Browne helps VW to third in WRC2 at Spanish rally
Local rally engineer Richard Brown returned to the World Rally Championship in fine style last weekend after he helped Volkswagen Motorsport take third in the WRC2 category on Rally Spain.
Brown, originally from Firies, is one of Volkswagen's top motorsport engineers. Three years ago, he was the man behind Norwegian driver Andreas Mikkelsen's victory on the Salou- based Spanish Round of the World Rally Championship, but a year later the German firm announced it was quitting the WRC (a direct result of the diesel-gate controversy in the United States of America).
Brown was transferred from the rally team to Volkswagen's World Rallycross programme where he engineered several victories and world titles in that discipline over the past two years.
Late last year the German's announced they were building an R5 specification Polo (division two) for customer use and that it would use the 2018 Spanish round of the world series to race the new car for the first time.
The story gathered even more pace when it was revealed that former World Champion, Petter Solberg would drive the car on the Costa Daurada's roads - an event chosen by Volkswagen as this is the only gravel and tarmac mixed surface event in the world rally calendar.
A second car was made available for French ace Eric Camil in what was the sole works' appearance scheduled for the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, before it begins to participate in domestic and international championships for private teams and customers.
While the class was won by 18-year-old Finnish rising-star Kalle Rovenpera, with his teammate and WRC2 world champion Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic) finishing second in a pair of Skoda Fabia R5s, Solberg took third giving the mid-Kerry man his first rally podium in two years. Camil, however, had to finish the rally under SuperRally rules due to a faulty gear linkage.
"It's nice [to be back on the podium]," said Brown, "But I feel bad for Eric, he was driving well and fighting for the lead when he stopped. It was a good event. Petter drove the whole rally with no problems at all, and just a simple problem with Eric's car so not bad for the first event."
Vincent O'Shea was the top Kerry finisher on Sunday's Bantry-based Fastnet Rally. The Kenmare man brought his Ford Escort home in fifth place overall to win Class 14.
Denis Hickey and Sean Nolan were the first all-Kerry crew across the line, finishing 11thoverall and second in class behind O'Shea. Charlie and Johnny Hickey ensured it was an all Kerry class 14 podium by taking third place.
Helen O'Sullivan from Kilgarvin guided Denis Cronin to victory in the historic section of the rally in another Escort.
Colin O'Donoghue from Killarney, co-driven by Leanne O'Sullivan won the junior element of the rally, this was his third outing as a driver and third time winning a junior rally in two different cars. On this occasion, he used a Honda Civic having previously driven a Ford Escort to junior victories in last year's Killarney Historic Rally and on the Rally of the Lakes earlier this year.