LAST weekend's Dunlop National Rally Championship awards night again proved the stature of the championship with close on 400 people attending to honour the 2012 awards winners.
Receiving awards on the night were Abbey dourney's Thomas Fitzmaurice and his Tralee co-driver Fionn Foley, who finished second overall in the Dunlop series. The duo acquired the exPatrick Elliott Subaru S11 world rally car at the start of the year and put in an outstanding performance to win the opening round in Abbeyleix along with the Carlton Hotel Circuit of Kerry in April.
A puncture on round 2 in Mayo saw the crew in 85th place after the opening stage but a tremendous turn of speed over the remaining stages saw the crew finish fifth overall keeping their championship hopes alive.
The remaining rounds saw the Kerry crew finish second overall in Carlow and Tipperary, 5th overall in Donegal, a non finish in Clare and a non start in Limerick to finish just 10 points behind to 2012 Dunlop champions Brian O'Mahony and co-driver John Higgins (Subaru S11 WRC) in the overall standings.
Athea's Colm Murphy and Don Montgomery were the winners of the Motorsport Ireland Safety Team Group N award for the highest place Group N car in the overall standings where they finished fifth overall. Murphy and Montgomery had a trouble free run during the year which included wining the Circuit of Munster in June.
In the Historic category it was the Ford escort MK1 of Abbeyfeale's Denis Collins and his Tralee co-driver Tommy Commane who dominated their rivals taking four maximum scores and 1 second placed score to be crowned the 2012 Dunlop National Historic champions.
Louth's Philip McKibbin and his Tralee co-driver Padraig Brick finished runners up to Collins and Commane in their pristine Ford Cortina and also won their class in their first year competing together.
Ballyduff native Kevin Barrett and co-driver Sean Mullally were the winners of class 8 in their Triton Showers livered Subaru S11 WRC. The duo suffered mechanical troubles throughout the year and eventually finished 9th in the overall standings.
Tralee co-driver David O'Brien finished 2nd in class 10 co-driving for Limericks Matt Behan.
A special award was presented to Tralee's Richard Talbot who is the chairman of the Dunlop National Championship by Richard Warbrick MD of Dunlop Tyres Ireland for his outstanding and dedicated work over the past six years, promoting the championship to becoming the best National Rally Championship series in Europe.
The night begin with a launch of the RSA new road safety campaign in conjunction with Motorsport Ireland and its affiliated clubs, followed by guest speaker Noel Brett, CEO of the Road Safety Authority, who thanked all the motorsport clubs in Ireland for their hard work and dedication throughout the year in promoting the RSA's safety campaign 'Keep the Race in its Place'.
"We are currently number six in Europe for road safety and our aim is to be number one, and with the help of the motorsport clubs and competitors promoting our campaign I think we can achieve this," said Brett.
Since the opening round of the Dunlop series in February this year all competing crews carried the Keep the Race in its Place stickers on their cars and three promotional videos were made with newly crowned S2000 World Rally Champion Craig Breen along with former Dunlop National champion Aaron McHale and Toni Kelly showing the differences between a rally car and a road car which is aimed at younger drivers and are available to download on the RSA website www.rsa.ie.