May 10, 2015
Wesley Patterson and co-driver Johnny Baird scored a last gasp win on this weekend’s Seven Oaks Hotel Carlow Stages Rally. Patterson trailed Welsh drive Steve Wood by 4.9 seconds heading into the final stage but emerged to take the win by just 0.3 of a second.
The win also ensured Patterson finished as the highest placed Ford Mark 2 Escort allowing him to retain the Gusclad Mark 2 Challenge Trophy which he won in 2014. Patterson, who survived a brush with a straw bale chicane on the final stage was a relieved man at the finish. “I’m delighted to win the Mark 2 Challenge again, it really was a great race today. To win the rally outright is a massive bonus to be honest, that was never the target. Johnny did a great job keeping me calm all day, we got our tyre choice right and it all clicked.” Steve Wood finished second in his Subaru Impreza WRC but a cracked manifold saw his lead decrease in the closing stages before Patterson eventually overhauled him. Indeed, until stage 6 it looked like the winner would be Dungannon driver Paddy McVeigh. McVeigh however, crashed out of the rally on stage 6 while holding a commanding lead. Declan Gallagher swapped his familiar Toyota Starlet for a Mark 2 Escort for Carlow and set some very impressive times on his way to third overall. UK driver Mark Straker and Carlow club member Michael Coady were fourth and won class 14 in their rapid Darrian while David Condell and Eugene McGrath finished fifth. The all Carlow crew were the leading Escort on the early tests but were gradually overtaken by their rivals as the day progressed. Two noticeable retirements were former Mark 2 Challenge winner Frank Kelly, who retired with a broken halfshaft on the seventh stage while recent Circuit of Ireland winner Craig Breen retired on the third stage with throttle problems.
The Dublin pairing of Neil and Gerard Tohill finished in fifteenth place and won Group N win their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9 while James Bradley and Maria Kehoe won the junior section of the rally in their Honda Civic. Bradley’s winning margin over second place Michael Ryan was 1 minute 13 seconds.
Meanwhile Seamus Donnelly from Donegal beat all challengers to claim victory on Mayo & District Motorsport Club’s Loose Surface Autocross on Sunday. Driving a buggy, he had to do it the hard way, coming from behind on the final run to beat local favourite Derek Deane.
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