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Raftery digs deep to secure a special category win at Barum Rally Zlin 

Galway’s Aoife Raftery had to put in a massive effort to secure the best female driver in a two-wheel drive car accolades at Barum Rally Zlin over the weekend.

The Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver is contesting this year’s FIA Junior European Rally Championship and the legendary Czech event was the fifth round.

The Craughwell native’s rally got off to the worst possible start. During Friday’s opening stage, a spectator special on the streets of Zlin, as a result of cold tyres, the Peugeot 208 Rally4 driver overshot a junction and damaged its rear right wheel.

The considerable time loss put her very much on the back foot for the reaming two days and 12 special stages.

The rally was notable as there were six female drivers taking part.

On Saturday morning she set herself a target – to overcome Friday’s time loss and to be the fastest female driver in a two-wheel drive car.

The overall woman’s category was won by Italian Rachel Somaschini for the second ERC rally in a row. She was driving a Citroen C3 Rally2 car instead of Raftery’s less-powerful Peugeot 208 Rally4.

The Galway woman and her Armagh-based co-driver Ronan Comeford – both Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members were in determined mode over Saturday’s loop of six stages.

They ended the day third in the woman’s category but more important, they were second in the two-wheel drive section in their PCRS Rallysport-prepared Peugeot.

Ahead of them sat Hungarian Adrienn Vogel who was just 28 seconds clear of the Irish driver on Sunday morning.

Raftery nipped away at her rival’s times over Sunday’s demanding route.

With just one stage to go the gap was down to 1.4 seconds ensuring a final stage showdown.

Raftery and Comeford dug deep over the final 16km stage to go nearly nine seconds faster than Vogel and take the win by 6.9 seconds.

“It was a special weekend, and we learned a lot,” she said at the finish ramp in Zlin where Vogel was the first to offer congratulations.

“We had to build back up after Friday’s mishap and really had to dig deep on Sunday. It was really nice to have this battle with Adrienn. It was nice to have a target going into each stage, looking at times and knowing what I had to do on each test.

She also finished seventh in the FIA Junior ERC category, her second European Rally Championship points-scoring finish in a row following her 12th-place finish in Rome

“Honestly, I really enjoyed the event, it has been a class event, the whole thing, it was a great atmosphere, the stages are so tricky, but when you get into the flow, they are some stages,” she added.

Her co-driver Comerford, also a Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy member added: “The stages are really challenging for a co-driver, you have to be on top of your game.”

Aoife Raftery Rallying is supported by O'Neill O'Malley Architects and Project Managers / Loughrea Auto Parts Ltd / Craughwell Tyre Centre / Sean Fleming Motors / Aertec Vacuum and Ventilation / Des Lyons Plant / Quinn’s Hardware.

Text By: Sean Moriarty

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