Last weekend, in the midst of the fervour whipped up by the 6 Nations, the Airtricity League, the national football and hurling leagues as well as the build up to Cheltenham, a remarkable feat by an Irish man on the other side of the world went largely unnoticed.
That man was Killian Duffy, and his feat was to navigate his Qatari driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari to a convincing win in their category on the Mexican round of the World Rally Championship. The pair dominated the WRC-2 category, which is a sub championship within the WRC that caters for cars with slightly less power than the World Rally Cars that run at the front of the field. The WRC-2 category is seen as a stepping to greater things and for Killian, who hails from Crossmolina in Co. Mayo, it’s the pinnacle of his co-driving career to date. “I would have to say it’s my best achievement in the sport so far,” quipped Killian. “To sample success at World Championship level is brilliant but we are under no illusions about what the rest of the season holds.”
Duffy and Al-Kuwari took their Ford Fiesta to a massive 9-minute victory in Mexico and were fastest on all but 2 of the 23 stages that made up the gruelling 400km event. “Mexico is a really tough event on a car, the rally contains the longest stage in the whole championship at just under 55km in length” Duffy said. 55km might not seem much to the casual reader or driver but on rock strewn gravel roads, it’s quite a challenge to for both car and crew. It was a challenge that claimed some of the WRC front runners with drivers from the Volkwagen, Citroen and Ford teams all falling victim to the event. The dry, dusty roads suited the Qatari driver and his Irish sidekick who spend much of their time competing in the Middle East Rally Championship where conditions would not be unlike those encountered in Mexico.
“It was part of the reason we chose to do Mexico,” said Killian. “The long haul events also see less European specialists and increase your chances of a result. Having said that we didn’t know what to expect in Mexico but we were really encouraged by our pace on the shakedown stage before the rally against the other guys. We set out to do our own thing and it’s worked out unbelievably well. On the European events in Portugal, Sardinia and Greece we will be up against stiffer competition but we always said this season would be a learning year.” Duffy is well aware of his, and Al-Kuwari’s place in the wider lens of the WRC but was amazed by the atmosphere created by the enthusiastic Mexican fans. “We were getting asked for our autographs in the service area and the atmosphere on the Friday night spectator stage though the streets of the town of Guanajuato would give you goosebumps. The only thing I could compare it to is Croke Park on All Ireland Sunday!”
Following his Mexican exploits and having just got back from a 26 hour flight you would forgive Killian for taking it easy but he jets off to Kuwait on Sunday to team up with Al-Kuwari again for the next round of the Middle East Rally Championship. The next round in their WRC-2 assault is the Vodafone Rally de Portugal which takes place from the 11th-14th April. You can keep up to speed with Killian on Twitter @KillianDuffy