Shane McGirr’s first rallying trip to Lithuania ended in disappointment after he suffered mechanical failure on the second stage.

Shane was one of half a dozen drivers from the North and South of Ireland to make the journey, and the Fivemiletown driver and co-driver Martin McGarrity make a promising start on unfamiliar territory before gearbox problems on their Toyota Starlet ended their challenge.

“It didn’t turn out as well as we had planned but that’s the way it goes sometimes,” reflected Shane.

“We did a test stage on the Wednesday and the car blew an oil seal. We got back to the rally base and got the lend of a garage and took the gearbox out and repaired the seal damage and got it all back together. We did the first stage on the Friday night and it was grand, and then three quarters of the way through the second stage it blew it again.

“We had a good time on the first stage and had taken about 7 seconds out of Frank (Kelly) and we were having a decent run on the second stage before the problem. We nursed it through to the end of the stage and brought it back to service. We pulled the box out of it but it appears there is a broken piston ring in the engine so it wasn’t worth risking going on. It was a bit unfortunate but it was still a good experience.”

Despite the disappointment of an early exit, Shane enjoyed the challenge of tackling something unusual. “It was great to get the feel of different roads and different stages,” he said. “It was gravel roads, very much in the style of Finland stages with big committed jumps over crests and corners on crests. A fairly fast committed sort of a place. It would take a few years of going out there to be fully committed because it is completely different from the stages we get at home. It’s knowing the lines over the crests and what speed you can carry over them. The weather was very hit and miss as well. There were thunder storms and stages were wet and muddy, and then on other stages there was dust flying off them. We generally don’t make our own notes, but we had to out there so the whole thing was an adventure.”

Shane’s next challenge is likely to be a one closer to home, with Enniskillen Motor Club’s Lakeland Stages Rally in his sights if he can get his car back in action.

“The plan is to get the car back, hopefully this weekend. We will get the engine out and see what has happened it, and hopefully make the Lakeland Stages in the first week of September.

“ That will really depend on whether the engine will be ready, and hopefully it will.”