difficult. It was not volcanic dust that hung heavy between the Kershope trees, but dust from passing rally cars after a long dry period in the forests. Visibility was extremely poor but Richard Sykes/Simon Taylor obviously had their pacenotes spot on, emerging from the first stage with an eleven second lead.
Australian Molly Taylor had reigning Citroën champion Phil Clarke to guide her through the gloom and they stopped the clocks next, ahead of Luke Pinder and Peter Scott who were about to run into trouble on stage two.
Their subsequent electrical problem was sufficient to drop them well down the time sheets for the remainder of the event, but championship leaders Mark Donnelly and Paddy Robinson’s problems were concentrated at each end of the rally, starting even before the first stage.
They had a water pipe come loose on the road section from the start in Carlisle, forcing them to incur time penalties when they stopped to fix the problem at the roadside. The engine temperature continue to give rise for concern, dropping them time on the first two tests, until by Friday’s final stage the cooling system was repaired, allowing them to post their first fastest stage time.
Sykes and Taylor had held position on stage two, but a fastest time from Barrable allowed him to edge closer and when Taylor beached her car on a bank in the dreadful visibility of stage three, the Irishman was within seven seconds of leader Sykes.
Donnelly was also on a charge, setting the first of eight fastest times, while elsewhere Joseph McGonigle and Nialll Burns were having a less than perfect event, having made their own pacenotes on gravel for the first time and running last Citroën in the worst of the dust.
Saturday morning saw another fine day in the more open Kielder stages, with a slight breeze to help clear the way. Donnelly continued his fight-back, while overnight leaders Sykes and Taylor were the first to exit the fray. The rear end of the car stepped out on loose gravel dragging it into the ditch and ultimately rolling out of contention. Both crew members were unhurt, but Sykes adds another zero score to the table with two thirds of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship season gone.
Aside from clipping a rock on Saturday’s opening stage, Barrable and Connelly had no problems and could now cruise to the end, managing a gap to Pinder and Scott of just over a minute.
Meanwhile Donnelly had plans to elevate himself from fourth and had leap-frogged both McGonigle and the still struggling Pinder to lie second with two stages remaining. A final stage puncture robbed the crew of any hope of maintaining the championship lead though, losing five minutes and three places in twelve miles.
Taylor set some excellent stage times throughout the rally, taking half a dozen second fastest times, finishing with a flourish on the final stage by beating Pinder by twenty seconds. Sadly, having used Super Rally to re-start on Saturday meant all the hard work was negated by the accompanying ten minute penalty, without which she could have finished ahead of the eventual winners. Another crew who, without problems, could easily have won the event were Donnelly and Robinson who eventually finished fourth.
McGonigle and Burns were surprised but pleased to finish third, admitting that they had made some silly mistakes towards the end of the event. Pinder and Scott limped to the finish in second, the starter motor eventually giving up the ghost to add to their misfire and electrical cut-outs.
Ifs and buts aside, the worthy winners Robert Barrable and Damien Connolly took the top step of the podium at the early evening Carlisle Racecourse finish, the maximum points haul moving the three points clear of Donnelly/Robinson at the head of the leaderboard.
The next event, the Jim Clark International Rally takes the crews to asphalt, although several drivers are planning to contest the next round of the Irish Citroën Racing Trophy, the Killarney Rally next weekend.
You can watch coverage of the Citroën Racing Trophy UK as well as a preview of the next round of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship on Sky Sports in the week preceding the event (28th & 29th May)