Finlay coasts home as luck deserts Fisher


STEPHEN FINLAY and Robbie Philpott won the AA Circuit of Ireland in a Malcolm Wilson Motorsport rent a drive Ford Escort RS Cosworth. The Ulster crew took over the lead on Good Friday when last year's winner Bertie Fisher crashed his Subaru Impreza on stage five, near Dundalk, losing valuable time through a resultant punctured rear tyre.

Once in front, Finlay remained cool, determining the pace of the rally as Fisher desperately tried to catch up. By Saturday afternoon the gap was 39 seconds. Fisher had another puncture on the first stage on Sunday, at Lough Nafooey, dropping 19 seconds to Finlay and nine seconds to the second placed Andrew Nesbitt in a Toyota Celica GT4.

At Sligo the gap was 58 seconds as Fisher overtook Nesbitt to slot into second. The battle was on in earnest, but Fisher threw it all away with a big accident at Rathbeg in Co Antrim the second stage yesterday morning.

As the Subaru Impreza limped to the end of the stage with a rear wheel almost torn from the car, Fisher had lost three minutes six seconds and all hopes of a second successive Circuit win. Finlay was under no threat from Nesbitt and over the last six stages he coasted to Bangor to score his second victory in the event, having won in 1994 and being runner up last year.

Finlay had two minutes 33 seconds in hand over Nesbitt, and after a troubled rally, caused by intercooler and front suspension troubles, Liam O'Callaghan and James O'Brien of Kanturk took third place in the Esso Ultro Toyota Celica GT4. Fisher finished fourth.

Ian Greer in a Celica GT4 picked up a 30 seconds penalty at the end of the rally, relegating him to filth, just two seconds behind Mickey Farrell of Ardee in a Subaru Legacy.

Sean Campbell in a Subaru Impreza was seventh overall and winner of Group N. But the performance of the rally had to be that of Uel Williamson and Trevor Wilson of Armagh who finished eighth overall in an old rear drive Escort.

Geoff Crabtree and Liz Jordan; won the Historic Circuit in a Porsche 911, beating the similar car of John Keatley and Maurice Beckett by over four minutes.