John Warren and Ruthann O Connor continued their impressive motorsport form this weekend with a flawless drive over waterlogged Galway roads.
The two day event which consisted of 15 special stages around the Loughrea countryside kicked off the 2022 Irish Tarmac Rally Championship. Heavy rain transformed the roads and boreens into a muddy mess, with standing water causing lots of aquaplaning. Conditions were so extreme for the 140 crews who had equipped their cars with specially designed rain tyres but the effort to find grip proved too much for some who succumbed to the conditions.
Warren, who started the first loop of 3 stages on Saturday morning cautiously, was rewarded after making changes to his car’s set-up in the first service halt to improve the handling to steadily move up the leader board and move into the top 10 after day 1.
“Conditions were very difficult, but we tried to push in places where we felt comfortable doing so, it was important John found a rhythm and be in the right place on the start list for Sunday and not be held up behind slower cars on the second day as the opportunities to overtake on the narrow roads would be few and far between,” explained Ruthann on Saturday evening.
Wet and windy conditions prevailed again during Sunday’s six stages but John and Ruthann held their nerve and continued to maintain the McHale Engineering backed Toyota’s position high up the leader board, finishing the National event in sixth place overall and top Class 13 crew.
Speaking after the finish John said “Conditions were pretty bad overall and looking back I had a couple of mistakes and quickly realised how easy it was to make mistakes with the amount of standing water. But we are glad to be at the finish in this position; the car was great again thanks to the lads at C-Sport and as always Ruthann did an unreal job on the pacenotes”.
In the International section of the event Monaghan’s Josh Moffett and his Wexford co-driver Andy Hayes were first in their Hyundai i20 R5 while the Welsh crew of Meirion Evans and Jonathan Jackson in their VW Polo R5 pushed right to the end in second place, with Derry’s Callum Devine and Brian Hoy finished third in their Ford Fiesta.
Cavan’s Gary Kiernan and Daren O’Brien in their Ford Escort won the National section with Galway’s Jason Black and Karl Egan second in a Toyota Starlet.
Next up for the South Mayo husband and wife team will be their local event the Mayo Stages Rally which takes place on March 6th, the last time it took place in 2020, John and Ruthann finished that event as top local crew in 10th place overall.