Eugene Donnelly won the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship for the fifth time with second place on last weekends Cork 20 Rally. The Maghera man was at the wheel of his Skoda Fabia WRC and he was partnered by Paddy Toner, who won his first Tarmac Championship as a co-driver. It was also a first for the Fabia, as it won its first ever major international series.
Gareth Mc Hale won the Cork 20, driving his Focus in a mature and stylish manner to record fastest time on every stage. However the victory was not enough to overhaul Donnelly who arrived in Cork with a huge lead and just needed to finish seventh place.
It was a year of two halves for Mc Hale, and while he had a patchy start to the season his maiden International win in Donegal provided the catalyst for a late title challenge which just fell short on the final round.
Alastair Fisher started the season driving a Fiesta, but his busy season took off at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Evo 9. The Fermanagh driver finished third overall in the Tarmac Championship as well as the British Rally Championship. In addition he won class N4 in the Tarmac, but he lost the Group N title (by a half a point) to the Subaru Impreza of Ger O’Donovan from Bantry. Another Corkman Daragh O ‘ Riordan had an excellent year in the Renault Clio. The Midleton man was an easy winner of class A6a, but he finished fourth overall in the championship and was first two wheel drive car home, just one point behind Fisher.
The 2009 Tarmac season belongs to Eugene Donnelly and his effective private team. From seven starts he had four wins, two seconds and a non finish. And while Irish drivers had brilliant victories abroad this year, Ireland’s premier championship-the Irish Tarmac Championship- was dominated by one of Ireland’s most successful rally drivers. With his fifth Irish Tarmac title Donnelly equals Austin McHale’s all time record and Eugene’s tally of 19 Irish Tarmac Rally victories is just one below the all time record set by the late Bertie Fisher,
2009 Irish Tarmac Championship points after Round 8 (Cork 20)
Eugene Donnelly (Skoda Fabia WRC) 94,
Gareth Mc Hale (Ford Focus WRC) 82,
Alastair Fisher (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo) 50
Daragh O’ Riordan (Renault Clio) 49,
Ger O’ Donovan (Subaru Impreza) 40.
2009 Irish Tarmac Championship Class winners
Joseph Mc Gonagle (Honda Civic) Class N2
Craig Breen (Ford Fiesta) Class N3
Alastair Fisher (Mitsubishi Evo) Class N4
Andrew Stewart (Peugeot 205) Class A6
Daragh O’ Riordan (Renault Clio) Class A6a
Tony Doyle (Renault Clio) Class A7
Eugene Donnelly (Skoda Fabia) Class A8
Wesley Patterson (Ford Escort) Modified
Niall Creighton (Ford Cortina) Historic
Derek Boyd (Porsche 911) Post Historic
Aidan O’Connor (Ford Escort) Classic.