It was Wood all the way in Wexford rally
If the truth be known, Steve Wood's defence of his crown in the Wexford Volkswagen Stages Rally couldn't have run any better over the rally weekend.
The withdrawal of Melvyn Evans, his fellow Welsh driver who would have given him a good run for his money, made his life a little easier.
The eventual winning margin of 40 seconds was almost the same as his winning margin from 2016, 46 seconds his margin last year.
Right from the get go, Wood stamped his mark with fastest times on the first two stages, by 6 seconds over Ian Barrett on both occasions.
The 1,2,3 of Wood, Barrett and Gary Kiernan, the 2WD Escort up there with the newer more expensive 4WD cars, was to be the status quo for almost the whole weekend, except for a short while early on the second day when Stephen McCann put his Fiesta on the provisional bottom spot on the podium, only for Kiernan to repulse his charge and finish in 3rd.
Barrett was the first to admit that the step up in his choice of car from a 2WD Darrian to the 4wd Fiesta was taking a little time to get used to, even getting used to the change from right hand drive to sitting on the left was slowing him a little on small things like judging his road position around tight bends and other small things.
He was also glad to admit that given his mechanical woes that had plagued him all year, the near faultless performance of his latest car was a pleasant up side to the weekend, the launch-control difficulties being the only blot on the copybook he felt let him down.
The day went on with some of the regular names on the Wexford top 10-20 doing as they always do in the south east, the likes of Wesley Patterson, John Bonner, John Reddinton, and very much to the fore local drivers, Richard Moore and Liam Howlett.
Patterson was the first of these to fall on the second loop of two stages on Saturday.
Howlett on the other hand was keen to put his early exit from last year well and truly behind him.
Moore was the one to watch though, looking to finish better than his 6th place finish from last year, and maybe even be the top local finisher.
On the third stage of the second day, the first pass through the long Ballymurn stage, Howlett was more to more stumble than fall as time lost due to a puncture put paid to his top 10 finish.
The irony of it that due to a crash blocking the road behind him resulting in the car needing to be moved, all cars behind that incident received times almost 8 minutes quicker than Howlett. Had the incident happened before him, he likely could have changed the tyre while held up hence not losing time as he did.
Despite all that, he didn't throw in the towel and gave spectators some great driving to watch for the rest of the rally.
Stephen McCann moved ahead of Gary Kiernan by stage 8, this being restored back to the way it was with Kiernan moving back into 3rd by stage 12, which was to remain that way for the last 3 stages.
Behind this, John Bonner was the driver between Richard Moore equeling his 6th place finish from last year and improving it by one place this year.
As much as Moore would try, Bonner would resist the push and keep the gap constant more or less the same to the end of the rally. Joe Connolly, Kyle McGettigan, John Reddington and Leon Galvin would all hold their nerve, and places until the finish, Galvin making it two local drivers in the top 10, a sucessful local showing in their local rally by any standards.
On the local end of things, in the class awards, you could only reckon from the results that class honours were to the fore in the crews' minds with nine local drivers, Barry Hennessey, Tomas O'Rourke, Ray Kirwin, John Barry, Tommy Kelly, Nigel Molloy, James Bradley, John Pettit and Leon Galvin taking home the class winners trophies at the end of the rally.
A fantastic good news story came out of the weekend with the local crew of Fran Kinsella and Emmet Cleary taking part under the rally for hope banner in memory of Emmet's wife Niamh who sadly passed away two weeks after last year's event after a battle with breast cancer.
The duo raised money for the Hope Centre to help them in their quest to help families touched by cancer. Not only did they raise quite a sizeable sum, they also finished second in class behind Nigel Molloy making it a class one, two.
With the rally moving to new ground this year on both days, Wexford motor club has given the rally a breath of fresh air, and probably made new friends that will keep the sucess of the event going well into the future.