Defending Irish National Rally Champion, Aaron MacHale, showed that he is still the best as won the Mayo Stages Rally.

Driving his Ford Focus WRC with Killian Duffy alongside him, MacHale lead all day from Niall Maguire’s Suburu Impreza. Second place points for Maguire was very important as MacHale will not be competing in all the rounds. MacHale is concentrating on the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and is also getting married in the summer.

With blustery and wet conditions making the two morning stages difficult for the spectators and drivers alike, MacHale lead the first stage by 16 seconds from PJ McDermott, with Seamus Leonard third. Maguire was fourth, but others had difficulties. Tim McNulty, Seamus Leonard and Glenn Allen all had minor incidents, but not enough to put them out, unlike Kevin Kelleher, whose rally was over following a crash.

MacHale’s lead was 13 seconds over PJ McDermott after stage two, but McDermott’s rally was to come to an end in stage three, leaving Maguire 15 seconds off the lead, with Patrick Elliott up to third.

Maguire piled the pressure on MacHale’s Focus by taking five seconds off him in stage four. McNulty also went faster, which pleased him as he was using this rally to test his new Suburu Impreza S12B for the Easter weekend’s Circuit of Ireland Rally.

Maguire’s Suburu continued to eat into MacHale’s lead in stages five and six, leaving the Dubliner only five seconds clear at final service and with the last two remaining stages to come. With McNulty 42 seconds off the pace in third place, the 2007 National Forest Rally Champion, Stephen Moore in his new Ford Focus, was holding a steady fifth position, in between Patrick Elliott and Glenn Allen.

Glenn Allan was competing in his second rally in two days, having finished third in his Toyota Corolla at the second round of the Northern Ireland Rally Championship.

With the drier road conditions, the top drivers pushed their cars to the limit in the last two stages, especially MacHale who was six seconds faster than Maguire. Maguire won the last stage, but couldn’t close the gap on MacHale, who won by a five second margin.

The story of the day was the two-wheel drive Ford Escort of Rodney Wilton and co-driver Conor McMahon who finished well up the field.  Steady driving through all eight stages saw them move up from 13th to a very credible eighth, ahead of some of the WRC cars.

National Rally Championship Round One.
1 - Aaron MacHale and Killian Duffy (Ford Focus WRC) 1.08.54
2 - Niall Maguire and Paul McLaughlin (Suburu Impreza WRC) 1.09.01
3 - Tim McNulty and Eugene O'Donnell (Suburu Impreza WRC) 1.09.22

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