O’Sullivan third on BRC season opener

Killarney co-driver Noel O’Sullivan got his 2021 British Rally Championship campaign underway with a third-place finish on Monday’s Neil Howard Rally in Cheshire.

O’Sullivan was on pacenote duty for Welsh driver Osian Pryce in a Melvyn Evans Motorsport prepared Volkswagen Polo.

They finished fourth, on stage times, but rivals Franks Bird and Jack Morton were excluded after the rally because event officials deemed their Ford Fiesta to be under the permitted weight allowed.

The rally, based entirely at the Oulton Park race circuit, was the first BRC event to run since the Cambrian Rally in February 2020 as a result of the pandemic.

Monday’s event, run on a British Bank Holiday, was a successful attempt to get the sport back up and running ahead of a return to the forest roads of Wales in July.

Running in fourth for much of the rally, the Welsh/Irish pair gained third place on the sixth test.

However, their hard work was undone, and they dropped back to fourth on the seventh and penultimate stage and that is where they stayed over the final kilometres.

However, following Bird’s exclusion, they were promoted to third place after the finish.

Such was the pace of the rally, after nearly 80kms of competitive action, only eight seconds separated winners Sam Moffett and Abbeyfeale’s Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta) Pryce and O’Sullivan were on their first outing in a Volkswagen Polo R5.

“It was a good day and nice to finish,” O’Sullivan said at the finish. “We have learned a lot about the car on tarmac and we can’t wait for the gravel on the Nicky Grist Rally [in July] to come around now.”

Meanwhile O’Sullivan will re-unite with Derry driver Conor McCloskey for the Cumbria-based M-Sport Rally next month.

They will field a Ford Fiesta R5 for the July 3 and 4 event that is only open to Ford cars. The pair have worked together in the past, including winning the 2018 Tyrone Rally.

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