The lively town of Killarney, County Kerry, played host to Round 3 of the 2010 Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy (FST) Ireland Championship over the weekend, 1-2 May 2010. A somewhat depleted Fiesta field made the trip south with two championship regulars opting to skip the event and therefore count it as their dropped score.
Championship leader Stephen Wright, 20, from Monaghan and co-driver Paul McGee led the small Fiesta contingent into the SS1, the 18mile Barnard stage. Having spent the build up to the event studying for his Civil Engineering exams, Wright was keen to get back into his Fiesta ST and enjoy himself after a week spent with his head in the books. Wright was soon up to speed and finished the stage 21st overall, leading Class 3. Less than a minute behind Wright into Barnard was Stephen Baxter, 28 from County Fermanagh and Karl Atkinson, in their Fiesta R2. Having repaired the damage inflicted on the Circuit of Ireland the pair were looking to turn the pace they had shown in the opening two rounds, both of which they had ended in retirement, into a good result. It was not be however, as just over nine miles into SS1 they slid off the road and into retirement for the third FST event in succession.
Baxter’s misfortune meant that Wright only had to finish the event to score maximum points and take home the €750 prize. That wasn’t going to be easy however as six of Irelands most demanding stages lay between him and victory including the legendary Molls Gap, or “The Gap” as it is best known.. Wright maintained his pace through SS2, Shamrock Bridge, to return to first service leading Class 3 and a creditable 21st overall in his Span Wright backed Group N Fiesta ST. With a one-hour 20minute service Wright and McGee could afford to relax and contemplate their afternoon’s attack. Despite the lengthy halt, Wright’s David Greer Motorsport crew were still kept busy right to the end, the changeable conditions making tyre choice extremely critical and left right until the last minute.
Wright drove with just the right mixture of commitment and caution through stages three, four and five to further extend his lead in Class 3, and guide his way towards maximum FST points. Apart from a minor spin in SS5 on the slippery conditions the Wright and McGee were happy with their performance and had enjoyed the challenging stages.
With SS6, Gortnange stopped due to an accident ahead only one final stage, “The Gap” remained between Wright and his third FST victory of the year. The event organisers did an impressive job getting the thousands of spectators heading to watch Molls Gap safely off the road, which was gridlocked less than 20minutes before the first car was due. Despite the risk of going off on the final stage and throwing away certain victory, Wright and McGee pushed through “The Gap” to improve on their time from 2009 by ten seconds, a feat both of them were very happy with. The pair also ended the day leading Class 3 and 21st overall.
Despite the lack of competition their third FST win had been by no means easy for the pair with the conditions changing up to three times a stage. Wright chose only to contest the FST event in Killarney due to the event clashing with his exams but will be hoping to secure an entry for the Donegal International rally, the next round of the championship.
The Donegal International Rally hosts Round 4 of the Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy Ireland, an event that will hopefully mark the return of regulars Dara Leonard and Barry Greer to the championship.