Photo by Roy Dempster…

Rob Duggan won the second round of the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales competition – the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally – to move to the top of the drivers’ standings. Duggan was consistently fast during both days of the event and rarely put a wheel wrong to take a convincing six minute-plus victory from the Citroen C2R2 belonging to Omagh’s Alan Smyth. The top three was rounded out by Isle of Mull resident Fergus Barlow. At the finish in Belfast, Duggan said: “I’m quickly getting used to left-hand-drive now, and the new car, and this result shows that.”


Day One – Good Friday

Kesh’s Jon Armstrong picked up where he left off on the opening round of the series at Bishopscourt last month by setting the early pace for R2-specification cars on the Circuit of Ireland Rally. That came on Thursday’s ‘Qualifying Stage’ where he recorded equal fastest times with Peugeot UK’s Chris Ingram. Armstrong was one of a number of CFR2Wales drivers who elected to compete in the international section of the Circuit, pitting them against big names from the FIA European Rally Championship’s junior series. Those who didn’t battled it out for points in the national rally.

At the end of leg one Armstrong believed that he was the CFR2Wales leader thanks to a faultless performance at the wheel of his Peugeot 208 in conditions that caught out a number of more experienced drivers. And this despite the fact his car’s engine refused to rev out as it should. However, a late development on Friday evening saw him hit with a five-minute time penalty for missing an official tyre marking zone earlier in the day. That handed the overnight lead to Rob Duggan, who reported no major problems with his recently acquired Ford Fiesta, saying that he had found a set-up and pace note system he was happy with. His speed and times were also impressive and as such he occupied fourth overall in the national rally.

A provisional second after the opening leg was Hillsborough’s Fraser Mulholland on what was only his second competitive outing in an R2 car. He managed to stay clear of trouble and set some strong times along the way. In third, just one second in arrears, was Alan Smyth, who was relieved to make it back to service in Belfast after clouting a bank on the fourth stage, before losing intercom on SS6.

Fourth was Fergus Barlow on this his Circuit of Ireland debut, with Armstrong rounding out the top five CFR2Wales places. Donegal’s Kevin Eves was reasonably happy with his times and was the sixth quickest CFR2Wales driver despite damaging a rim on SS2 when he clipped the rear against a bank.

The high-speed Hamilton’s Folly – described by some as the best Tarmac stage on the planet – provided plenty of drama on the opening day for other CFR2Wales crews, with round one runner-up Kyle White crashing out when the brakes on his Citroen over-heated at the worst possible moment. Thankfully, both he and his co-driver, Sean Topping, escaped without serious injury. Feeny’s Callum Devine and Forkhill’s Calvin Beattie both dropped time on the same test with a puncture and a brush with a stone bank respectively. The resultant impact damaged the steering arm on Beattie’s car, although he managed to make it back to service where running repairs were carried out.


Day Two – Easter Saturday

The first major talking point of the second day came when Jon Armstrong announced that he would have to retire from the Circuit with gearbox maladies. This, he said, first surfaced on Friday night’s closing Ards spectator stage, and proved incurable. He was quickly joined on the sidelines by Kevin Eves when he crashed through a gate and into a field mid-way through Saturday’s opening stage, Bull’s Brook. It transpired that his Peugeot 208 had lost its brakes on the fast downhill section. Both Eves and his navigator Chris Melly escaped the high-speed shunt unharmed.

Duggan had no such problems as he kept clear of trouble to top the CFR2Wales time sheets after the eighteenth and final stage which was also good enough to bag him fourth overall in the national rally, beating much more powerful cars along the way. Alan Smyth recovered from a frustrating day one to net second and move to within a point of Duggan. Third went to Fergus Barlow who, after erring on the side of caution during the first half of Saturday, really put his foot down.

Armagh’s Neil Monaghan guided his Ford Fiesta ST to fourth, while Drumquin’s Ian Dickson chalked up his first points of the new campaign by taking a hard fought fifth. Calvin Beattie persevered with his car’s steering woes and secured sixth, with Hillsborough’s Fraser Mulholland finishing seventh.

Next month’s Tour of the Sperrins Rally will host the third round of the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales competition. Like the Circuit, it too will be held on closed public roads. Until then, keep up-to-date with all the very latest driver news and event information by following the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales competition page on Twitter by searching ‘CFR2Wales’.   


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