Aaron O’Regan reprised his role as CoC of this event again this year, with Sean Daly as Assistant. This event is normally run in more Northerly parts of the County, but Headquarters this year was the CYMS Hall in Inchigeelagh, and the event, which was the opening round of both the National & Munster Championships, was run over approx. 110 miles in typical “Macroom” territory to the South & West of the town. All but c. 5 miles was on tar, and there were no very rough unsurfaced lanes.
The pre-event description promised a challenging, interesting and enjoyable event on non-damaging roads of a type giving limited advantage to 4WD, and so it turned out to be (although, as was to be expected, all but 6 of the cars were Subarus, including 2 Foresters).
Scrutiny passed off without problems, and the navis were presented with an Initial Card containing no more than a dozen gates, NGs & unmarked roads, (reflecting the very limited use of farmyards and similar) but which did require the plotting of both SRSs junction by junction using map references.
The Main Route card contained 51 points, split 24/27 before & after petrol. There were 21 Entries and 20 Starters.
Following a short run-out, the competitive action started just East of Inchigeelagh, with the First “half” looping anticlockwise thru’ Reananiree and Coolea, and continuing on to the tight, twisty (very) and bumpy (but all good and well surfaced) roads North-East of Ballingeary. The loop finished back in Inchigeelagh with crews then tackling the first SRS which took the cars to the petrol halt in Tirelton.
The second half was a very compact and intense affair, with the entire of the 60-odd miles of competitive action, including a central SRS all taking place within a 3 mile radius of Tirelton.
Penalties came early, an innocuous-looking 2km+ solid, sound and reasonably smooth track across open ground (the longest unsurfaced section of the night) on the way to TP4 being the culprit. The track itself, which has been used before, is exactly as mapped, but in recent months 2 wide windfarm roads, too new to be mapped, have been constructed, both of which cross the track diagonally. Only the most eagle-eyed or attentive of crews saw the opening on the opposite side of the new road which was the continuation of the correct track, with almost everyone instead “diverting” off-route onto the new roads. As a result, little more than half the field found TP4, and all dropped time. Exceptions to all this were Derek Mackeral/Conor Boylan (Imoreza) , and Richard Cassidy/Conor Maguire (Vectra) who were running third and sixth respectively on the road, and who managed to get to TP4 penalty-free, showing clean pairs of heels to the locals. Joint next best were top seeds (and last year’s winners) James FitzGerald/Ken Carmody and Fourth seeds Derek Butler/Denis O’Donovan, both on a single penalty, ahead of second seeds Eoin Murphy/Daire Hayes.
A tight nested series of looped roads at TPs 6>10 completed the first card. Mackeral/Boylan were still clean and while it was tight at the top with the top 8 seeded crews filled the top 8 places, all on 10 or less penalties, there was a growing gap behind them, with the next best being James McCabe/Shane Farrell (Semi) on 23 followed by the novice pairings of Chris Brady/David Beamish on 26 and Brian Doherty/Tara Duggan on 33.
The action then moved to the aforementioned tight & twisty roads near Ballingeary. These roads, though mostly well-known to any regular Competitors on “Macroom” events, and in any case generally exactly as per map , require full commitment to stay on schedule, and most competitors dropped further time here, with some falling far enough behind to need to skip some points.
Particularly significant was a missed signature at TP13 that was to cost Mackeral/Boylan dearly.
The SRS that completed Time Card 2 and took the competitors to Petrol had a slightly tricky junction immediately preceding the ITC, and did cause problems for some, including Butler/O’Donovan, but most managed to complete it with minimal penalties.
All of this left FitzGerald/Carmody well ahead at Petrol on 4, followed by 6th seeds Frances McElvaney/Oisin Sherlock on 10, Murphy/Hayes on 11, Butler/O’Donovan on 12 and Richard Cassidy/Conor Maguire next (and top 2WD in their 1.8 Vectra) on 13, followed by Dermot Whelton/Mark McCarthy on 15.
McCabe/Farrell continued to lead the Semis on a respectable 29, but the Novice leaderboard had changed considerably, with Ray O’Neill/Shane Maguire now ahead on 85, Brady/Beamish having incurred significant penalties on TC2, and Doherty/Duggan retiring due to illness before TP12. Brian Duggan/Eoin Treacy were comfortably at the top of the Beginner listing on 88 penalties in their Starlet, well ahead of the 172 score of Darren O’Mahoney/Shane Keneally (Forester).
The Restart lead to roads of a different character, being generally more open, and seeming, on paper at least, reasonably straightforward. In reality, they were so, with the exception of a slightly difficult-to-find left slot into TP105 (CMC numbers the restart after Petrol as C101) on a little-used short grass lane, and some multiple tight looping which was very doable provided a map was carefully and neatly marked, (neatness all the more necessary as the plot and bash points later in this Card subsequently crossed thru’ this area, with a route clear of earlier but still-current earlier TPs being far from obvious). Scores here were not too bad – although the leaders were still dropping limited time, in this case with the rest of the field managing to limit scores to a reasonable level. However, unfortunately for McElvaney/Sherlock, an exhaust problem which was evident at petrol had developed by TP 105 to an extent that they were forced, in the interests of PR, to limit the remainder of the event to Controls only, and they dropped out of contention. By the end of Card 3 at TP112, FitzGerald/Carmody, despite a relatively high 9 minutes dropped on this card, remained just ahead on 13, with a “best this card” performance promoting Butler/O’Donovan well up the field to lie second on 15, with Murphy/Hayes next of 18, and Mackeral/Boylan fourth, but some distance back on 27.
McCabe/Farrell were still best semi on 43, with Andrew Whelton/Cyril Maguire (Impreza), the only other Semis in the field, now well behind on 353. O’Neill/Maguire, on 98, now had a strong lead in the Novice category over the Starlet crew of Derek Flynn/Kieran Hayes, who were on 183. Duggan/ Treacy reinforced their position at the top of the Beginner listing on 147, ahead of Padraig McCarthy/Eamonn Creedon (Corolla) on 256. (Creedon, who has just been chosen as one of the participants in the MI Co-Driver academy, had never done a Nav event before, but said that he had to enter as the HQ was only 50m from his home).
The Last card started with the second SRS prior to more roads similar to those of Card 3, it passed off without too much drama, except that a substantial looking mapped yellow road to the right on the approach to TP118 did not actually exist on the ground, and did cause problems – it was not part of the required route, but its absence on the ground disoriented some. There was also a sting in the tail –the last ½mile of the competitive route was thru a farmyard approached via a very wide gate at TP125, and departure was along a disused grass-covered avenue which was very traversable, but the gate, though hidden in plain sight, was overlooked by many in favour of the also-mapped tarred road beside it, and some entirely missed the marshal here (he was parked just inside the gate). Once departing 125, 126 should have been very achievable and straightforward, but somehow some, including some of the top contenders, managed to lose significant time into 126
Back at HQ, results were finalised without delay and with no significant query, and showed FitzGerald/Carmody, despite getting TP126 slightly wrong (dropping 2 minutes), on top with 17 points, but only just – Butler/O’Donovan had another “best this card” performance, and also finished on 17, meaning that a tie-break situation existed, to be decided on a “furthest cleanest” basis. Both crews were clear until both incurred a single penalty at TP4. However, Butler/O’Donovan dropped a further minute at the next TP, whereas FitzGerald/Carmody remained clear, thus deciding matters. Murphy/Hayes (who managed to lose 17 minutes at TP 125) dropped to 4th on 38, promoting Mackeral/Boylan on 30 to third, but that crew were presumably ruing the missed signature at TP13 which effectively cost them the event.
Unsurprisingly, McCabe/Farrell finished best semi on 150, with Whelton/Maguire second but well down on 468. O’Neill/Maguire, Flynn/Hayes and Brady/Beamish were on top of the Novice listing, with 191, 209 and 243 respectively. Best beginners were Duggan/Treacy who finished a very creditable 9th overall on 194 in their Starlet, with McCarthy/Creedon on 332 second and O’Mahony/Keneally on 345 third. An interesting “competition within a competition” was the Maguire familial rivalry, with dad Conor just edging out son Shane by the tightest of margins – 190 versus 191, and 7th & 8th o/all respectively. Conor & Richard Cassidy also finished top 2WD
Only one car failed to finish, and there was universal praise for the route. All points, including a significant number of Stops, were marshalled. Even the weather was kind-of OK, with a generally fine calm night, but with frequent heavy showers. All in all, it was an excellent event, but there was one disappointing element – This was the first round of the National championship to be run under the tightened NCT rules, possibly partially explaining the low turn-out, but the number of entries, whether local or, and possibly more particularly, from “up the Country” was poor reward for the hard work of the organisers. However, Aaron & team can be justifiably proud of their work, and to those who missed the event, for whatever reason, all we can say is that you missed a fine and enjoyable night, and we would hope to see you again.
1 James Fitzgerald/Ken Carmody (Subaru Impreza) 17 marks,
2 Derek Butler/Denis O’Donovan (Subaru Impreza) 17m,
3 Derek Mackarel/Conor Boylan (Subaru Impreza) 30m,
4 Owen Murphy/Daire Hayes (Subaru Impreza) 38m,
5 Dermot Whelton/Mark McCarthy (Subaru Impreza) 52m,
6 James McCabe/Shane Farrell (Subaru Impreza) 150m,
7 Richard Cassidy/Conor Maguire (Vauxhall Vectra) 190m,
8 Ray O’Neill/Shane Maguire (Subaru Impreza) 191m,
9 Brian Duggan/Eoin Treacy (Toyota Starlet) 194m,
10 Derek Flynn/Kieran Hayes (Toyota Starlet) 209m.
Semi-experts: 1 James McCabe/Shane Farrell, 2 Andrew Whelton/Cyril Maguire 468m.
Novices: 1 Ray O’Neill/Shane Maguire, 2 Derek Flynn/Kieran Hayes, 3 Chris Brady/David Beamish 243m
Beginners: 1 Brian Duggan/Eoin Treacy, 2 Padraig McCarthy/Eamonn Creedon 332m, 3 Darren O’Mahony/Shane Kenneally (Forester) 345m.