Abbeyleix had an influx of British Rally Championship competitors on Sunday hoping to gain some momentum ahead of next month’s West Cork Rally. It was, however, Irish Tarmac regulars Josh Moffett and Desi Henry who finished the rally’s six stages in the top two spots.
In third place, Ollie Mellors, gave his Proton Iriz R5 its best finish yet in Ireland as he looks to build on a solid fourth-place finish on the BRC’s opening round, the Cambrian Rally. Despite Birr being his first asphalt rally in four years, the in-form Mellors managed to beat Eugene Donnelly to the final podium spot by almost one minute.
“The opportunity to compete on the Birr Rally came at the very last minute,” said Mellors. “It was a test for West Cork and to give me a feel for the car on tarmac having never driven the R5 on tarmac at all.
“As this was the case we didn’t set any goals but having said that looking at our times over the last few stages we are more than pleased. We’re looking forward to heading into West Cork comfortable with what we know.
“Seat time was the main thing so we didn’t make any changes to the car and the likes of Eugene have spent a long time with our engineers making changes. From the start the car felt incredible, it gave me confidence and also allowed me to relax knowing it wasn’t going to step out of line or do anything unexpected.”
As for Josh McErlean, his hopes of gaining closed-road experience in his Hyundai R5 didn’t go so smoothly. A third-quickest time on Stage 3 was sandwiched by a couple of punctures on Stage 2 and 4 for McErlean, the latter pushing him over the time limit, putting an end to his rally.
The Billy Coleman Award winner will be hoping that marks an end to his misfortune as he looks to get his BRC campaign back on track following his retirement on the Cambrian Rally.
Donegal’s David Kelly produced another solid performance in his Ford Fiesta R2T. He finished Birr as the fastest front-wheel-drive competitor and 15th overall amongst competitive four-wheel-drive and modified crews. After a podium finish in the Junior BRC’s gravel opener, the more familiar asphalt surface on his home round presents Kelly with a good opportunity to strengthen his JBRC bid.
Photo by Gavin Woods