Carolan & Smith Claim HASS Border Rally Championship Title
Thomas Carolan and Declan Smith are the 2009 HASS Border Rally Champions.
The Co. Meath pairing, driving a class 9 Ford Escort Mark 2, clinched the title in dramatic fashion by beating Niall Maguire and Enda Sherry on a tie-break after both crews finished level on points following a nail-biting conclusion to the final round of the championship, the Donegal Harvest Rally.
At the head of the field Maguire and Sherry did all they could to claim the title Niall previously won in 2004, scoring a dominant overall win on the event in their class 8 Subaru Impreza WRC, and taking a maximum ten points on the class based Border series in the process. It meant the pressure was firmly on Carolan and Smith to win class 9 in order to stay in contention with the Monaghan competitors. And with two stages to go, it looked like an uphill battle, the Escort crew trailing class rivals James Grennan and Danny McCloskey by 29 seconds. However a storming time on the penultimate stage put the Meath men back in front by 5 seconds, a lead they were to consolidate on the final stage to win by 18 seconds.
With competitor's four best scores from the six Border rounds counting towards the championship, it left both crews locked together on 39 points. Therefore it was down to a tie-break based on their next best scores. Not even this could separate the Subaru and Escort rivals, each having scored 9 points on their fifth best event. So ultimately it came down to their results on the sixth and final round, and with Niall Maguire and Enda Sherry having not started the Mourne Rally, the 7 points scored by Thomas Carolan and Declan Smith on that event was enough to ensure they become the HASS Border Rally Champions for 2009.
Earlier, the third of the title contenders going into the final round, Russell Woods and Martin Byrne, had set some very fast times over the early stages and had looked on course to take the class 13 win they needed to win the HASS Border title. However a steering rack failure on the fifth stage meant a disappointing early retirement for the Cavan competitors, and an end to their championship hopes.
Thomas Carolan and Declan Smith join an illustrious roll of honour of previous winners of the Border Rally Championship including such well known champions as Eugene and Charlie Donnelly, Gary McPhillips, Enda Keenan and Niall Maguire. The new champions will be officially crowned at the HASS Border Rally Championship prizegiving which takes place at the Hillgrove Hotel in Monaghan on Friday, November 13th, 2009.