MOTOR SPORT fans headed away up north recently for the famous Circuit of Ireland Rally.
This year saw an added bonus to the event with it being a counting round of the world famous Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
The Intercontinental Challenge was set up in 2006 as a more affordable alternative to the World Championship, providing a platform for up and coming drivers and a showcase for the new breed of Super 2000 cars.
It features factory supported teams from Skoda, Peugeot, Ford, Proton and Honda; it has a spread of events which stretch from Finland to the Azores, the Ukraine to Cyprus.
The IRC is the third most popular motorsport series after Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship and this was evident by the volume of spectators both on the stages and at the super special stage, which took place in the Titanic Quarter in Belfast.
After the ceremonial start which took place at City Hall Belfast on day one, drivers then made the way to the super special stage followed by a further five stages surrounding the host city of Armagh the last three stages of the day took place under the cover of darkness.
Day 2 saw drivers face a further nine stages which included the power stage in Lisburn a real treat for spectators.
There was a spectacular line up of international drivers including reigning IRC Champion, Andreas Mikkelsen, Finland's Juho Hanninen, the champion in 2010, and Czech Jan Kopecky.
But amidst all the excitement of these famous drivers descending upon our shores the county of Wicklow was far from forgotten as Wicklow man Daniel Barry kept the flag flying for the garden of Ireland in his Mitsubishi Evo 10.
Barry took part in the event as it was also a counting round of the 2012 Tarmac Championship which he is intending on contesting this year, the event also seen a change of co-driver for the Wicklow man as his regular co-driver Gordon Noble was Clerk of the Course for this event.
Unfortunately it was not to be the easiest of events for Daniel and his new co-driver Paddy Robinson as it became apparent on the first stage which was man made and quite tight that the car was not handling as good as it should, heading for the next two stages the lads hoped that perhaps the car might adjust better on the faster and more open stages.
But it was on these stages that Barry really struggled with the handling of the car, the fact that the stages had many jumps made this more of a nightmare as Barry explained that on landing the back of the car was rising quite high leaving it very hard to control resulting in the pair having to back off on the jumps something which would not be the norm for Daniel.
Back in service Barry's competent service crew worked tirelessly to rectify the problem, the changing weather conditions also made tyre choice very difficult but despite having what can only be described as a very challenging and frustrating weekend Barry still managed to bring his Evo over the finish ramp 13th overall and 4th in class, scoring him some valuable points for the championship. Barry's next outing will see him travel to Killarney for round 3 of the Tarmac Championship, we also look forward to seeing him contest his home stages in Baltinglass later in the year where it has been two in a row wins for him will he make it a hat trick.
On a whole it was a superb drive by Barry despite the problems he encountered a sign of a master at work and testament to the work of his service crew.