Duggan maintains his lead at the top

Rob Duggan. Picture: William Neill/NeillPics
Rob Duggan. Picture: William Neill/NeillPics

Saturday’s Tyrone Stages Rally marked the mid-point of the Carryduff Forklift Road To Wales competition, which has been created to give one lucky driver the chance to win a free entry and fully funded drive on November’s Wales Rally GB – the closing round of the World Rally Championship.

There have been a few notable changes in the CFR2 Wales service park since the last event, with former British and Irish Junior 1000 Rally Challenge champion William Creighton, and Irishman Rob Duggan, both making the switch to Peugeot Sport’s R2-spec 208. Creighton tested his car before the Tyrone Stages during a sprint at Bishopscourt, while Duggan got to sample his only very briefly.

But that lack of seat time failed to stop Duggan from racing into an early lead at last weekend’s event. Despite some set-up issues, particularly over the bumps, he led Jon Armstrong by 4.5 seconds after two stages. Omagh’s Alan Smyth started strongly and held third from Kyle White – who lost time after picking up an early puncture – with Adam Bustard (Ford Fiesta R2) occupying fifth.

It was all change as crews arrived at first service in Cookstown, however, with Armstrong inheriting top spot thanks to a fifth fastest time on ‘The Burn’. It was close, with the time sheets showing that his advantage over the chasing Duggan was just one tenth of a second, with Smyth retaining third.

With their cars fettled and checked over by their mechanics, it was back out for the repeat loop. On the second pass over ‘Golden Hollow’ Duggan quickly regained the initiative to lead Armstrong by 2.9 seconds. Armstrong said that he had been distracted somewhat on the fourth stage when the jack handle for his tyre change kit came loose inside the car. He wasn’t happy at how the suspension on his 208 was absorbing the high-speed bumps, either, but things were to go from bad to worse.

He ran wide and slid off the road on the penultimate stage but both he and Noel O’Sullivan managed to walk away unharmed. Their demise allowed Duggan to slow his pace for the closing test and make it safely to the finish in Cookstown where he sprayed the winner’s champagne. “We are absolutely over the moon to have won,” said Duggan, who finished over a minute clear of runner-up Smyth.

“We couldn’t have asked for more given that this is the first time we have driven the car. We lost a bit of time in the morning with the set-up but we made a few changes at service and that allowed us to push harder in the second-half of the rally. Everyone in the team did a fantastic job today.”

Smyth kept the pressure on Duggan in the race to win the Road To Wales prize as Saturday’s result means the pair continue to be separated by just two points. Kyle White kept his slim hopes of winning the competition alive by rounding out the top three places, with fourth and fifth going to Adam Bustard and Hillsborough’s Fraser Mulholland respectively.

The fifth round of the Carryduff Forklift R2 Wales is the Todds Leap Ulster Rally. Taking place over two-days – August 14 and 15 – with stages based in the Fermanagh and Tyrone regions crews can look forward to tackling 110 competitive miles and 12 stages at the award-winning event.