Top class driving at Wexford Stages Rally
Great drama as Mark Straker wins Wexford Stages Rally
After two days of hard fought rallying, Mark Straker won the Wexford Stages Rally in association with the Riverbank House Hotel.
From the first stage of the rally it was clear two wheel drive cars were going to equal or better their more expensive four wheel drive counterparts.
The two Darrians of Straker and local man James Stafford were going to be to the fore straight from the get go.
At the end of day one Straker led from Stafford even though Stafford had set fastest times on five of the six stages.
The one stage that hurt Stafford was stage four where he damaged his suspension.
In the true spirit of friendly rallying, Straker gave Stafford the part needed to repair the car even though there was a possibility that this decision could come back to haunt him.
Not to let these two away with it, Wesley Patterson, Frank Kelly, and George Condell were chasing hard behind the leading two.
Included in that chase were Steve Wood, Simon Chapman, and Graham Scallan who were the leading four wheel drive competitors.
Steve Wood had unfortunately departed the battle on the last stage of day one leaving the top five all two wheel drive cars with only Chapman and Scallan representing the four wheel drive cars in the top 10.
Graham Scallan's push to get higher in the top 10 overnight were being hampered all day by diff problems which meant he could only drive in a wet setting, possibly reducing his speed a tiny bit given the driving conditions.
Day two started with the non running of stage seven which would reduce the number of stages Stafford could chase down the roughly one-minute gap between himself and Straker.
Stage eight was going to make it look like this was possible, Stafford taking 20 seconds out of the lead in that one stage.
Was yesterdays bit of generosity on Straker's part going to haunt him as we thought from the night before, only stage nine would tell.
At this time we also noticed on the time screen the missing names of Scallan and Howlett.
It transpired that Scallan had suffered a blown engine in which oil had spilt onto the exhaust causing a small engine fire. Luckily this fire was soon bought under control but it meant rally over for two local Scallan brothers and the car being dispatched back to Ali Burrows for some much TLC.
Howlett on the other hand had broken a steering arm, while making it back to service, his crew were unable to complete a repair capable of sustaining his top ten charge.
The quick departure of two local drivers soon became three with the dramatic departure of Stafford on stage nine.
His Darrian going off road in by now torrential rain.
Such was the force of the crash that the Darrian was by now shortened and it took a few minutes to clear the road to allow the rest of the cars to complete the stage.
The local interest in the top 10 now fell to John Stafford, James' cousin.
The irony of this situation was that John had Jame's wife, Amy ,as his co-driver for the weekend so it looked like that Amy would have the bragging rights in that house on Sunday evening as to who would finish highest.
Neil Hickey was now also thrust into the position of keeping the local light alive in the rally.
It was now leaving the way clear for Straker to make sure he could get the car home and not crash while in the lead, which is what happened last year.
In the battle behind him Wesley Patterson pipped Frank Kelly for second but both drivers glad to finish as high as they did.
George Condell finished fourth ahead of Simon Chapman. Eugene Meegan finished sixth ahead of top local driver John Stafford in seventh.
Wayne Evans, Andrew Fanning and Richard Moore rounded out the top 10.
Some local drivers who won their stages were Tomas O'Rourke who won Class 2, Ciaran Cloke who won Class 3 and Richard Moore who won class 11F to add to his top 10 finish.