Gareth MacHale claims victory at round one of the Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship!

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Gareth MacHale jump-started his bid for a maiden Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship title with victory at last weekend’s Safety Direct Galway International Rally!

The event marked round one of Ireland’s premier rally championship, and a total of 66 competitors have registered for this year’s series. That marks a 20 percent increase in Championship registrations, which bodes well for an excellent 2010 season.

MacHale and navigator Brian Murphy secured the Galway International Rally spoils with an emphatic victory over the Ford Fiesta S2000 of Craig Breen and Gareth Roberts. Aaron MacHale and Eugene O’Donnell finished third in their WRC Focus after a weekend long tussle with the overall Group N winners, Alistair Fisher and Rory Kennedy.

MacHale just pipped Fisher on the last stage to gain the final place on the podium alongside his brother Gareth. This was the first time that two brothers finished in the top three of an International rally – another first for the MacHale dynasty!

Championship Manager, Don Wilmont, said: “The performance of Craig Breen in the Super 2000 car, as well as Keith Cronin and Alistair Fisher in their Group N cars, clearly showed that they are very close to the World Rally Car pace. All Group N cars are now permitted to run with larger restrictors, and I think we can look forward to a very close battle for the overall Championship title.”

Craig Breen’s and Gareth Roberts’ second overall was a very impressive finish in what was the Ford Fiesta S2000’s debut on Irish soil. And with bonus championship points on offer for the first three non-WRC finishers, Breen leaves the event only one point adrift of MacHale in Championship terms. Fourth placed Alistair Fisher and sixth placed Alan Ring, who was navigated by Adrian Deasy, also received bonus points.

The event also marked the opening round of the Citroën Racing Trophy series, with Marty McCormack and Dai Roberts leading the category throughout most of the event. However, they suffered a puncture late on Sunday afternoon, allowing Robert Barrable and navigator Damien Connolly to take the victory. McCormack finished second while Shane Buckley and Thomas Maguire were third.

Meanwhile, in the Modified Challenge category, Daniel McKenna and Andrew Grennan sealed victory after a stunning drive in their Ford Escort, while Ray Cunningham and Adrian Cusack took the Historic category in their Mini Cooper. Aidan O’Connor and Ian Regan won the award for Classic cars while Martin and Linda Ward won the Post-Historic category.

With round one of the Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship completed, all eyes are now looking towards round two, the Circuit of Ireland Rally. The event will take place over the Easter weekend, and more details are available from www.irishtarmac.com and www.circuitofireland.net.

Safety Direct Galway International Rally – top 10

1 Gareth MacHale/Brian Murphy (Focus WRC) 2h13m55.3s
2 Craig Breen/Gareth Roberts (Fiesta S2000) 2h15m38.3s
3 Aaron MacHale/Eugene O’Donnell (Focus WRC) 2h17m16.1s
4 Alistair Fisher/Rory Kennedy (Lancer Evo 9) 2h17m22.3s
5 Kevin Barrett/Sean Mullally (Impreza WRC) 2h19m38.5s
6 Alan Ring/Adrian Deasy (Lancer Evo 9) 2h23m01.6s
7 Mike Bird/Kevin Keane (Impreza WRC) 2h25m42.5s
8 Eamon Daly/Anthony O’Connaill (Lancer Evo 9) 2h26m33.3s
9 Sam Moffett/James O’Reilly (Lancer Evo 9) 2h27m18.5s
10 Conor Harvey/Gerard Callaghan (Civic R3) 2h27m58.1s

Citroën Irish Tarmac Rally Championship Standings after round one

1 Gareth MacHale 16 points
2 Craig Breen 15 points
3 Aaron MacHale 10 points
4 Alastair Fisher 10 points
5 Kevin Barrett 7 points
6 Alan Ring 7 points