It was the perfect way for Craig Breen to sign off 2021 before he takes up his new role as lead driver for M-Sport Ford in the World Rally Championship next year.
He turned back time to sweep to a commanding victory in the Killarney Historic Rally on board an E30 BMW, he and co-driver Paul Nagle leading from start to finish and even throwing in some celebratory ‘dounuts’ on the final stage on Saturday evening.
Breen returned from France and his latest test session in Ford’s new hybrid Puma to step into a car he had only briefly experienced on the eve of the Killarney rally but gelled immediately and tweeted afterwards: “I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how good the BMW was.”
He pulled away from the field on the first run over the famed Moll’s Gap, 15 seconds faster than Northern Ireland champion Jonny Greer’s Ford Sierra Cosworth, and stretched further in front over Ballaghbeama, building up commanding lead of over half-a-minute by the midway point.
By then Greer had retired, the Carryduff driver failing to complete the first loop, and local man Alan Ring taking over in second place in his Subaru Legacy.
Ring had kept pace with Breen around Caragh Lake but the second loop saw him drop over a minute behind as the reigning Irish Tarmac champion relished the return to some of his favourite stages in the powerful BMW.
It was a special victory for co-driver Nagle. His late father Maurice was one of the instigators of the historic rally, the winning trophy bearing his name.
Tyrone’s Cathan McCourt took third place in his Ford Escort with former Tarmac champion Donagh Kelly finishing third in his M3 BMW.
Meanwhile, the retro version of the RAC Rally resumed in Wales yesterday after the horrific conditions brought on by Storm Arwen forced the cancellation of the Scottish leg on Saturday.
With gales bringing down trees in the Scottish forests the organisers had little choice but to suspend the rally and direct the crews straight to Wales from the north of England.
The Omagh duo of Paul Barrett and Gordon Noble continued to battle at the from of the field in their Ford Escort. Leading the way was two-time British historic champion Jason Pritchard and fellow Welshman Osian Pryce.