Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally 2012
IRC comes to Northern Ireland in the 2 day spectacular Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland 2012.
The second oldest rally in the world, exploded on to the world stage once again as the Easter spectacular attracted crews from all over the globe to compete along the narrow Irish lanes. The "Circuit" was not only the second round of the Irish Tarmac Championship, but more significantly round three of the Eurosport backed, Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Skoda Motorsport had arrived with a heavy factory presence - no less than three "works" Skoda cars for Juno Hanninen, Jan Kopecky and reigning champion, Andreas Mikkelsen. Peugeot were represented by the satellite Sainteloc Racing team, with Irish hopeful and current WRC Academy champion, Craig Breen at the wheel. Ford was represented by the M-Sport team and local Northern Ireland driver, Alastair Fisher.
On day one, battle commenced below the iconic cranes of the former Haarland & Wolff shipyard, before disappearing off to the Tyrone countryside, for stages that ran into the night. An early start on Saturday saw the cars compete on the ever changing bumping tar around Armagh, before heading north again for two runs through the spectator special stage in Lisburn city centre. A final run through the massive 25km Redrock stage, brought the rally to its conclusion in the early evening.
The pace from the top Super 2000 cars was ferocious; even the top Irish drivers in WRC machinery couldn't match the speed of the IRC regulars. After a very close battle, Hanninen took the victory, helped, undoubtedly, by Mikkelsen's crash on the Lisburn stage. Craig Breen finished top of the Irish competitors, with Garry Jennings taking the Production Cup win and fellow local contender Marty McCormack winning the 2WD title. In the Irish Tarmac Championship, Darren Gass in a Subaru Impreza WRC S10 claimed his second win of the season, from Eugene Donnelly in the Toyota Corolla WRC. Derek McGarrity guided his brand new MINI WRC to third place.
|Robert Barrable in his Skoda Fabia S2000|