On a weekend when Irish rallying returned after a long lay-off – with Sunday’s Cork ‘20’ International Rally – it was ironic that motorsport attention was turned towards the west and not the east.
In the early hours of Sunday morning, just as many Kerry-based rally fans were making their way across the County Bounds, it was revealed that Cork man Johnny O’Sullivan and his Kerry co-driver Kenneth Quirke had won the Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally (STPR) in their Ford Fiesta R5.
Based in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, STPR is one of the all-time classic American rallies.Although it lost its National Championship status this year the event still attracted a good entry, including several New York Irish who always make up the bulk of Rally America entry lists.
O’Sullivan and Quirke’s main rival was Cavan’s Paddy Brennan and his West Cork co-driver Aileen Kelly. Brennan is a former winner of the Saturday-only segment of the rally when it ran across two days.
However, O’Sullivan and Quirke seized the moment and lead from the opening stage.
“We won the first stage and every stage after that. We got quicker and quicker as the day went on and beat our times on the stages as the day progressed as a lot of the stages were repeated,” said Quirke who is originally from Camp and comes from a family of Kerry Motor Club members.“
“Paddy Brennan was the one name on the entry that we had our mindset on matching and knew it would be no easy task as Paddy usually doesn’t hang around. From the word go, Johnny, in fairness was on the ball.
“A great drive with little to no drama and a faultless car – we won every stage from start to finish. Delighted, to say the least. With it only being Johnny’s third time driving the R5 it certainly was an achievement.”
It was Quirke’s first win too, on either side of the Atlantic Ocean. He only got into American rallying last season and has not contested anymore than ten events Stateside.
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