Jason Mitchell claimed a maiden win for his new Ford Fiesta Rally2 on Sunday’s Carlow Forest Rallysprint. Mitchell finished the four-run event 3.7 seconds ahead of Martin Cairns who had a couple of issues that hindered his fight.
Cairns was never more than a few seconds behind Mitchell and had even closed his lead on the rallysprint’s second run. Two fastest times on the final two runs for Mitchell was enough to grab his first win since the Cam Trophy Rally Time Trial one year ago.
Donegal co-driver Rory Kennedy partnered Mitchell to victory, making him an event winner in each decade since the 1970s.
“We came down here and getting a result wasn’t really a priority,” winning driver Mitchell told On The Pacenote’s Killan Duffy. “I was just trying to get happy with the car.
“Getting happier with the car and getting the win, it couldn’t be any better than that.”
The forest rallysprint got off to a tricky start for Cairns as he stalled his World Rally Car on the start-line of the opening run. It was Mitchell’s Rally2 Fiesta that stopped the clocks fastest on Carlow’s first run, 2.2 seconds quicker than Cairns with Gareth Mimnagh’s Mitsubishi Evo just three tenths further back.
Cairns responded on the second run before Mitchell made a crucial set-up change halfway through the event. Mitchell admitted the change could go either way but it was important in his bid to get more comfortable with his new M-Sport machine.
The two Ryan Loughran Autosport crews went over four seconds quicker on the event’s penultimate run but it was Mitchell whose set-up change had worked to eke out a further four tenths from his rival.
Mitchell secured his victory with another fastest time on the final run as Cairns suffered an apparent broken gear lever which hit his chances of one last push.
Their pace put the lead battle out of reach for Daniel Cronin who finished in third, 10.8 seconds behind the rallysprint winner. Cronin had to fight back from fifth on the opening run. He wasn’t sure if he was lacking grip or confidence on the Sunday morning test.
Cronin soon picked up his pace to overtake Mimnagh and Pat O’Connell who finished the day in fourth and fifth respectively.
Ashley Dickson claimed sixth as he pipped Pete McCullagh to the position on the final run.
Eighth went to Ray Breen who was showing off his ex Marcus Gronholm Ford Focus WRC. The Waterford man was clearly delighted with the new acquisition as he finished the final run with a smile on his face.
Two-wheel-drive honours went to Jason Dickson. The Junior British Rally Championship driver was the pacesetter all day in his Rally4 Fiesta despite catching the car in front of him on the first run.
Carlow’s opening test played host to a few moments including a time-sapping spin for Brendan Cumiskey. Cumiskey’s Skoda Fabia dropped half a minute to the leaders on the first run but he was able to climb the leaderboard with strong times over the next three.
A despondent David Condell arrived at run one’s finish line describing how he struggled to complete the opening run. His Rally2 Fiesta, which is used in the BRC by Keith Cronin, went into limp mode after it left the start line. It was game over for Condell who was expected to challenge for another win after his success on July’s Laois Rallysprint.
Photos by Lorcan Barron