Two time winner Mark Higgins had a big spin early on but despite this was leading well ahead of Donnelly, until a driveshaft gave way on the last leg of stages and his rally was essentially over. History Oly McCollum T Ogier won his class by over 5 minutes and finished 13th overall, beating much more powerful machinery. Later in Dessie acquired a Cooper S with which he won several local events, then in he entered his first ever international event, the Circuit of Ireland. Although Austin had been coming to the Ulster on and off for over 20 years by this stage, this was actually his first podium finish on this prestigious event. The Bangor man first took up rallying in and the Ulster Rally holds some very special memories for Dessie as he took the main trophy at the motorsport event back in when the course took drivers from Craigavon to Larne and up the Causeway coast.
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Rather than promote a full Ulster Rally a smaller challenge one-day event was promoted to test out all the new ideas. Including Spectator areas with easy access, good viewing, results service and commentary at some was one of the new ideas.
The Historic Rally category winners were: These three were the main contenders in a mainly F2 car dominated event.
Seeded 12 out of entries Dessie finished 8th overall behind four works cars. When the International Ulster Rally announced the use of notes, Fisher came out of semi-retirement.
The Story so far Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen entered, but did not start. Bertie Fisher has felt strongly over the past couple of years that Irish asphalt rallying needed legal pace notes. Bertie Fisher had a rally of his own with a new high revving engine for his BMW M3 and the tyres were quickly shredded to bits, but on day two and stages around his home territory as well as drier roads helped him keep a constant pace to eventually finish second overall.
He started the tally stage with a comfortable lead of 40 seconds over Kelly. Keith McIvor was first in the Historic event in his Porsche rallly Ulster coach Dan McFarland rues early concessions against Connacht. Osian Pryce was first in the Rally NI category and fourth overall. Andrew Nesbitt was one of those Group A drivers, but various skirmishes and spins demoted him from a chance of winning outright, eventually finishing third in his battered Celica.
Eamonn Boland had been in third until the penultimate stage when mechanical problems put him out of the rally.
Ron Neely was a very creditable 10th tally his Cooper S. This was the inaugural year of the Tarmac Championship and the Ulster has been in it to some degree every year since.
Graham Middleton was third in another M3. Colin McRae won his class and finished 12th overall in a Vauxhall Nova.
An accident at the end of the third stage resulted in the tragic death of local driver Timothy Cathcart. McRae was allowed to win the Circuit, but Brookes got his own back on the Ulster where he was allowed to win after another Ding Dong battle with Jimmy. Nesbitt who had been leading by a minute and a half from Laukkanen, clipped a rock on a stage in the Sperrin Mountains and shortly after his car left the road.
However Jean-Joseph was unable to come and his place was taken at the last moment by Sebastien Ogier. Dessie Nutt was again victorious in the Historic Rally in his Porsche Although Austin had been coming to the Ulster on and off for over 20 years by this stage, this was actually his first podium finish on this prestigious event.
Andrew Nesbitt was true class on the Ulster just as he had been for the previous few seasons, setting fastest times on 14 of the 15 special stages. Finn Michael Sundstrum was third in a Peugeot T There was battle behind for the next four places, Keith Cronin had been in second place chasing down Evans, until he had gearbox issues in the Citroen DS3 R5 which required a change of box resulting in road penalties dropping him down to fifth.
Tapio Laukkanen finished down in 10th place in the Renault Magane Maxi. Cronin had to settle for fifth behind Bogie in the Skoda Fabia R5.
History – Ulster Rally
Richard Smyth was an excellent third in his Sierra Cosworth. Llewellyn had many problems but seemed to pull back much time, while his competition from Wilson and McRae struggled for grip in their Sierras. Drama struck within sight of the finish line of the stage when the car burst into flames and Jennings rally was over. He finished with over a 4 min margin from nearest challenger Russell Brookes in a Manta. Alongside running a successful car business dessiie his brother Ronnie, Dessie competed regularly mccarttney rallies over five decades and no doubt his top class experience and expertise will serve him well this weekend.