John Warren and Ruthann O'Connor in the McHale Fusion Corolla on their way to a career best result in Cork. Photo: Adam Hall (Rally Insight)

Mayo motorsport crew secure record result in McHale machinery

John Warren and Ruthann O’Connor flew the Mayo flag in yesterday's O’Connell Group Cork ‘20’ International Rally, the first Irish tarmac rally in some 18 months.

After the day’s nine stages, they finished a career best eighth place overall in the national section and comprehensively took the Class 13R win.

The pair started the opening loop of stages with a cautious and steady approach. Following their good form last time out in the McHale Engineering-backed Toyota Corolla at the Mayo Stages Rally in March 2020, they had plans to contest both the Border and National Championships until Covid applied the brakes abruptly in Ireland, but once a rhythm was established the husband and wife team made some set-up changes at the first service halt after the opening three stages, changes which saw them move from 12th overall and fourth in class to rocket up the leader board and move into pole position in the class, a lead they commanded over the next six stages.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing, as John explained at the finish ramp. “We’re delighted with our day but it could have been reflected slightly better in the overall standings,” he commented.

“We came on and had to slow significantly for an accident on the opening loop and we didn’t get our time rectified for this, which would normally happen, and we were pipped for seventh place by only five seconds.”

But that wasn’t the only drama that they faced, as navigator Ruthann explained. “There was panic on Sunday morning as the usual fuel supplier was not present. The correct fuel is crucial as the engine ECU is programmed to run with a specific octane mix. A solution was found by mixing two other fuel octane types together at a specific ratio – a Breaking Bad-type solution if you like!”

John added: “The car performed flawlessly throughout the day. Thanks to the two Jasons from C-Sport for their assistance at service. Tyre choice was tricky as the morning was warm but many parts of the roads were covered by trees and were still cold and damp. We opted for soft tyres which seemed to pay off, although on the dry stages the tyres were beginning to overheat towards the end and we had to back off the pace a little.”

Wrapping up the day, John had special thanks for his other half, Ruthann, who did a fantastic job on the pacenotes.

“She barely got a chance to take a breath on the 100 straights and didn’t miss a note all day,” he said. “I rely on her so much at the pace which it takes to get results like this.”

What’s next for the McHale Rally team? The possibility of getting an entry into the (currently over-subscribed) Donegal Harvest or Wexford Stages Rally, both of which occur in the next few weeks, will no doubt be discussed at the tea breaks in the R&D section at McHale Engineering this week.