Mick O’Brien Slips and Slides to Opening Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Win!
The 2015 Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship finally kicked off for the Carrick on Suir Motor Club’s Willie Loughman Forest Rally, and it was quite a test for the crews with sixchallenging stages and slippery conditions to contend with, but a well-run event by the club. Number one and six seeds Josh and Sam Moffett were non-starters due to work commitments, launching a new machine. First on the road for the four wheel drive crews was number two seed Desi Henry in his S9 WRC Impreza and along with other top contenders Andrew Purcell in his Evo 9 and Mick O’Brien in his Focus WRC there were prime points scoring opportunities. The opportunity for local man Andrew Purcell didn’t last long however, clipping a rock on the first stage, breaking a steering arm and the FivemiletownRally winner was an unfortunate early retirement.
It was Mick O’Brien who powered into a seventeen second lead after the third Anner stage, with Cork’s Gerard Lucey a fine second in his Evo 8, just two seconds ahead of Niall Henry’s Evo 9. His brother Desi was half a minute back in fourth. “The active diffs aren’t working and the front suspension isn’t right” commented Desi before service. The diffs were repaired and he set fastest times on the remaining three stages to climb to second place, but it wasn’t enough to topple Mick O’Brien and James O’Brien who took a fine win, despite nursing the car home as it dropped onto safe mode on the final stage. “It was Mick’s first forest event since 2013, and he bedded himself in. He drove very sensibly, and I felt, within himself in the conditions. We benefited from others around us not having such a good day, but it was a good event, and now we are looking forward to Donegal. As for a championship bid, we will play that by ear!” commented the ever enthusiastic James O’Brien.
Gerard Lucey took an excellent third, just ahead of Niall Henry, with John Reid in his Corolla WRC dropping back to sixth. Also dropping back was Ashley Dickson in his Evo, from sixth to ninth, but taking the Group N honours in the process. For Tipperary’s Andrew Fanning on his four wheel drive forestry debut a superb seventh in his Group A Evo. Ian Graham, from Carrickfergus, a former Paris Dakar motorcyclist finished tenth in his similar machine.
The two wheel drive battle was dominated by Micky Conlon and Ciaran McPhilips, who defied the conditions in their 2 litre Escort to finish fifth overall. They took a decisive fastest time on the opening long Gurteen stage, and never looked under threat as James Coleman disappeared on stage four, and it was the front wheel drive 1600cc Peugeot 208 R2 of Kevin Eves who finished up second and eighth overall. Just outside the top ten John Gordon took the class 12 honours ahead of Alan Atcheson both in Mk2 Escorts, with David Crossen back in fifteenth as didn’t get into the groove and drove for a finish in the forests made tricky by recent logging.
Donegal’s Kevin Eves won two Kumho tyres from Ears Motorsport Ireland for being the first Valvoline Junior home. Second in the Junior category was Patrick O’Brien in Citroen C2 R2 Max, and a fine fourteenth overall, but fellow Tyrone driver Adam Bustard retired his R2 Fiesta on stage three.
Other class winners included Alan Smyth (Citroen C2)- class 11F, Mike Garahy (MK2 Escort)- class 10, Emmett Cronin (MK2 Escort)-class 9 and Emmett Lyons (Honda Integra)- class 3.
Now there are just less than three weeks until the rescheduled Donegal Forest Rally on March 21st, closely followed by the Moonraker on April 12th as this exciting Valvoline series is now really into gear!
Motorsport Ireland 2015 Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship- Round One Results
1 Michael O’Brien/James O’Brien Ford Focus WRC 37:24.1
2 Desi Henry/Liam Moynihan Subaru Impreza S9 WRC +0:17.2
3 Gerard Lucey/JJ Cremin Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 +0:29.6
4 Niall Henry/John Rowan Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +0:32.6
5 Michael Conlon/Ciarn McPhilips Ford Escort Mk2 +2:32.8
6 John Reid/Enda Shields Toyota Corolla WRC +2:34.1
7 Andrew Fanning/Derek Gibbs Mitsubishi Evo +3:03.0
8 Kevin Eves/Chris Melly Peugeot 208 R2 +3:12.8
9 Ashley Dickson/Shane Buckley Mitsubishi Evo 9 (N) +3:29.3
10 Ian Graham/Damien Duffin Mitsubishi Evo 9 +3:46.6
Provisional Valvoline Irish Forest Rally Championship Points after Round One:
1 Michael O’Brien 21pts
2 Desi Henry 19
3 Gerard Lucey 18
4 Niall Henry 17
5 Michael Conlon 16