What a week for Noel O’Sullivan!
It was some week for Muckross co-driver Noel O’Sullivan.
Seven days after he won the opening round of the British Rally Championship he stood on the top step of his home event – the International Rally of the Lakes.
A last-minute deal saw him team up with Callum Devine in Volkswagen Polo RC2.
The crew engaged in an epic duel with Alastair Fisher and Gordon Noble but that ended when the latter crashed out on the final Caragh Lake stage.
Fisher slid wide on a left-hander, dropping off the road, and was left stranded as his rivals flew past.
It was a tough ending to a scintillating battle that raged for most of the two-day rally. Recent Circuit of Ireland Rally winners, Fisher and Noble, started Killarney on the front foot by winning four of Saturday’s six stages.
Devine began his attack back on Sunday but his string of six stage wins was only enough to decrease Fisher’s 7.7-second advantage to 3.1 seconds before the Caragh Lake decider.
An equal-fastest time on the famous 17.5-kilometre Moll’s Gap epitomised how close and on-the-limit the two Volkswagen Polo crews were fighting.
“We never gave up, even with two stages to go we both said we are not giving up,” said O’Sullivan at the finish ramp.
Devine had beaten Fisher by 0.2 seconds on Caragh Lake’s earlier running, but he completed the final stage knowing victory was his after seeing Fisher’s stricken Polo off the road.
It was a very special occasion for O’Sullivan. In recent years he has followed the British and World Championship trails and has not competed on his home event since 2018.
The deal with Devine was only sealed on Tuesday night but it was a match made in heaven as Devine went on to record his first international rally win.
Noel grew up around rallying, his father Noel Sr contested his 38th Rally of the Lakes over the weekend and marked the occasion by finishing second in his class with co-driver Nicky Burke who was on his 25th Killarney start.
“I am speechless, this is very hard to believe,” said Noel Jr at the finish line of the final stage near Caragh Lake Post Office on Sunday evening.
It still had not sunk in, even after the competing rally cars were escorted from the stage finish to the finish ramp outside the Gleneagle Hotel.
“I am speechless, it is not often I am caught for words,” he told the huge crowd who had gathered to welcome a hometown hero.
“The pace is up there with all the British, European and World events I have done,”
Shane Buckley and Liam Moynihan were two more Killarney and District Motor Club co-drivers to finish in the top six.
Buckley was fifth alongside Daniel Cronin in another Polo while Moynihan guided Cathan McCourt to sixth in a Skoda Fabia R5.
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