Thursday last seen 21 year old Kevin O’Connor begin his biggest rallying challenge yet as he and codriver Shane Buckley began preparations for the Donnelly Group Circuit of Ireland Rally.
On the Thursday evening the team done 2 passes over the shakedown stage and immediately Kevin wasn’t confident in the car as he could feel the brake pedal going to the floor. The mechanics worked hard throughout the night to trace the problem to a faulty wheel hub.
On Friday the lads went to Belfast where they completed a run over the spectator stage around the
famous Titanic Quarter which they managed a 2nd fastest time in the Citroen battle. From Belfast the
rally made its way to Dungannon for 2 closed road stages. These were the first proper tests and Kevin
responded with fastest times over both the 14km and the 25km stages.
After a brief service in Armagh it was back out for a re-run of the previous stages but this time in the
dark! It was Kevin’s first time rallying in the dark but it didn’t seem to hamper his progress, as he
managed second fastest time, only 1 second slower than David Carney. Unfortunately the second run of
the 25km stage was cancelled so Kevin and Shane finished Day 1 leading the Citroens by 27 seconds.
Day 2 brought dry weather but rain was never too far away so it made tyre choice a nightmare. The
team chose the correct rubber all-day and increased the margin to 53 seconds after 11 stages to Joe
McGonigle in 2nd place.
Stage 12 and 13 was a quick blast over the Lisburn City Stage and proved very
difficult for the lads as they got caught in the rain on slick tyres, with 2nd placed Joe McGonigle on the
better suited intermediate tyre. After these 3 short stages in the wet Joe closed the gap from 53 Seconds
to 21 Seconds with only one final run over the 25km Redrock Stage left to go.
When the crews arrived to the start of this test the road was damp in places, which better suited the
team’s tyre choice. Kevin & Shane managed to take 10.8 seconds off McGonigle in this stage to win
Round 2 of the Citroen Racing Trophy by 31.5 seconds, also taking 17th overall, 4th 2 wheel drive car
and the class win.
At the finish a delighted Kevin said:
“It was very touch and go there over the last 2 stages, we knew
Joe would take time from us in the wet but we didn’t expect to drop that much. We got word that the
25km stage was dry so we knew our tyres would work far better in there and thankfully it all worked out”.
“It was a class event, the organisation, stages, competition, everything was perfect, and I also want to thank my mother, Marian and sister, Sinead they are the unsung heroes who keep everybody fed and found at every event!”.
This is the team’s 2nd round of the Citroen Racing Trophy and their 2nd victory. The plan now is to do
round three of the championship – The Killarney Rally of the Lakes in May.
This time we hope both O’Connor Motor Sport cars will be competing but as of now nothing is for
certain as the team are still seeking a sponsorship deal to complete the rest of the season.
Stay tuned to our Facebook page and website @ www.oconnormotorsport.com for all the latest news!