An influx of motorsport competitors hit the town of Portlaoise on Saturday for the long awaited Heartlands Rally 2011.
County Hall was the venue for service and scrutiny and was awash with camper vans and rally lorries as they unloaded and the cars took off for recce of the stages. Big crowds came to mechanical scrutiny of the cars between 2-6 pm as old and young alike took a walk among the various different makes and models of rally cars on display.
The action began early on Sunday morning with the first car arriving on Stage 1 The Heath at 10:45. Driving in horrendous conditions with torrential rain the drivers were really put to the test of their capabilities and it wasn’t hard to separate the men from the boys! While Stage 1 on the Heath was found to be very fast and relatively pain free considering the weather, Stage 2 in Ballyfin proved to be a different matter altogether.
This stage had already been talked about from recce on Saturday as being particularly tricky with two difficult junctions to watch out for. The rain really made this stage hazardous and plenty of cars went off the road here. Many kept a cool head though and a steady hand and knew when to lift their foot from the pedal, and overall a great day was enjoyed by all.
The first three cars overall and the first Laois Crew to come home were brought down to O’Loughlin’s Hotel on main street, Portlaoise where they were parked up outside the hotel and the presented with bottles of champagne by Ivor O’Loughlin. Needless to say the crowd gathered on the main street made a run for it when the boys sprayed the champagne all over each other and into the unsuspecting crowd.
A few quick interviews were performed on the main street and then they cars returned to County Hall to load up. Prize giving took place in Rally Headquarters O’Loughlins Hotel at 7.30pm followed by a long night of craic agus ceol.
The rally was deemed by all to be a roaring success by all. Vincent Collins a well known competitor from Roscommon was interviewed by Midlands Radio 3 and declared the rally to be a most enjoyable day and credited the organiser’s for running a very successful and smooth running event. Overall winner of the Heartlands Rally 2011 was David Condell and Sorcha Kelly in their Mark II Ford Escort. Second place went to Alan Ring and Adrian Deasy in a Mitsubishi Evo. Third place went to John Hendy and Alan Whyte in their Toyota Corrolla. The prize most coveted by Laois Rallysport Club competitors for first Laois Crew to finish went to Larry Brady with daughter Ann Dunne navigating in their Mark II Ford Escort. Laois Rallysport Club would like to thank their main sponsors O’Loughlin’s Hotel and Laois County Council, Laois Hire who sponsored much of the stage equipment and everyone else who sponsored their event.