The narrow ribbon of road which runs out around Cod’s Head on Ireland southwestern tip proved decisive on the Rally of the Lakes, third round of the Irish Tarmac championship.
It was on this classic Kerry special stage on the Beara Peninsula that Tim McNulty vaulted from fourth to first and on to victory and where Gareth MacHale and Eugene Donnelly came to grief.
MacHale and Donnelly had been separated by just two seconds after Saturday’s opening leg and it seemed they were destined to fight out the finish. But day two provided dramatic twists with first MacHale crashing off the road in his Ford Focus and minutes later Donnelly’s Skoda Fabia sliding into a deep Irish bog.
It should have left reigning champion Eamonn Boland in the lead but he, too, fell victim of Cod’s Head, his Subaru Impreza puncturing a wheel on the roadside rocks and he was forced to slow, dropping almost a minute to McNulty.
It all promoted McNulty to first place, a position he had held early on in the rally until he, too, sent his Subaru slithering into a ditch on the fourth of the Saturday stages. He fell back to fourth place and seemed out of the hunt until it all turned around on Cod’s Head.
And last night he brought his Subaru back to the finish in Killarney with a 36-second winning margin over Boland to celebrate just his third Tarmac championship and his first for two years.
Donnelly said: “We passed Gareth’s accident and Brian Murphy, his co-driver, waved to tell us that they were okay,” he explained.
“But I lost my concentration and I didn’t really take in the call that the next left-hand bend tightened.
“The car slid wide and fell over into a bog.”
The other MacHale, Gareth’s brother Aaron, was a distant third in his Ford Focus with Denis Cronin taking fourth in his Subaru ahead of the battle for the production category.
Local driver Alan Ring led all the way in his Mitsubishi to take fifth overall with former champion Colm Murphy second (sixth overall) in his Subaru.
Alastair Fisher was third and seventh overall, the young Fermanagh driver being the highest placed Ulster finisher in just his first Tarmac international in a four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi.
Another Ulster driver, Wesley Patterson, won the national rally in his Ford Escort.