Neil Williams and Anthony O’Sullivan completed their extraordinary Historic Irish Tarmac Rally Championship campaign in style, winning the Ulster Historic Rally by one minute and 23 seconds.
The Ford Escort Mk2 crew’s second Historic win in a few weeks was enough to seal both the Historic Drivers’ and Co-drivers’ titles.
“The Ulster was such a tough rally to end the season,” remarked the Welshman. “It was the first time I had been over those demanding, technical stages.
“Friday was also the first time in 27 years that I had rallied in darkness but what a blast it was.
“We were gutted to see Duncan [Williams] and Guy [Weaver] parked up on Saturday morning, they were on a really strong pace.
“Conditions were really difficult on Saturday so we had to keep our concentration up and thankfully we made it to the finish to claim the championship. Such a great feeling and it was brilliant to share the title with Anthony, an achievement we both can be proud of.”
Williams and O’Sullivan led four title protagonists into the eight-round series’ final round.
Duncan Williams, Berian Richards, and Craig MacWilliam were all in contention for the drivers’ championship while Ashley Trimble and Guy MacWilliam still stood a chance of winning the co-drivers’ title.
Luke McCarthy and Brian Duggan, who were second in the standings unfortunately had to withdraw from the finale in the Ulster’s preceding week.
Ulster’s demanding stages took an early toll on the title contenders. Trimble looked to have made the perfect start alongside David Armstrong in their Mk2 Escort. The local crew were within touching distance of Williams and O’Sullivan with one Friday night stage to go.
Unfortunately, Armstrong and Trimble’s rally ended on stage three which was run in darkness through Slieve Gullion. The Father-Son partnership of Craig and Guy MacWilliam also had their championship hopes dampened when they stopped on Gullion’s first hairpin.
Richards finished Friday with third-place points but with Neil Williams securing a maximum score of 17 points after day one, Duncan Williams was the only other driver who could snatch the title from him.
Neil Williams and Anthony O’Sullivan’s typically fast start to the rally ensured the West Cork co-driver would bring ITRC’s Historic Co-Driver’s crown to Clonakilty.
Heavy rain and mucky farmland stages greeted the remaining crews on Saturday morning. Duncan Williams and Guy Weaver went on a charge to set the fastest historic time on Tyrone Ditches’ opener. In fact, it was a time that would have put them in the top 20 of the mainfield competitors.
Their rallying rollercoaster took a tough blow on the road section to the next stage, however, when clutch failure left them stranded.
Neil Williams now held a big enough cushion of points to be crowned ITRC’s 2022 Historic Champion. Williams and O’Sullivan cruised home to survive the remaining Ulster stages and win the Ulster Historic Rally, successfully completing a hat-trick of top achievements over the two-day rally.
Local crew Trevor Wilson and Paul Mulholland set three fastest times on Saturday to finish second in the Ulster Historic Rally – a great result for Wilson who was debuting his Porsche 911.
Berian Richards and Frank Curtin completed the top three in their Mk2 Escort.
Photos by Adam Hall and Roger Dawson