The 2016 Jim Walsh Rally saw Team Ireland member Patrick O’Brien secure his third second placed overall finish of the year and reignite his championship hopes. Despite showing his pace all year, a run of bad luck had led to three non-finishes. The young Omagh driver entered the rally knowing that only a podium place would suffice and duly delivered the goods.
The Mallow based event wasn’t all plain sailing as dust on the first two loops added to the difficulty of the extremely fast stages, indeed many crews reported almost zero visibility on some corners. Credit to Cork Motor Club must be given, who were quick to react by introducing two minute gaps between cars making the event safer for all involved.
O’Brien, who was driving his fourth different Mitsubishi this season (this time left hand drive), sat in third place overall as he arrived at first service and agreed that the dust had been the morning’s only real problem. Any idea of a trouble free event was soon to be expelled on the very next loop as the car started to lose its brakes, not ideal on a rally that had 700 metre straights. Last year’s Billy Coleman finalist showed just why he earned that accolade as he managed to maintain his third place despite only having a handbrake for most of stages three and four.
With new pads and fluid fitted in final service and the two minute gap introduced, stage five was a brilliant stage with the top three cars all within a second of one another. However bad luck was to strike two of the top three on the final stage, as Patrick’s brake problems were to reoccur whilst second placed Adrian Hetherington’s Corolla WRC picked up a puncture. As they crossed the finish line O’Brien would jump to second after Hetherington’s greater time loss.
‘It’s not the way I would want to get second but I know all about bad luck this year,’ remarked Patrick at Parc Ferme, ‘I had no brakes at all on the last stage. We changed pads and fluid and it worked on stage five but then nothing on the last stage. I’d say the cylinder could be the issue. Hopefully this is my championship back on track now.’
The next outing for the DJ Motorsport driver is the Lakeland Stages in Enniskillen, with another tarmac round scheduled before the end of the year also. ‘I won BRC2 on the Circuit of Ireland and showed my pace in Sligo in the Skoda S2000 before I was forced to retire. You have to prove your pace on both surfaces nowadays and that’s what I’ve been trying to do.’